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Deeper Commitment

Library system to expand reach for black families

12/26/2018, 6 a.m.
Multnomah County Library will start the New Year with a new two-year initiative funded in part by a grant from ...
Kirby McCurtis is the administrator of the North Portland Library at 512 N. Killingworth St. where a Black Resources Center houses both scholarly and popular materials relating to the African-American experience

Multnomah County Library will start the New Year with a new two-year initiative funded in part by a grant from Meyer Memorial Trust to better serve and support African and African American families.

This initiative aims to build momentum and capacity for the library to enact systemic changes that better serve black families through community action research, a methodology that helps researchers work in partnership with community stakeholders to develop solutions to local problems.

Community action research will engage with African and African-American families to understand and address barriers and inequities related to kindergarten readiness and transition. Research has shown that black children often face disparities in school readiness, which signal disparate educational, economic and social outcomes later in life.

A Meyer Memorial Trust award of $148,000, with an addition of $89,000 from other donors to The Library Foundation, with support from the Collins Foundation, will fund this work.

The work builds on a 2011 library research grant, Preparing African American Children for Kindergarten Readiness, which showed that African American families do not always feel welcome and included in educational institutions and in libraries.

This effort advances Multnomah County Library’s culturally relevant service, which includes staff, materials and programs for five languages other than English and for the black community. That service also includes Black Cultural Library Advocate staff, the library’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program and aligns with the library’s organizational priorities.

The initiative is led by Multnomah County Library and made possible by gifts to The Library Foundation, including grants from Meyer Memorial Trust and the Collins Foundation. The library will issue a request for proposals for research expertise to lead the work in December 2018 with community outreach and research set to begin in spring of 2019.

"A public library should be a community’s most open and inclusive institution," said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. “Thanks to the generosity of Meyer Memorial Trust and the support of The Library Foundation, Multnomah County Library can live that value, better serve black families and eliminate barriers for those who are oppressed or have been oppressed.”