Student Fellowship

Equitable Delivery of Library Services

Project Area:

Racial Equity & Access


Tacoma, WA

Reporting to:

Director, Tacoma Public Library

The Challenge

In June of 2020, Tacoma’s City Council passed Resolution 40622, “acknowledging the disparate impacts of systemic racism and affirming the City of Tacoma’s commitment to anti‐racist systems transformation.” Mayor Woodards and Tacoma City Council have explicitly stated their main priority in 2021 will be to work toward dismantling historical systems of oppression, and implementing accountability measures for city functions. The municipal library system, Tacoma Public Library (TPL), has an essential role to play in addressing widespread impacts of systemic racism. TPL’s most recent strategic plan focuses on Equity and Access as two of its priorities, and aspires to be an inclusive, well-resourced community asset delivering high-quality library services to Tacoma residents. The early 2000s were strong years for the library system. However in 2011, TPL was forced to close two branches due to budget cuts. TPL staff and leadership recognize that those closures disproportionately impacted communities of color in the Tacoma area.

Even with the budget challenges that TPL is facing, leadership is committed to restoring its presence in every community. To do so, it will need to look inward to understand the impact of the historical disinvestment, particularly for marginalized communities, over the past two decades. What has this disinvestment cost communities of color? With dwindling demand, what opportunities for growth does TPL have in these communities? How can TPL achieve its commitment to equity and access while meeting the evolving needs of disinvested communities?

What You’ll Do

The City of Tacoma is looking for a fellow to build on TPL’s current data collection initiative, part of the city’s work in the Bloomberg Harvard Data Track. The fellow will:

  1. Guide the development of a transparency dashboard that also captures the return on investment of library services over time. The goal of this dashboard will be to overlay library data with Tacoma’s equity index to inform short- and long-term decisions on service allocation and reinvestment in communities where TPL is not as actively present.
  2. Work with TPL’s data team to improve data collection and develop a list of strategies to encourage staff participation in data culture-building at the library.
  3. Collaborate with TPL’s web team and public information office to develop a public rollout for library data, which may include an equity analysis for outreach and communication purposes that should highlight the impact that historical budget cutbacks have had on the community over the last 20 years.

What You’ll Bring

  • Commitment to equity and community service
  • Cultural competency; empathetic and compassionate leadership
  • Project management experience with strong diplomacy skills and patience
  • Ability to work on a team
  • Data analysis
  • Proficiency in Tableau
  • Design thinking and human-centered design skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Systems thinking
  • Ability to speak Spanish, Khmer, Russian, Vietnamese, or Tagalog helpful, but not required
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