At our October meeting of the Library Series, we brought together a panel of people to lead a discussion about diversity, equity, and belonging, and how to implement policies and programs at the future Rivertown Library that promote social equity. Dena Stanley, Allison Butka, Melissa Rogers, and Megan Zagorski were on hand to speak about what it really means to create a safer community space, planning programming to lift up the most vulnerable, and how to be inclusive for a community with diverse identities.
We envision a space that is created with the needs of every resident in mind. Doing this requires that we pay careful attention to members of our community who have been historically overlooked and pushed to the margins. Our discussion at the meeting brought to light programs and practices that can support community members most in need of services. We discussed places that do more than meet the baseline level of accessibility and intentionally create spaces that are inclusive. We heard perspectives from individuals working to support the LGBTQ+ community as well as people of color. We heard from library professionals who are doing the work of transforming the traditional library into a library of experiences and interactions. Etna Resident, Kate Zidar reflected:
"One of the big takeaways for me was the idea that if we plan facilities and programs to support the most vulnerable members of our community, then we have something that includes and serves all of us better."
We have the unique opportunity to build a library and community center from the ground up. Discussions like this are essential in gaining the perspective of everyone that we are trying to serve. In addition to discussion about how to support all identities, we also discussed planning for those with varying abilities, learning styles, sensory processing abilities, and more.
It was certainly an uplifting and informative evening. At the end of the discussion, the participants felt inspired to keep the discussion going. As we did with the EcoDistrict planning process, we frame every discussion we have in the context of social equity. This is how we will continue to build an Etna that is for Everyone.