Model "Libraries for All Act" Released
The EveryLibrary Institute is encouraging state library associations to embed state anti-discrimination laws into public library policies and practices through new legislation. The model "Libraries for All Act" would provide new statutory underpinnings for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices in public libraries.
Public libraries are required by federal law to support anti-discrimination practices, and many states have more inclusive protections than federal law. Despite these statutory requirements, library DEI policies often do not reference anti-discrimination laws and are, instead, voluntary ethical frameworks. Until recently, a voluntary approach has not been a problem. However, with the rise of highly politicized attempts to ban books and censor materials, there is a need to base library collection development and other policies on a more operative framework. To address this issue, the model "Libraries for All Act" would specifically embed public libraries in state public accommodation laws and require library boards to create policies that comply with state or federal civil rights practices.
As public institutions, public libraries are required by federal law to follow and support anti-discrimination practices in areas like employment, contracting, and access to the building and grounds. Public libraries currently take federal funding through LSTA, among other sources, and as a result, are prohibited from engaging in discriminatory practices. Public libraries cannot discriminate in their employment practices as government employers or non-profits operating under contract with the government. The definition of public accommodation guarantees that all persons should enjoy full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation without discrimination.
Download a guide to the new "Libraries for All Act" model legislation from the EveryLibrary Institute.
State public accommodations laws require businesses and organizations that are open to the public to provide equal access and prohibit discrimination based on protected characteristics such as race, religion, gender, and disability. These laws should include public libraries. Policies like collection development, display, programming, meeting room use, and materials review should reference anti-discrimination statutes. By integrating civil rights frameworks into library policies, libraries can reinforce their mission, vision, and values and ensure that DEI practices are actively enforced and regularly evaluated for effectiveness.
The model "Libraries for All Act" would require library boards to write policies that are compliant with state or federal civil rights practices. Policies like collection development, display, programming, meeting room use, and materials review must reference anti-discrimination statutes. This approach will change the debate from one of inappropriate vs. appropriate to one of relevance to a protected class. By embedding civil rights frameworks across library policies, libraries can strengthen their mission, vision, and values and ensure that DEI practices are actively enforced and regularly reviewed for effectiveness.
The EveryLibrary Institute has produced a guide to the "Libraries for All Act" for state library association legislative and advocacy committees to review and consider for their states. The Guide is available to download, and EveryLibrary staff are ready to assist in developing a version of this new law for your state. Please visit the download page to get your copy today.