I worked for MCPL, Mid Continent Public Library from 2010 – early 2013. Upon separating from the organization I wrote a strongly worded e mail to the library director Steven Potter. I expressed my disappointment in the library’s hiring policies, lack of diversity in staff and materials. I pretty much told him that the organization he runs is obviously racist. I didn’t received a response to this e mail.
Mr. Potter recently resigned from his post with the Mid Continent Public Library system. He told the media that there is a difference of opinion between him and the board of trustees. It seems that the board of trustees may be more racist than Steve is. I knew I was right about MCPL.
In the two years I was employed as an Access Specialist I (part time librarian) by MCPL I applied for full time positions about twenty times. I got one interview for a different part time position and I wasn’t offered the position. I am an avid reader, college graduate, had years of customer service experience and I was an enthusiastic MCPL employee. MCPL HR had no interest in offering me an opportunity to further my career with their organization. They never gave a reason why or offered coaching or mentorship.
Before I worked at MCPL I was a patron. They don’t have much to offer as far as information involving Africa or African American authors and history. I’m not saying that there is none. I’m saying it’s limited. When I worked at MCPL I realized that the library was reluctant to replace materials by Black authors and musicians if it was damaged or lost.
MCPL is planning to put a library in a Whiter, more affluent neighborhood. They closed a library along a bus route that is more easily accessible to minority and working class patrons. Working class Black people that live in the counties that MCPL serves pay taxes for well to do White people to have new, state of the art libraries while less affluent neighborhoods get no library or new carpet at best.
When I was employed by MCPL I noticed that most of the programs were geared towards White, suburban housewives. They were all familiar with each other and that includes the librarians that ran the story time programs. I never saw library managers or librarians who created programs express a desire to reach patrons outside of the affluent housewife demographic.
If MCPL wanted to advocate for literacy in the Kansas City area they would reach out to working class, Black and immigrant families. They are the ones that need more support and encouragement. MCPL does not want to hire Black people, serve Black people or keep materials on the shelves that are of African American interest. I’m glad the news about their racist board of trustees has come to the light.
I’m not surprised by this news at all but I feel validated by this news. I also worked for the Kansas City Kansas Public Library and I noticed similarities in the way that library system was run. From my observations libraries are bastions of racism and exclusion.
This article is behind a pay wall. I screen shotted it and I apologize because it may be scrambled up but you get the point.