Removing barriers to inclusion is made explicit in the library’s strategic plan, goals, policies, planning documents, and are articulated in the mission/vision statement.
What is it and why is it important?
As this toolkit suggests, social inclusion is the participatory, authentic, and accountable manner in which institutions uphold and reinforce the principles of access, equity, and thus social inclusion.
In particular, social inclusion is the way in which organizations:
- are open to understanding and engaging in their communities;
- explore, view, and challenge barriers, values, and behaviours;
- develop, implement, and evaluate systems, programs, policies, and procedures;
- provide equitable access to services and decision making opportunities;
- demonstrate the level of inclusion through tangible outcomes.
In order to demonstrate its commitment to social inclusion, a library must reflect the principles of access and equity in its mission and vision statements.
As the library’s activities stem from the mission, strategic objectives and goals, it is vital that this “strategic infrastructure” reflects and directs the organization to focus on social inclusion.
What does it look like and how do you do it?
There are many ways that inclusion can be integrated into the library’s strategic infrastructure. Below are examples of values, mission statements, social inclusion manifestos, strategic directions, and organizational goals from Toronto Public Library, Hamilton Public Library, and the Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) / Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada (CBUC). Feel free to use these examples as inspiration in customizing the strategic infrastructure.
Note that the principles of access, diversity, and equity are often used to communicate the focus of the inclusion-related work.
Canadian Urban Libraries Council (CULC) / Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada (CBUC) Statement on Diversity and Inclusion
“Canada’s urban public libraries recognize that a diverse and pluralistic society is central to our country’s identity. Public institutions, including public libraries, have a responsibility to contribute to a culture that recognizes and celebrates this diversity.
Libraries can help to encourage an attitude of inclusion by ensuring that all residents of Canada receive public library service that is respectful. Canada’s large urban public libraries recognize and will energetically affirm the dignity of those they serve, regardless of capabilities or personal wealth. All Canadian residents should be able to seek information and engage in personal discovery free from any attempt by others to impose values, customs or beliefs.”
The Hamilton Public Library
Hamilton Public Library: 2007 – 2011 Strategic Plan
Freedom to Discover
- Providing access to all expressions of knowledge and creativity.
- Connecting with diverse communities.
- Anticipating and responding to changing needs.
- Embracing a diversity of opinions and protecting the dignity of individuals.
- Ensuring that library services are vital and relevant.
Strategic Priorities 2008 – 2011:
Strengthening the Community
The Hamilton Public Library will be a source of civic pride. We will offer welcoming public spaces where ideas are freely explored, events take place, and people of diverse backgrounds feel equally at home. The library will make a positive social and economic impact. The library will preserve Hamilton’s historic past and help community members to shape our future.
The Hamilton Public Library will serve people in ways that are relevant to their unique circumstances. The library will make it easy for the user to find what they are looking for and to delight in the discovery of things that are new. We will unite people, information, and ideas using technology and personal service. The library will search for exciting ways for community members to become engaged in the development of library services.
Strengthening our Organization
The Hamilton Public Library will be a global leader, helping to ensure that public libraries remain relevant institutions. With a strong culture of leadership, the Hamilton Public Library will be both dynamic and resourceful. The library will embrace change to ensure that we are both relevant and effective. Staff will be encouraged to think, to contribute and to grow as knowledge workers.
The Toronto Public Library
Toronto Public Library: Strategic and Service Directions
TPL’s vision is to provide services for people of all ages and backgrounds, beginning with the very young. The term “people” is deliberately broad without reference to a requirement for citizenship; different cultural, social, and economic backgrounds are included and the importance of service to all ages, including children and youth, is highlighted.
The mission speaks to the library’s role in providing free and equitable access to public library services that meet the changing needs of the people of Toronto. The mission acknowledges that library service must evolve as the population changes.
The values identify equity and respect for diversity as important service drivers. Support for intellectual freedom and encouragement of the free exchange of ideas are fundamental to library service. Participatory decision making is also referenced.
Toronto Public Library Strategic Plan:
The strategic plan highlights the importance of encouraging participation in both the life of the city, as well as in its neighbourhoods and in the library. Concepts of social inclusion are embedded throughout the strategic plan.
Social inclusion is supported through:
- service development in consultation with local communities, partners, and residents;
- creating awareness of available services and programs through deep community connections;
- reducing barriers to access by offering extensive and convenient service hours and reducing fines and fees.
Examples of specific goals and actions include:
- Engaging Toronto’s Diverse Communities
Offer resources and programs to engage and encourage discussion in civic and social issues important to the city and neighbourhoods.
- Addressing the Growing Income Gap
Strengthen literacy and employment related programs and services to address the needs of ESL learners, early school leavers, adult learners, and job seekers.
- Expanding Access to Technology and Online Services
- expand access to technology in library branches including laptops, wireless, and collaborative learning spaces,
- use technology to engage communities in library services and programs through social networking sites, in-branch gaming, and with other emerging technologies.
- Supporting Creativity and Culture
Enable libraries to be venues for accessible cultural, literary, and arts events, and cultural hubs for local artists, authors, and performers.
Key public service policies support social inclusion. The policy framework:
- promotes public participation and engagement in service development,
- ensures services address broad community needs,
- ensures that there is equitable access to both communities and individuals.
Policies nest under the Ontario Human Rights Code that is posted in all library branches. The following is an example of one of the policies:
Public Consultation Policy
This policy outlines the library’s commitment to creating opportunities for participation by residents and stakeholders in the decision-making process, and outlines specific areas in which public consultation is required. Translation, child care, or accommodations for persons with disabilities is available at public meetings and upon request. Web surveys are available in a number of languages. Public feedback is welcomed in a variety of formats, including in person, by phone, via email, etc.
The Brampton Public Library
Brampton Public Library Strategic Plan
Brampton Library enriches the lives of Brampton residents by promoting literacy, and by providing access to recreational materials and information in a welcoming environment that fosters connections with others and with the community.
The Values describe what is important for the library and sets out key principles to guide service delivery, Brampton Public Library will focus on:
- community needs;
- customer service, respect, and sensitivity;
- social inclusion;
- fiscal responsibility;
- partnerships with other service providers;
- innovation, creativity, and best practices.
Become a More Inclusive Library
One of the underlying values of public library systems is the concept of inclusion. Being an inclusive library is about making sure that the library is welcoming and accessible for everyone. It is also about providing library services that recognize and respect the diversity of the population served.
Brampton is a rapidly growing and increasingly diverse municipality. It is diverse along many dimensions – culture, language, age, etc. In addition, library customers vary considerably in their information needs, reading interests, and know-how in using technology. While the library cannot be all things to all people, it must strive to reflect the community and provide a place where people feel welcome and can connect. It must maintain its values as a public library in being accessible to those with the greatest need.
- To track this goal, the library will need to develop new success indicators. It is currently testing a number of different approaches for monitoring and assessing inclusion, and these will provide a good starting point.
- The library uses the tools from its Core Service Review to measure attendance of programs and to track increased use for the target groups and communities.
Below are a few thought-starter questions to start the library’s work in this area.
Figure 3.0 Strategic infrastructure thought-starters
|Thought-starter Questions||Responses||What are our next steps here?||Who is responsible||When shall we act on our next steps?|
|1. Do the mission and or vision statements reflect the focus on social inclusion?|
|2. Does the library’s values reflect its commitment to social inclusion?|
|3. Has the library tested its mission and or vision statements with the community groups it serves before it is finalized?|
|4. What policies should be amended or developed to reflect inclusiveness?|
|5. What are the benefits the library will realize if it becomes more inclusive?|
- Ensure that community groups and a cross-section of staff are included in the process to develop and amend the strategic infrastructure.
- Obtain input from community groups through focus groups, surveys, and community advisory meetings.
- Use examples of various mission and vision statements such as those provided by Hamilton and Toronto Public Libraries.
- Ensure that the removal of barriers to inclusion is part of the policies for every program and administrative unit, including management and human resources.
- Encourage ongoing discussions about removal of barriers among staff members.
- Solicit staff suggestions on how the removal of barriers to inclusion can be reflected in the library’s policies, practices, strategies, and plans.
The following exercise will guide the process of reviewing and amending the strategic infrastructure to ensure that the focus on inclusion is developed or refined.
Figure 3.1 Reviewing and amending strategic infrastructure plan
|Agreement to amend/develop||Responsibility||Timeframe||Notes and Details|
|Strategic objectives or goals of the library|
Audit Tool Interpretation – How to assess Status and Progress
The Social Inclusion Audit Tool is designed to help the library assess its current status and level of progress in removing barriers to social inclusion. This box contains some examples to help when using the Audit Tool for Question 3.
Low Status/Low Progress
This may be the case when removing barriers to inclusion are not clearly expressed in the library’s strategic infrastructure.
What should you do? Be Open to Change.
Making social inclusion a priority and formulating a plan will help libraries be open to change. Use the examples, tips, and exercises in this chapter to learn how the library can integrate inclusion into its mission/vision, goals, policies, and planning documents.
Low Status/High Progress
This may be the case when the library recognizes the importance of inclusion, and is making plans but hasn’t yet implemented them throughout its strategic infrastructure.
What should you do? Refine.
Use the examples, tips, and exercises in this chapter to refine the library’s mission/vision, goals, policies, and planning documents so that removing the barriers to inclusion are clearly defined and prioritized. Setting targets and deadlines, and assigning responsibilities to staff will ensure the library’s good intentions become reality.
High Status/Low Progress
This may be the case when the library has some level of inclusion in the strategic infrastructure – perhaps in the mission and vision but not in the strategic plan – but it may not be explicitly defined or consistent.
What should you do? Become Intentional.
Removing barriers to inclusion requires that intentions be clearly defined, regularly evaluated and consistent throughout the library’s strategic infrastructure. Use the examples, tips, and exercises in this chapter to ensure the library’s inclusion intentions are explicitly identified. Developing a plan that includes evaluation at regular intervals will help ensure continued relevance.
High Status/High Progress
This may be the case when the library’s mission and vision reflect the principles of access and equity. Social inclusion is integrated into all aspects of the library’s strategic infrastructure, including clearly articulated goals, objectives, policies, and planning documents.
What should you do? Mentor Others.
The library is demonstrating a high capacity to remove the barriers to social inclusion by explicitly detailing them in the library’s strategic infrastructure. No doubt there will have been some great successes along the way and some failures. Sharing these experiences with other libraries will help everyone on the way to become more inclusive.