The core purpose of the Friends is to support the Oakland Public Library (OPL) and the broader Oakland community, and the Board of Directors works diligently to that end. In 2020 the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the nationwide protests that ensued prompted self-examination and spurred a renewed urgency in our work. As a board, we had been intentional in our efforts to support historically underserved communities, but in the wake of Black Lives Matter we recognized that efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) required a more systematic, sustained approach.
The board had already begun that work, developing an equity index as a means to ensure that our mini-grant support flows to branches serving those most in need. In the summer of 2020, a consultative process among the Friends Board of Directors yielded dozens of suggestions for actionable DEI initiatives. Subsequently, the Board Development Committee (BDC) was created to pursue and implement our commitment to developing a more diverse board that better reflects the communities served by OPL.
The BDC stepped up our organization’s efforts to recruit new members from groups historically underrepresented on the board. We are delighted to have welcomed two new Black directors and a South Asian director to the board in the last 16 months. To further our representation objectives, we are seeking to recruit directors from the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities as well as broadening the socio-economic and age spectrum of the board.
Our DEI efforts include an ongoing process of educating ourselves on the issues. The board held a special meeting with OPL’s Race & Equity Team, formed as part of a citywide effort to promote inclusion and full participation by residents and to end racial inequity in the community and in the workplace. In addition, small-group breakouts were added to every Board of Directors meeting to discuss issues of race and ethnicity. In Summer 2021 the BDC also conducted a Diversity and Inclusion Survey of the Board of Directors to invite them to self-identify across a range of demographics and then to identify gaps in board representation. Further, seven board directors completed or are currently enrolled in the “Advancing Racial Equity Academy,” provided by the City of Oakland’s Department of Race & Equity.
These are just some of the initiatives the Board of Directors has undertaken in our efforts continue to make our board better reflect the city it serves. A priority is to recruit more directors from underrepresented groups, people with new ideas and connections that will knit us together in this great journey. If you are interested in joining the Friends board, please visit our Get In Touch webpage or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In service to our library and community,
The Friends of the Oakland Public Library, Board of Directors