This November voters in the Kansas City area will be asked to decide whether a small tax increase should be implemented in order to improve the Mid Continent Public Library system. Ordinarily I wouldn’t think twice about a measure such as this one. I always vote in favor of improvements to schools, mass transit, parks and other city services even if I do not benefit from those services directly. I think that libraries are important public resources that should be supported and utilized by the public.
However, I worked for MCPL for more than two years. I was very disappointed by my observations and the way I was treated when I worked for them. I will say that MCPL is a great library system. They offer many invaluable resources to their patrons and I loved being a part of that organization. I wanted to have a career there and I could have happily seen myself working there for many years to come. But I am an African American woman and there is a strong hillbilly factor in Missouri that can be a barrier to progress.
MCPL is run by a bunch of hillbillies that do not appreciate diversity on any level. They don’t support it in their collection and they don’t support it in their staffing. If you need proof stop into any MCPL branch and you will most likely see White women. That’s all they really want to hire. I am an avid reader, I have years of customer service experience, I love literature, have three college degrees one of which is a Masters degree. During my two and a half years as an employee of MCPL I applied to work as a full time employee around forty times. I think I was interviewed twice. I was never offered a full time position. I was never told that I needed to improve in any area in order to become a full time employee. I don’t think I fit their image of what a librarian should be.
I think that the lack of diversity in the library branch employees is a problem. Minority communities have lower literacy rates than Whites. I think that a library system that serves communities with large African American or first generation American population should do more to reach that community and increase literacy in those communities. The Mid Continent Public Library System is primarily concerned with White soccer moms. I am not White nor am I a parent so there is not reason for me to support an institution that is not looking out for my interests.
I think that it would be a powerful message to young minority patrons if they see a more diverse staff at the library. As it is now it would appear to young eyes that literature is solely in the hands of White women and it is not for a young Black or Hispanic boy. I think that it is the responsibility of librarians to encourage literacy and readership for everyone. The library system should do more to recruit more male and minority including bi lingual library staff. There should also be more programming that will encourage reading among young boys and minority children. They will never do this at MCPL because they are uncreative, racist, Mid western hillbillies with one track minds.
Their collection lacks diversity. Last May my hero Cam Newton was on the cover of “Ebony” magazine with his mother for Mother’s Day. I wanted to save myself a few dollars and look at the magazine in the library. They didn’t have it. “Ebony” magazine was no longer on their shelves. “Ebony” is a very old and widely read publication in the Black community. The that MCPL no longer makes copies available to their patrons in print tells me something about their feelings about diversity and their African American patrons.
When I worked there African American patrons would ask for help finding popular African American Authors. Quite often the books were not in the libraries collection or there were very limited copies that were not available due to loss or damage. I had similar experiences when patrons wanted books in Spanish. Of course the library has some books by African American authors and some books written in Spanish. But if MCPL really wanted to encourage literacy among groups that fall behind in literacy they would do a lot more.
If MCPL did not think it was important to support African American or Spanish speaking authors and readers I have no reason to think that they will be any different with a bigger budget. They will just continue to do more of what they’ve been doing. I’m going to vote no on Proposition L. If you’re not doing anything for my community I would rather keep my money to myself. Let the White soccer moms pay the extra taxes. MCPL lives for them anyway.