Indianapolis Public Library Climate Study Finds Black Employees Faced ‘Offensive Comments or Harassment’
Representatives from Ice Miller released the findings of the Indianapolis Public Library’s climate study at a committee meeting on Wednesday. About 22% of black library workers said they had received offensive comments or harassment from colleagues related to their race in the past year.
“I faced micro/macro assaults,” read an anonymous comment included in the report. “Questioning my credentials or experience. Wondering if I’m an employee when I show up at the employee entrance with a badge (not seeing black people as librarians is a real problem). Asking me if I had a nickname and deducing that my legal name was too difficult to pronounce.
Originally announced in the summer 2021 — and delayed due to wrangling on the board — the survey was distributed to the library employees last December. The climate study comes, in part, after several former and current employees showed up with allegations of racism against IndyPL administration.
Members of Ice Miller’s Racial Equity Solutions team worked with members of Team Go — a handful of IndyPL employees — to create the survey. The study also included interviews with employees, board members and focus groups.
Employees were asked whether they strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree or strongly agree with a series of questions relating to their experiences and perceptions at IndyPL . Ice Miller representative Myra Selby said about 79% of employees participated in the survey.
Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents — including 56 percent of black respondents — believed that complaints of inappropriate behavior in the workplace would be effectively investigated.
Additionally, the report found that 57% of Black employees who responded to the survey disagreed with the statement that there is “active support for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility within the board of directors”.
“The board appears to be embroiled in a power struggle that is bringing the entire library down,” said another anonymous comment included in the report.
The board did not take public comments at the committee meeting, but employees will have the opportunity to share their comments along with the findings at a March 28 board meeting.
After former CEO Jackie Nytes quit last year, the library’s executive committee responsible for promoting diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives within the library system has changed significantly. Since becoming interim CEO in September 2021, John Helling has led town halls at library branches. According to the report, many staff see this as a positive change.
“I believe the recent leadership changes provide a new opportunity for issues to be heard and addressed appropriately, and retaining a DEI professional will only help with that,” read an anonymous comment.
In addition to sharing the findings of their report, Ice Miller representatives also provided the board with 11 recommendations on how to improve the library climate. Among the list is improving board governance, updating the interview and hiring process, improving internal communication practices and improving diversity learning, equity, inclusion and accessibility, as well as managerial leadership training.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to have a foundation for our direction as we move forward,” board member Hope Tribble said, noting that there is a lot of work ahead of us.