IBLN’s Call for Library Worker Unity

The Indiana Black Librarians Network (IBLN) condemns the forced resignation of Indianapolis Public Library (IndyPL) Board of Trustees member, Stephen Lane. Lane, current IBLN Treasurer and Black Caucus American Library Association (BCALA) member, has consistently advocated for library workers during both his time on the board and his time spent as a unionized librarian at IndyPL. Serving as the only librarian on the board, Lane exposed and opposed the undemocratic and wasteful actions of the Board and its current President, Hope Tribble. IBLN endorses the call on all IndyPL workers to organize at this time through IBLN, AFSCME 3395, BCALA, and other affiliated organizations. Only a united workforce can effectuate systemic change at IndyPL.

IBLN exists to empower Black library workers through a stable organization that provides a foundation from which to fight and overcome the inequitable ways in which libraries function. We all deserve better, library workers and patrons alike. When Nichelle M. Hayes was snubbed by the Board in favor of the disgraced Gabriel Morley during the 2022 CEO search, IBLN joined retired and active library workers and patrons, various community organizations, and civic, religious, and other grassroots leaders in calling for Hayes’ rightful appointment. 

The same library board that fought against the interests of the community and the library workers forced Lane to resign on April 25, 2024 at the IPS Board of Commissioners Action Session. Lane discovered the morning of the meeting that IPS Board President Angelia Moore slipped onto the agenda calling for Lane’s removal from the IndyPL Board with no due process.

The self-serving corruption of the library board is reflected in toxic work environments wherein staff members routinely report being targeted by higher-ups for harassment, retaliation, and abuse. While library workers were told their tuition reimbursement would not be paid because the program ran out of money, the board spent thousands of dollars hiring IMPD officers to intimidate attendees at board meetings. While branches were told there was no money in the budget for more children’s librarians, the board approved transfers of staffing money to instead pay for cops and consultants with ties to board members.

Over the past few years, we have all seen the clear evidence that libraries–and in particular, IndyPL libraries–are not neutral spaces. Our profession is only 7% Black, indicating an urgent need for library leaders to fight to attract and retain Black librarians. But instead of building up Black workers, or creating space for Black librarians to gain knowledge and experience, what we see are “Black faces in high places,” or a select few Black elites who are handed leadership positions to implement white supremacist and anti-worker policies. The end result is the upholding of an inequitable status quo that keeps libraries as racially homogenous work environments who are all exploited or, in the case of Black librarians and other library workers of oppressed identities, super-exploited. It is not just Black library workers who suffer under this system; all workers who find themselves on the wrong side of an administrator may be targeted for harassment or forced out of their position. 

If library workers fail to work together at this moment then the status quo will not improve. The status quo benefits library “leaders” while workers of all races, genders, and sexual identities suffer. Without unity, library workers are kept busy dealing with a toxic culture that fosters division, while money is shifted away from services that benefit workers and patrons in favor of advancing the narrow self-interests of library board members. With this system in place, we are doomed to work in an environment that is steeped in racism, sexism and other harms.

If library workers don’t work together to overcome the divisions imposed on us, if we fail to unite around our common interest in serving the social, cultural, and informational needs of our communities, then we will continue to endure amongst corrupt and incompetent library “leadership”.

As an organization, IBLN will not accept this outcome as our fate. We have absolute trust in the ability of IndyPL workers to realize their power and make the necessary changes to bring about a truly democratic public library for all!

At IBLN, we understand what it means to work together to overcome barriers. IBLN member and past president Nichelle M. Hayes played a significant role in reopening the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library at Oaks Academy Middle School. Hayes worked alongside popular local author Maurice Broaddus to breathe new life into the space. While Tribble was not present, Lane was there to recall the history of the branch, sharing the historical research of Indiana’s first Black librarian Lillian Childress Hall, who first opened the Dunbar library in 1922. This historical research was compiled by IBLN  and BCALA member Michele Fenton.

Now is the time for IndyPL workers to reflect on the lessons that can be drawn from these experiences. As we learned in 2021 with the forced resignation of then-CEO Jackie Nytes, Indianapolis Public Library does not need board representation to affect positive change within its organization. Library workers deserve to play a meaningful role in shaping the public library desired with and by the communities they serve. Do these communities want a public library that supports the narrow interests of library leadership over library workers and patrons, or do they want a truly democratic public library where workers at all levels of the organization have a say in what the library is and does? 

Please find more information provided by our partner in community, the Indy Liberation Center, regarding decisions to be made at the IndyPL Board meeting hosted on May 20th. This call to action urges library workers to band together in efforts to stand against decisions made on behalf of their organization without their feedback or support. Now is the time to cast our eyes forward and fight for better, freer, and more equitable days ahead.

IBLN Statement Regarding Indianapolis Public Library’s CEO Search

On December 8th, 2022 the board of the Indianapolis Public Library convened at the Library Services Center and announced that they had selected Gabriel Morley as CEO, over Nichelle M. Hayes. Hayes had been serving as Interim CEO for the past 8 months.

The library board gave no explanation of why Morley was selected over Hayes. Board members Dr. Patricia Payne and Dr. Khaula Murtadha stated that they had not been informed that Morley had been selected before the board and Morley’s selection was done against what the community’s wishes.

The selection of Morley over Hayes shows that the work on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice and Access (DEIJA) was purely performative and that they have no desire to institute substantive change.

The selection of Morley over Hayes shows that with the exception of Drs. Payne and Murtadha, are disinclined to make decisions that are for the residents of Indianapolis.

The board of the Indianapolis Public Library decided that the emotional, mental and physical labor of Nichelle M. Hayes was good enough to fix the mess that Judge Jose Salinas created, but not good enough to serve as permanent CEO.

We reject the decision of the Indianapolis Public Library board, and we stand in solidarity with Nichelle M. Hayes. The Indiana Black Librarians Network works to dismantle white supremacy and are angered that the board continues to uphold white supremacy.

We stand with the choice the people of Indianapolis have made: Nichelle M. Hayes.

Former IBLN President Named Interim CEO

INDIANAPOLIS – At the March 28 meeting of the Indianapolis Public Library Board of Trustees, the board voted unanimously to appoint Nichelle M. Hayes as IndyPL’s next interim CEO, beginning April 2. Hayes will take over for John Helling, who has been the interim CEO since September 1, following the departure of Jackie Nytes last summer.

Hayes has been with the Library system since 2015, most notably serving as the manager of the Center for Black Literature & Culture (CBLC) located at Central Library. Since it’s opening in 2017, Hayes has led the CBLC to national recognition as a special collection librarian, through programming and events, and most recently the development of interactive digital kiosks and website to serve as educational tools that highlight local Black voices and enhance the CBLC’s impact.

“I am honored to be entrusted with the role of interim CEO, and I look forward to being an advocate and leader for the system,” says Hayes. “I believe that we as a staff and community are stronger together, and that the Library is a fundamental part of the fabric of Indianapolis.” Hayes is a graduate of Arlington High School in Indianapolis. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree and Master of public Administration from Valdosta State University, and then a Master of Library Science degree from Indiana University in 2011. She is an alum of the Indiana Librarians Leading in Diversity Fellowship Program (I-ILID), which she credits as helping her join the librarian profession. She has served as the President of the Indiana Black Librarians Network, is currently the President Elect of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and was nationally recognized as a Library Journal “Mover & Shaker” in 2021. Additionally, she is a genealogist with a focus on African ancestry and has conducted several programs on the topic for IndyPL patrons.

Hayes enters the role of interim CEO as the Library, with approximately 570 employees, recently received results of a climate study to uncover an organizational understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion among staff. The findings include recommendations for improving board of trustee governance, improving trust among staff and leadership, updating hiring practices, updating policies around harassment and HR reporting, improving managerial training, and more.

In Memory of Lauren Freeman

Lauren D. Freeman (August 31st, 1983 – December 15th, 2021)

Lauren was elected as IBLN President in 2020 and remained an involved member as Vice-President while she battled with colon cancer. Lauren loved being a librarian and loved being a Black librarian. Her enduring sprit lives on in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew her. Please watch this space for information on how IBLN will be honoring Lauren Freeman.

Redistricing Impacting Indiana NOW!

What is a district?

The state of Indiana has 150 legislative districts, each has one representative. The state Senate has 50 districts and the state House has 100 districts.

Elected officials must represent the interests and needs of the people who live inside those districts no matter party affiliation.

Why is Indiana redistricting now?

In Indiana, the state legislature is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines. Populations change, some districts gain residents, others lose them. Districts also may change demographically. That’s why district boundaries are redrawn every ten years to ensure each district has about the same number of people and that districts are reflective and representative of the electorate.. The governor may veto the lines drawn by the state legislature.

Why does this matter?

Redistricting has a direct bearing on what matters a legislature chooses to tackle, and which to ignore. 

Redistricting also affects whether the nation’s diverse communities are represented in its legislative bodies. The redistricting process uses data from the 2020 census to redraw and reshape our representation in government and funding that includes funding that goes into our public library system. 

According to a study done at George Washington University, Indiana’s legislative maps are 95% more biased so we need to be aware of that.

How can I learn more?

Visit Ballotopedia: https://ballotpedia.org/Indiana_House_of_Representatives#District_map

Solidarity Statement in Support of Latrice Booker

We as members of Indiana Black Librarians Network (IBLN), stand in full support of Latrice Booker and her resignation letter as Indiana Library Federation (ILF) president, that exposed white supremacy and anti-Black racism within our library profession and professional organizations like the ILF. We know a few things to be true, the libraries where we work can be hostile to Black and other marginalized people, whether they are patrons or library staff. Black library staff see the importance in the work that we do to help serve the informational needs of the people in our communities; the ability to do our jobs more effectively would increase if we did not have to navigate toxic work environments or toxic situations with our colleagues and those in power at our institutions.

This year the Indiana Black Librarians Network will celebrate 20 years as an organization. We stand as an organization that provides a place of support, learning, mentorship and information exchange for Black librarians and our allies. We encourage anyone who wants to learn the richness of our Black librarians working in the state of Indiana to follow and support IBLN through membership, donations and attending our programs. We know that much change is needed to make our profession live up to the myth that librarianship is the cornerstone of democracy. We can only move in that direction if we acknowledge our white supremacist past and its lasting effects. That we call on white librarians to do their part in dismantling white supremacy in our profession and our professional organizations.

Here are our demands for ILF: 

  1. There needs to be a strategic effort to hire and retain Black librarians in the state of Indiana.
  1. Intentional outreach to diverse librarians with ILF in leadership and programming. They can work with IBLN members to increase their diverse programming and outreach that amplify the voices and concerns of Black librarians in the state of Indiana. 
  1. Set up a scholarship program supporting diverse populations. We need to eliminate the monetary barrier for Black librarians to enter into the profession. 
  1. Anti-racism training for ILF leadership and members. This will help Black librarians and other librarians of color feel more comfortable working with ILF leadership and its members moving forward.

These demands are not meant to be easy. These demands are not meant to absolve the harm that has been done. These demands are to create a new path forward that breaks the cycle of white supremacy in our profession so that we all can thrive.

Find more information about IBLN at our website: http://indianablacklibrarians.net

Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/INBLN