Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I love our library!

Library Journal calls the San Francisco Public Library "a model and inspiration for public libraries worldwide," naming this sprawling institution its Library of the Year. They sure got this right! Anyone who reads this site benefits from this wonderful institution; I borrow nearly every book I write about for some period, if only to extract quotes and check my notes.

But an ambitious and brave library can give so much more to its community. The SFPL understands itself as a necessary part of advancing resistance values that create a warmer, courageous, and more inclusive city. From the LJ:

... “The day after the 2016 election we had our Future of the Library Forum meeting. [Then-director] Luis Herrera recognized that people in the room were hurting. We discarded the agenda we had prepared and had a dialog with the staff. ‘What are we going to do in the library to address equity in our community? How can we be more inclusive?’ were the questions discussed,” says Acting City Librarian Michael Lambert.

From that dialog, SFPL formed its Immigrant Services Task Force, which in turn quickly developed a slate of programs. The SFPL All Are Welcome initiative was born, providing information on how to settle in the United States, how to learn or improve English proficiency, how to become a citizen, and other critical resources, delivered in six languages and via YouTube video. The initiative’s “Know Your Rights” program has been a smash hit, and SFPL has joined with the city’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, which calls the library “a critical partner,” plus an immigration law firm, to give one-on-one advice on citizenship applications. The library also offers workshops on how to become an ally to immigrants. A Respect and Love toolkit and resource guide addresses issues of bias and discrimination.

SFPL is taking steps to address racial injustice internally and externally alike. According to Lambert, the two are intertwined. “We want to do a better job of serving impacted communities in San Francisco, and we want all SFPL staff to go through [anti]bias training. These efforts will improve our recruiting from communities of color and make the SFPL workforce even more reflective of the city,” he says.

... For its version of the One City, One Book program, in 2017 SFPL chose Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.’s Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (Univ. of California). More than 700 people participated in over 20 author talks, bike tours, film screenings, panel discussions, and other activities. More than 1,200 patrons checked out the book.

... SFPL frontline staff asked management to have SFPL stock Narcan and give them training on its use to save lives. More than 120 employees have completed the voluntary training. In February, SFPL staff administered Narcan and saved the lives of two patrons. “Having to face tough urban issues like homelessness and the opioid epidemic has redefined the collaborative and expansive role that libraries play in spearheading social policy,” says Lambert.

Much of the SFPL's success goes back to successful local political campaigns. The volunteer organization Friends of the SFPL led the fight in 1994 to pass a ballot proposition creating a fifteen year set aside from property tax revenues to create a Library Preservation Fund. This fund was renewed in 2007 with 74% of the vote. It will come up again in 2022; the library is working overtime to prove its value to the people of San Francisco.

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