Our Six-Month Reflection: Gratitude, Grief, & Commitment

This is a love letter to our community — a celebration of what we’ve built together and a commitment to keep fighting for the safety and liberation we know is possible in our libraries.

We began organizing together during the international uprisings in defense of Black lives this summer. We have experienced and witnessed police violence, racial profiling, and harassment in our communities and in our libraries. It is a crisis we cannot turn away from. We ourselves did not feel safe in libraries where police are present, and we knew we had to do something about it.

Here is what we did this year:

  • Staff delivered an internal petition signed by 50 staff members calling for police divestment and safety for all at our libraries to the Library Director & Board.
  • Over 130 supportive public comments were submitted to the Library Board by St. Louis County residents, library staff, and supporters to make their voices heard.
  • Over 1,200 supporters signed on to a public petition with five racial justice demands
  • We raised funds for a fired worker and a worker in crisis.
  • We delivered a letter of community demands to library leaders and invited them to a meeting.
  • We built partnerships with local racial justice organizations and individual organizers and volunteers.
  • We supported and participated in a national network of campaigns calling for police abolition at libraries.

We are grateful for all those who made our work possible and who continue to support us. We lift up the wins we have achieved at St. Louis County Library this year:

  • Termination of the off-duty police officer contract with Hudson Security Services
  • Full police and security divestment at the Indian Trails Branch
  • $15/hr minimum wage for all employees in 2021
  • Investment in staff de-escalation training
  • Commitment to contract social workers in 2021
  • Retention of tuition reimbursement program for staff with 2-year tenure

On the longest, coldest nights of the year, we reflect on the weight of our grief. We grieve our friends and family who were murdered or harmed by police violence, anti-Black racism, and Covid-19 this year. We mourn and miss our 122 fired coworkers, who were robbed of incomes and career opportunities in an unprecedented and unjustified mass firing. We miss you every day.

While we are grateful to only offer curbside and virtual service for everyone’s safety, we miss our patrons, who also made up our library families. We miss storytimes, computer classes, and after school meals. We miss hearing about your grandkids, your school projects, your favorite graphic novels, and your routines. We miss dancing, crafting, laughing, and answering your inquiries!

We are exhausted and heartbroken over the grave harms that library leadership has caused this year. We never could have imagined they would fire 122 of our most amazing and underpaid coworkers without budgetary cause. Or that they would ignore months of public comments, petitions, and an invitation to meet with our community.

In six hectic months, we have accomplished real change, and we remain committed to building libraries where Black and brown youth can get together after school and not be harassed by armed police or followed by internal security. We want fully-staffed libraries where every employee has health insurance, childcare, and earns a living wage. We want libraries where anyone experiencing a crisis can receive support and care, not handcuffs or incarceration. We believe libraries are supposed to be for everyone, and we believe our community can make this a reality.

Thank you to all who have supported us — we couldn’t do this without you. We hope we’ll see you in the movement work in 2021.

With gratitude & solidarity,

Libraries for All STL Organizers

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Multi-colored graphic celebrating six months of Libraries for All STL Actions.
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Multi-colored graphic celebrating six months of Libraries for All STL Actions.

Libraries for All STL is a multiracial coalition of library workers and community members who believe Black Lives Matter in our libraries.

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