The Indianapolis Foundation, an affiliate of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, announced Monday that it will withhold future funding from the Indianapolis Public Library system amid recent allegations that library staff members and patrons have encountered discrimination.
“We are disheartened and concerned by ongoing testimonies from Indianapolis Public Library staff and board members—particularly Black women and other [Black and indigenous people of color]—about experiences of inequity and bias,” the foundation said in a statement.
The foundation stewards the $28 million Library Fund, which was created in 1989 with $13 million from an anonymous donor and provides funding to a variety of libraries. In 2020, the fund gave Indy’s library system $703,235, according to LaTasha River Sturdivant, senior director of special initiatives and research at CICF.
The foundation said it would withhold future funds from the library system until it completes a planned climate survey and makes “significant, meaningful and measurable” changes. As library leaders lay out what they’d like to improve, foundation staff will “sit down with the library and determine the best path forward so that we can continue supporting this critical community resource,” Sturdivant wrote in an email.
“Libraries are critical community and education centers that must be spaces where all members of the community are welcome and have equitable access to knowledge and culture–no matter place, race or identity,” the statement said. “That cannot happen if all staff do not feel welcome, included and supported in doing their work. We take these accounts seriously. ”
IBJ previously reported that the library system came under fire following a former employee’s speech during public comments at a May board meeting. Bree Jo’ann Flannelly, who had worked at Central Library for five years before she left earlier this year, alleged discrimination by race and over conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactive disorder and autism. More staff and board members recounted similar experiences or comments, and raised questions about the library leadership’s transparency in dealing with such concerns.
Members of the library union and other staff have called for CEO Jackie Nytes and board president Jose Salinas to step down.
Nytes has said Flannelly’s feelings are not universally shared by staff and that the library system formed an equity council last year that is working to improve the staff diversity and equity, offers equity and racial-justice programming for patrons, and has employees actively engaged in the work.
Library leaders have said they plan to complete a climate study by the end of the year.