Blogger Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee

Equitable Programming

As library and library-adjacent staff, we all probably have a shared mission of making a positive impact on our communities in equitable and inclusive ways. However, how do we ensure that all of our programs, outreach, and services are as equitable as we can make them? 

Last month, members of the Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers Committee, Georgette Spratling and Ewa Wojciechowska, shared how to grow with your community. 

As you listen to community members and actively engage with families, there may be opportunities for larger projects and more partnerships to make them possible. This is a great time to ask yourself and your team questions to ensure that the overall approach will bring the largest impact you can make on those who could benefit the most. 

Big Picture: Is this program reaching an underserved community where they are? 

Example: A library is hosting bilingual Spanish storytime during a weekday morning in order to bring in more Spanish-speaking families to the library. Mornings have been proven to be a popular time for the variety of storytimes already offered in English. After months of weekly bilingual storytimes, the presenter (who is part of the Spanish-speaking community), notices that only a few families are showing up and the majority of these families are attending to learn Spanish. This is not the audience originally planned for this program. 

When thinking about equity, we notice these particular families already have multiple storytimes available during the week. However, Spanish-speaking families are still not being served adequately. 

After conducting more research within the Spanish-speaking community, the presenter learns that the majority of Spanish-speaking families in the area are working during the day and prefer to attend events as a family for a variety of reasons, including limited resources such as only having access to a single vehicle. The presenter changes the time of the program to an evening and opens it up as a family program rather than only targeting preschool ages. The result is dozens of Spanish-speaking families engage in the program and the library weekly. 

Are all of the participants feeling included when they leave the program? 

Examples: 

  • Door/Grand Prizes: though these can seem like an incentive for participation, they can be seen as unfair to children who do not win. For weekly programs, consider prizes given to only those who haven’t won and ensure all participants win a prize by the end of a program series. Especially for children who do not have a lot, being reminded of having less can leave a negative taste for the program overall. 
  • Presenting problematic books or songs/rhymes: Though use of these may be unintentional, researching all of your program content prior to presenting can prevent individuals from being harmed. Check out Erika Miller’s posts on Intentionally Inclusive Programming and Intentionally Inclusive Book Selection for storytime resources. 
  • Welcoming Space: The culture of a program is just as important as the content. Is there a way to use non-gendered terms when addressing the group? Do children have access to fidget items, headphones, and/or spaces to move to help them better participate? Check out Tammie Benham and Kymberlee Powe’s post about Universal Design in Storytimes for ideas. 

For more equity-centered questions to help evaluate your programs, check out our LSUCTC Toolkits for specific populations and a detailed plan for Getting Started

Melody Leung posing in front of storytime materials including a stuffed animal, ukelele, and audio equipment.

Melody Leung is a Youth Services Librarian at The Everett Public Library. She enjoys creating programs for kids to feel confident, welcomed, and seen. All views in this post are her own.

Photo supplied by Melody Leung

This post addresses ALSC Competencies I, III, and V.

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