Chicago Public Library Equity Policy

With this policy, Chicago Public Library (CPL) explicitly and formally commits itself to being a more racially equitable library system.

Through our 150-year history, CPL's mission has remained constant:

We welcome and support all people in their enjoyment of reading and pursuit of lifelong learning. Working together, we strive to provide equal access to information, ideas and knowledge through books, programs and other resources. We believe in the freedom to read, to learn, to discover.

This Equity Policy is to uphold our mission by advancing equity as an outcome and a process that results in fair and just access to opportunity and resources that provide everyone the ability to thrive.

We begin by acknowledging and affirming the lived experiences of Chicago residents and CPL staff who have been marginalized, exploited, and otherwise oppressed.

Race is a social construct that has been used (historically and presently) to unjustly distribute opportunity and resources based on a person’s skin color, heritage, ethnicity, and/or national origin. Being a more racially equitable library system requires an analysis of systemic racism inclusive of the ways harm is created at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels. It requires a sustained commitment to dismantling systems that perpetuate racialized outcomes and rebuilding systems that produce systemic inclusion.

CPL understands that Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) are experts in their own lives and experiences. Engagement and true partnership are necessary to dismantle systems that perpetuate inequality and rebuild systems that drive toward greater inclusion. Now is time for deep, sustained listening and collaboration with those most impacted by racism and other injustices.

CPL commits to the work necessary to advance racial and social equity in our library system and city.

Consistent with the City of Chicago’s commitment to equity and inclusivity, and with the mission of the Mayor’s Office of Equity and Racial Justice (OERJ), CPL commits to normalizing concepts of racial equity, organizing staff and partners to work together for transformational change, and operationalizing new practices, policies, and procedures that result in more fair and just outcomes. Recently, CPL has enacted this commitment by establishing its Equity Office in August 2022, which works in partnership with staff, other City units, and community partners to affirmatively build racial and social equity into how CPL does business; by establishing Budget Equity Goals through participation in OERJ’s Budget Equity Process for Fiscal Year 2023; and by developing CPL’s Racial Equity Action Plan through participation in OERJ’s second Equity and Racial Justice Learning Cohort from May 2022 through April 2023.

We’re continuing to see this commitment through by immediately focusing on the following:

  1. Reporting progress on CPL’s Racial Equity Action Plan and giving an overall analysis of how we're leveraging our budget to further racial equity, through our participation in OERJ’s Budget Equity Process for Fiscal Year 2024 forward
  2. Conducting a system-wide CPL equity assessment in 2023 and 2024 that prioritizes community engagement and identifies opportunities to advance racial and social equity in library collections, services, technology, programs, policies, and practices
  3. Developing a CPL equity strategy and action plan based on equity assessment findings to advance the library’s mission of equitable access to information and knowledge, with measurable and time-bound equity goals that align with the CPL Strategic Plan and Racial Equity Action Plan
  4. Developing, implementing, and tracking annual training on key equity concepts and implementation of equity goals; training curriculum will include first-time equity training for new staff and annual training for existing staff that reiterates and updates the previous year’s, including progress on equity goals
  5. Continuing to develop and maintain collections, services, technology, and programs that reflect the diversity and vibrancy of Chicago neighborhoods, communities, and residents, regularly assessing related budgeting and expenditures

Through these focus areas, CPL seeks to uphold our longstanding mission of access for all by advancing racial and social equity in all that we do. This is an ongoing process that includes an unwavering commitment to systemically oppressed peoples, persistent co-creation with those most impacted, continuous examination of our own role in perpetuating systems of injustice, and agile responsiveness to ever-changing needs of our city and its diverse residents.

Through our commitment to equity, Chicago Public Library also reaffirms its commitment to intellectual freedom and the freedom to read.

CPL's commitment to intellectual freedom has been codified since 1936 and was recently demonstrated by CPL’s declaration as a Book Sanctuary. This commitment is also aligned to American Library Association’s Bill of Rights and Illinois House Bill 2789, which prevents book bans in libraries. Both equity and the freedom to read are essential to the wealth and health of our city.


This policy is to be reviewed by CPL leadership every two years or more frequently as needed. CPL’s Senior Equity Officer will lead the review process and forward recommendations to the CPL Executive Team. The Executive Team is to provide timely review and revisions as necessary, endorsement, and advancement to the CPL Board of Directors for approval.


CPL thanks the following organizations for their precedent in publishing equity policies and commitment statements that informed this policy: Austin Public Library, Baltimore County Public Library, Boston Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Calvert Library, Dayton Metro Library, Evanston Public Library, Milwaukee Public Library, Oak Park Public Library, Portland Public Library, Salt Lake City Public Library, San Francisco Public Library, Seattle Public Library, Sno-Isle Libraries, St. Louis County Library, and Urban Libraries Council. We’re also grateful for OERJ's leadership on racial equity work in the City of Chicago.

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