I Knew I Was Right – Mid Continent Public Library

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.


Proposition L

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.