Multnomah County Library: Creating conditions for equity to flourish

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Equity, diversity and inclusion may seem incongruous in a community as homogenous as Portland, Oregon, but Multnomah County Library Director Vailey Oehkle knows the work is necessary, especially when, as she says, public libraries have historically created systems that have privileged some people over others. 

“The library has a role to play in ensuring that the people in our community, especially those facing the greatest barriers, have access and opportunities,” she said. To do this, she and her staff have been intentional in creating conditions for equity to flourish -- in hiring, in collection development and staff outreach programs, and in digital initiatives. Although they have achieved real results, the work is ongoing.

“We still have a long way to go. That's what you'll hear me say every time I talk about this work. We stumble and we'll continue to stumble. But I think it's about making that commitment and articulating it loudly and clearly. The community understands that they can expect that of us and that's important.”

We recently visited three libraries across the 19-branch Multnomah County Library System and learned more about the efforts to embed principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in serving the people of Portland, OR, and beyond.

Librarians, please visit the ALA website to learn more about equity, diversity, and inclusion in libraries.