The Indiana Black Librarians Network: Welcome to the Liberation Center!

The Indianapolis Liberation Center is honored to officially welcome the Indiana Black Librarians Network (IBLN) as our newest member-organization. This move enhances the IBLN’s ability to improve the well-being of Black librarians, library workers, students of library sciences, commissioners, and friends of Black librarians in addition to expanding library access to Black communities in Indiana.

At the same time, the addition of this energetic and socially significant organization will radically strengthen the Liberation Center’s mission of fighting for justice and freedom. The IBLN’s centralized base in the Indianapolis Liberation Center serves as yet another spoke in our hub that further develops and cultivates a new society that benefits all. In newly-elected IBLN President Nikki Johnson words:

“The work of IBLN has been, is, and will continue to be a work in progress because the progress never stops. Having a space in the Indy Liberation Center dedicated to this work is restorative in that it provides an anchored space for the organization to do the work necessary for an inclusive, representative and just library profession.”

Why the people need the IBLN

Black librarians make up only 7 percent of the library profession. The increasing right-wing attacks on the freedom of information, from book bans to censoring dissent, hit Black librarians the hardest. It is now more important than ever that we support each other.

The IBLN was founded in 2001 in order to:

“provide an opportunity for Black librarians to exchange and share ideas, collaborate on library-related projects, promote professional development activities, sponsor scholarship initiatives, serve as a network for the sharing of information between librarians and para-professionals throughout the State of Indiana, and to establish channels of communication between black librarians and para-professionals statewide.”

Former IBLN member Libré Booker resigned from the Indiana Library Federation in April of 2021 from the racist actions and systems embedded within the organization, prompting her to leave the library profession entirely. ILF lists Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in their strategic plan stating they: “Promote and highlight the work of diverse librarians.” If these institutions and organizations are really about diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and accessibility, then let their actions reflect it.

One can look at ILF’s website and social media alone to see why IBLN is affiliated with the Liberation Center and has never been offered an affiliation status with ILF.

A shared history of struggle

IBLN was an active member organization throughout the CEO search at IndyPL. This unique struggle brought out the best qualities of IBLN in that they truly do work together and support one another especially in deserved advancement opportunities and securing more positions of leadership within the library profession right here in the state of Indiana. IBLN supported Nichelle Hayes during the CEO search process and released this statement after the IndyPL board unilaterally appointed, despite the input from the community, Gabriel Morley to the position of CEO. IBLN made their support for each other and the community clear in their public statement:

“The board of the Indianapolis Public Library decided that the emotional, mental, and physical labor of Nichelle M. Hayes was good enough to fix the mess that Judge Jose Salinas created, but not good enough to serve as permanent CEO…. We reject the decision of the Indianapolis Public Library board, and we stand in solidarity with Nichelle M. Hayes. The Indiana Black Librarians Network works to dismantle white supremacy and are angered that the board continues to uphold white supremacy…. We stand with the choice the people of Indianapolis have made: Nichelle M. Hayes.”

Education: The portal to liberation

The Indianapolis Liberation Center recognizes IBLN’s valuable contributions and is excited for our community to experience how their additional skill sets, expertise, networks, and overall vitality will strengthen the work we do and the struggles we lead and help facilitate.

With dedicated members on the side of the people, the Center has a team of library professionals who can help our community connect with the library and other resources, as well as the trained researchers to help them find and put those resources to use. With the Liberation Center on their side, the IBLN has a firm foundation to withstand racist attacks emerging from our local, state, and federal governments. We look forward to see how we can creatively collaborate and cooperate to eliminate racism, inequality, and injustice from our community.

Education is a portal to progress and is central to all projects for liberation. With the IBLN working alongside Hope Packages, Free Shaka Shakur, ANSWER Indiana, FOCUS Families Initiative, and our other member-organizations, we will traverse the terrain to justice with more confidence and community than ever before.

Featured photo credit: Indiana Humanities.