Support Lesley Williams and Equity in the Evanston Public Library
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Dear Mayor Hagerty,
We are writing this letter to express our support for Lesley Williams, and our utter dismay and disappointment at how certain events surrounding Lesley’s employment at the Evanston Public Library have unfolded in the last two years.
Lesley, a seventeen-year veteran, and the only full-time black librarian we have, will possibly be terminated because she is a vocal advocate for equitable access and truly inclusive practices with regard to library services in this city. After many years of trying to create change within the system, she has started to speak up to the public, and that makes people within the system uncomfortable, because what she is saying is ‘true’, but inconvenient. She has put herself at risk because of her commitment to these values.
Lesley is someone who dares to question the status quo, someone who actively seeks out opportunities to service and support the marginalized, someone who wants to hold our public institutions accountable, and someone who insists that creating lifeless policies to address these issues is not enough. There needs to be active change that impacts our community positively. If Evanston is to live up to our progressive values, we need MORE people like her, not fewer.
Lesley has been advocating for an equity audit of our library services, and we agree that this needs to be done - in fact, it’s past time. Two of our three libraries are east of Ridge Avenue. The one west of Ridge, is just barely west, and in the north end. There are entire swaths of Evanston, including parts of the 5th, 2nd, and most of the 8th Ward, that have difficulty accessing library services. These are neighborhoods where transportation can be an issue because of financial limitations. People who don’t experience that don’t understand the difficulties it can present.
This organization has guidelines for urban planning for access to library and recreational services [https://planning.org/ We doubt that we are currently meeting those guidelines. This should be assessed with hard facts, and not platitudes about valuing equity, with no real change. Let’s get closer to it being real. Do the audit.
We, the undersigned, want Evanston to become the best city that it can be - with real commitment to facing where we fall short, and acting to make it better. For all. Let’s start with our libraries.
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