Focusing on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism

By Jenna Johns

I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of joining the Thunder Bay Public Library team in November 2021, stationed at the Brodie Library, after a very busy summer providing support with First Nations community evacuations. My brand new role serves a specific function for the TBPL system—I focus on anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion, or REDI for short. What does this entail? I work to assess, build, implement, and evaluate strategies and processes to engage community members, create authentic relationships, and work together with diverse communities to create change in a respectful and reciprocal manner. I help support organizational change and use a community-led, asset-based, participatory approach to engage and include community members in planning processes in a way that centres those being engaged by meeting them where they are in life and other social/emotional spheres.

 I have learned that two central and important aspects of librarianship are readers’ advisory and collection development—making sure that the right books are on the shelves and in the hands of library members. Librarians ensure that we systematically curate resources to meet community needs. This is where I shamelessly plug the amazing and vast print, audio, and e-book resources we offer, both in the library and online through CloudLibrary. Prior to joining the library staff, I had no idea how much you can access with a library membership card and four-digit PIN (even from the comfort of your own home!)

  Here are a few examples of some collections I have carefully put together thus far. In February, in honour of Black History Month, I gathered together a comprehensive collection and display for the branch encouraging community members to include diverse authors in their reading plans. In March, I focused on International Women’s Day, bringing together topical pieces, ranging from historical to contemporary, highlighting the growing feminist movement and notable people therein. In April, TBPL partnered with the Thunder Bay Museum to focus on Holocaust literature, and we continue to have a display of youth, teen, and adult resources at the branches. Finally, for May, I pulled together a shelf of mental health resources to support people as we all come out of our winter hibernation and the days become longer.

  June is an extremely important month for the library (and myself) as it is both National Indigenous History Month as well as Pride Month. With a specific position within the library focusing on equity, we are able to offer resources that are better representative of our community. In June, I hope to have a display featuring local notable Indigenous people, artists, musicians, and creators. If you have someone in mind that you would like us to feature, please reach out to me A short biography and a photo is all that is required. In addition to the impressive Indigenous Knowledge Centre that my co-librarian has been developing, we can now offer specially curated and organized collections of other culturally specific resources.

Before I started with TBPL, I was sure that working in such a notable and significant repository of information like the Thunder Bay Public Library—and particularly the historic Brodie branch—was going to be the most exciting part of this new prospect. Earning a living while being surrounded by books all day sounded quite magical, but I quickly learned the truth. The best part about working at the library is standing beside the amazing assistants, technicians, librarians, management, and board members to provide the best service possible to all community members. The library is about so much more than what’s inside—it’s about who is inside. You are welcome at your library, so stop by soon to say hello!