Speaking Up for North Regional Library

At the Library Board meeting on September 26, library workers spoke in solidarity with the workers and community of North Regional Library in North Minneapolis. They demanded that Library Administration be held accountable for the institutional racism that has led to North Regional Library being inadequately staffed and supported, leading to unsafe conditions for both staff and patrons. North Regional staff have since been promised an additional building supervi-sor, more Hennepin County security, and an increase of 2 FTE for frontline staff.

The speech by DJ Hooker, a youth program associate at North Regional Library who grew up going to North Regional, is excerpted below. Lindsey Fenner, Ali Fuhrman, and Brett Schlosser also spoke from 2822, as did Anna Zillinger, President of Local 2864, which represents librarians.

My name is DJ Hooker and I’m a youth that grew up over North Minneapolis. I went to the [North Regional] Library as a place to escape since I was 12, and me and my dad volunteered for ten years running the Chess Club. Simultaneously while I was volunteer- ing, I held a job [at North Regional Library] as a Teen Tech Squad member for six years. When I got my first full time job at Brookdale [Library], I immediately put myself on the transfer list ‘cause I knew I wanted to serve the community I live in and care for very deeply. I’m currently a full-time youth program associate at North Regional Li- brary. My second job is as a chess teacher at Edison High School, which a lot of the kids from the Library attend. I bring this up just to show you how invested I am in the com- munity. And to show how much I care about the youth.

When we ask for change we are meet with excuses and empty promises. I had a manger lie to me and tell me he didn’t know the elevator broke on a consistent basis even though I know it’s been breaking down for the last ten years under his supervision.

Also when people have voiced their concerns [to library management] about what they want to see changed for the better, not just for staff, but the community at large, they were meet with comments like “Well, have you considered transferring.” Which is really a slap in their faces ‘cause for everyone who works at North Regional Library, the rea- son why we are there is ‘cause we care about every one that comes through those doors. And when we go to fight for better conditions for our patrons we are met with “maybe you should just leave.”

And since the Administration has done nothing to address the needs of the community, what that says to the community is they don’t matter. And trust me. They hear the mes-sage loud and clear. After something traumatic happens like the shooting or the 50- per son brawl, I’ve had several members of the community approach me and say “that’s why I don’t come up here,” or “that’s why I don’t let my child come up here, because it’s not a safe place.”

If it had been anywhere else, things would have changed overnight. We had a shooting happen a month ago and all we got was thoughts and prayers from the Administration when we were begging for more security, begging for more staff.

We need to stop saying these are things that can’t be stopped or things that happen in that community and realize that the Administration is contributing to the problem.