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Serving Underserved Communities: EDI in Action

child running towards a large tower of boxes

This year, the Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers Committee transitioned our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) goal. We started with providing authentic resources, then moved to empowering library (and library adjacent) staff to hone, develop, and take action on their advocacy skills. Above all, we’re providing support and different ways to interact with our resources, like presentations, chats, and our monthly blog posts. Over the past 18 months, we developed vibrant toolkits to help connect library communities with resources for different underserved populations.

Here’s a look at our current resources:

Access to Technology

The digital divide highlights opportunity and access gaps. In other words, there’s a clear division between those with access to technology and those without. Collaborating with the Children and Technology Committee, we addressed internet inequity. Further, we explored low-tech programming options. Explore stories and apps, professional resources, and even organizations providing grants. For one idea of no-and low-tech outreach, check out this post.

Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders

Research estimates nearly 1 in 50 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. This also includes children who struggle to process sensory input or are easily overstimulated. Explore stories to share, highlighted publishers, apps, and professional resources. When you’re ready, explore recommendations for spaces and programming and several sample library programs.

Children with Print Disabilities

Print disabilities include visual impairments, learning disabilities, and physical conditions. Start by exploring tips for selecting books and apps that support accessibility. Then, review materials or spaces and programming and several sample library programs. Check out this post for additional tips and resources.

Financial Insecurity and Homelessness 

Youth experiencing homelessness may try to hide their current circumstances, making it difficult for library staff to recognize when a child or teen is homeless. Explore this toolkit to familiarize yourself with this often invisible demographic. Then, learn how to provide resources and programming to these patrons visiting the library. Likewise, explore successful outreach and partnerships beyond the library’s walls.

Spanish Speaking Populations 

Building trust and relationships is the foundation of successful service to underserved populations. Explore this toolkit to create inclusive spaces for Spanish-speaking families through materials, programs, and outreach. Also, consider how your institution systemically commits to diversity. Examples include diverse hiring, cultural authenticity of resources and partnerships, and building trust. For an example outreach program specifically for migrant communities, read more here.   

Here’s a look at our upcoming resources:

This year, we’re focusing on supporting new Americans. According to 2019 census data, 13.7% of the U.S. population is foreign born. Almost half do not have citizenship, and more than a quarter have entered the country within the past 10 years. Chronic undercounting leads these numbers to be inexact, but new Americans undoubtedly remain an important part of our communities and libraries.

We recognize the importance of supporting these underserved populations. Moreover, we hope to empower others in this work. Through the generous support and collaboration of library leaders and innovators, we’ll be sharing more resources to jumpstart your library’s efforts. First, we anticipate a release in early February, focusing on professional and community resources. We’ll be using the guidance of Houston Public Library’s International Services. Sections include program and service design, communications and marketing, library materials, stakeholders and partnerships, and equipping staff. Then, we’ll focus on recommended read alouds (anticipated April 2022). Finally, we’ll explore programming and outreach (anticipated June 2022). As with our other toolkits, this will be a living growing document. We’ll adjust as we learn more and identify other helpful resources.

Here are resources to connect with us now: 

We have lots of ways to connect with LSUCTC and our resources. Choose one, then dive in!

  1. We’re scheduled for an ALSC Chat on Tuesday, February 22nd at 4 PM CST. Come chat with us for inspiration, ideas to get started, or to be part of our community of knowledge for our toolkits. 
  2. Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar announcement, where we’ll partner with a research group to provide a social justice approach and framework to serving underserved communities.
  3. Check out our recent blog series titled, “Overwhelmed by…” to take small steps in your advocacy and outreach work. Current posts explore outreach to migrant communities, researching your community, building professional connections, advocacy from any position, and diversity audits.

Questions or comments? Please email 

Jaime Eastman (Plano Public Library) and Melody Leung (Everett Public Library) are current Co-Chairs of the Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers Committee. Both of them get way too excited about the little things and somehow, that keeps them going.

Featured image credit: “DSC_4328” by 150hp is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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