Indianapolis Public Library Hires New Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Manager
Last year, allegations of inequality and ineffective leadership at the Indianapolis Public Library led to staff changes and the resignation of longtime CEO Jackie Nytes. A new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer has been hired to improve the library work environment. WFYI’s Terri Dee spoke with Keesha Hughes about how she sees the library’s management style and her goal of making the institution a more welcoming place for staff and the community.
Terri Dee from WFYI: What in particular attracted you to the field of diversity, equity and inclusion?
Indianapolis Public Library Equity and Inclusion Officer Keesha Hughes: As I learned about public relations and communications, I really started to learn about organizations that have diversity, equity and inclusion in their business model. They treat DEI with the same attention, the same rigor, the same priority as they treat operations or finances. So when I realized that there were organizations that really prioritized DEI, I wanted to learn more about what makes diversity, equity and inclusion good, what makes it effective , which makes it beneficial to the employees and communities it serves.
Dee: The past 12 to 18 months have been ones of management-driven controversy, questions, and frustrations within the Indianapolis library system. There were allegations of systemic racism and discrimination. Did you follow what had been seen in the news? What is your assessment? Do you think these allegations were founded?
Hughes: Of course, I followed a lot of this in the news. The leaders I have met are people who are committed to doing this work to improve the environment. It would be naive to say that none of these nasty things happened to people. This is not the world we live in. So people have their experiences, that’s for sure. But I think our role as leaders now is to get to the bottom of things; to hold accountable people who may have done things to employees that simply do not live up to the values, standards and mission of the library. So I think we just have to take one situation at a time and get to the bottom of it and figure out how we educate people on how we’re moving forward so that these things can’t continue to happen.
Dee: What do you consider your biggest challenge in your new role?
Hughes: Just to reassure people, their experiences are valid. That there are people who really want to create change, who want to shake up the status quo. We have the potential to take these unpleasant situations, fix them as best we can in terms of unfair policies, and improve the environment for everyone. That’s going to be the challenge; just convince people that things really can be different. We are committed to moving the library forward with some of these issues that have been faced in the past between promoting literacy and providing courses and resources to people. I just want to be part of the movement to make it a better place that can improve and make our city a better place.
Dee: Thank you for taking the time to discuss your role and responsibilities.
Hughes: Thank you for your time.