Figuring Out Where to Start, and How: One Library’s DEI Strategies
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can fall into the category of big, deep thoughts. It can seem daunting to improve DEI at an institutional level. How do we go from abstract, and even overwhelming ideas, to tangible goals and objectives with timelines, budgets and workflows? At Sherwood Public Library, nestled in the southern end of Portland Metro and Washington County, we implemented specific DEI objectives in our strategic plan and in the Edge Assessment. With a staff of 11 FTE serving a community of 22,000 people, we found ways to make the right-sized goals that would stretch our collective and individual comfort zones, and still fit within our capacity for staff time and funds.
Sherwood’s demographics and diversity are changing, but not as fast as the rest of our region. In a city where 9 out of every 10 people are white and nearly everyone speaks English, we wanted to incorporate DEI objectives into our library as a way to open windows into other backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives--just as much as we wanted to provide mirrors for the diverse members of our own community. A DEI lens helped revitalize our library, increase usage, and improve relevance in profound ways--strengthening our collection development, programs and events, the facility, services, technology, staff and board development, and hiring practices.