Press Release September 14, 2022

San Diego stands its ground while libraries nationwide face social equity challenges

Patrick Stewart, Library Foundation SD CEO

Libraries across the country are under assault. As NPR recently noted, many local libraries are now major political and cultural battlegrounds. The NPR article centers on a Louisiana library’s challenge to provide, in the simplest terms, books, programs, and resources that reflect everyone in the community. We just want everybody to be able to come into a library and see themselves represented. That’s all we’re doin’,” said Connie Milton, a librarian in Lafeyette, Lousiana. That library’s board rejected a voting rights program grant, canceled Pride Month displays, and threatened to fire librarians. Meanwhile, voters in a Michigan town voted to defund their library rather than allow a small number of LGBTQIA+ materials.

We just want everybody to be able to come into a library and see themselves represented. That’s all we’re doin’.”

Connie Milton, Lafayette, Louisiana librarian

These warning signs from around the country highlight the importance of the Library Foundation SD’s focus on Social Justice & Equity as one of our six impact areas. Some of these areas of impact are easily evident – Education & Lifelong Learning, or Economic & Workforce Development, for example. Others, like Social Justice & Equity, require deeper reflection.

Along with our Library Foundation SD staff and board, I believe our work in Social Justice & Equity is not only an essential element of our core values but why we need to call out this support and praise the library’s efforts to be a national leader.

Under Library Director Misty Jones’ direction, the San Diego Public Library goes above and beyond to ensure Social Justice & Equity are at the center of collections, programs, and daily operations. And the Foundation’s support and inclusion of Social Justice & Equity as an area of impact” highlights our understanding of that importance.

To have a Social Justice & Equity lens reminds us of WHY these programs exist. San Diego participants in these programs can do what people in parts of Louisiana and Michigan and an increasing number of locations can not: come into a library and see themselves represented.”

In recent months, the Foundation has:

  • Ensured the library’s delivery of programs highlighting and celebrating LGBTQIA+ communities and individuals,
  • Secured books and resources by and for Indigenous people and other people of color,
  • Increased access to public health programs serving marginalized individuals and youth,
  • Broadened access to job and intern placement programs with an emphasis on young people – documented or not – in communities often left out of the economic conversation,
  • Helped launch and support the ongoing Clara Breed Civil Liberties Lecture program,
  • Promoted the library’s Banned Book Week (September 18 — 24), which celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools, and
  • Sponsored author talks about the importance of reproductive rights.

For many, understanding societal issues like Social Justice and Equity has been challenging. But thankfully, the San Diego Public Library has a place at the table for them, also, to learn, engage, and hopefully expand their understanding of the importance of the narrative around these words and the powerful impact that this concept has on so many people in our community.

Reading the growing number of articles about libraries and librarians under attack breaks my heart. But hats off to Misty and her incredible library team for ensuring that the San Diego narrative is starkly opposite. And, hats off to all of our supporters for their advocacy and contributions to support this critical work.