Foundation will withhold funding from Indy library amid discrimination allegations

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.

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12 thoughts on “Foundation will withhold funding from Indy library amid discrimination allegations

  1. It’s amazing how nowadays routine personnel matters can be framed as racism and woke non-profits will leap at the chance to punish alleged offenders. Having followed this story since it first came out, nothing I can see amounts to racism or discrimination. That’s not to say that personnel management couldn’t be a lot better, but any organization with more than a few dozen employees will always have some share of employees that are disgruntled or feeling poorly treated any day of the week.

  2. Why are these allegations treated as fact?
    The library Management and Board should be given the benefit of doubt or “innocent until proven guilty”!
    This amounts to blackmail, no pun intended.
    The library should sue the foundation for their arbitrary and capricious actions in this regard.

    1. Because it (discrimination) was caught happening on a Zoom call and the world found out about it—that’s why. Everyone saw it happen on a Zoom call. It’s another one of those “Geroge Floyd” things, where the Black folks say it’s happening, and the White folks say the Black folks are lying—then a video shows that the Black folks are 100% right.

  3. Remember when the idiots at the Lilly Foundation thought Derek Daly was a Racist! And cut off funding from a relative because he had the same last name? Democrats doing Democrat Stuff

    1. Last I checked, CICF and Lilly Foundation were run by rich white people who certainly are not Democrats

  4. Withholding funding to the Library is injurious to the communities and people the Library serves. Why should patrons be impacted by the possible loss of funding and services over issues which should have been addressed long before this unfortunate situation? All involved need to consider how this mess looks to taxpayers who also fund the Library.

  5. Just because someone doesn’t get their way all the time doesn’t mean it’s racism. Sometime your idea is not the best or you’re not the top performer – saying it’s racism waters down claims of actual racism…..

  6. As you are fully aware, words matter. The use of the word “withholding” in your article may misrepresent what the foundation is doing. If you dig a little deeper, to read, investigate the story more thoroughly, you might have been informed that current funding remains intact. Future funding will be assessed based on the results of the climate study and the actions that follow. The climate study should be performed by an independent third party to avoid allegations, relative to the study, of a quid pro quo. And CICF should not be a party to the study.

  7. Besides the past year, I frequently patronize the Central Library. The problem stems from the fact any “worthwhile” job – like many consider a IMCPL job to be – always seem to be staffed by suburbanites and exurbanites whose urbanity seems to be attached to the fact that they venture “south of 86th Street” to work in the De Facto Indianapolis Homeless Shelter that the Central branch represents. Every visit I have made in the past 5 years has featured some version of Homeless Dodge the Security Guard or Mentally Ill Guy Keeping Warm.
    This is why these problems arise, an urban location staffed by suburban housewives. Having said that, I find it odd that this would make the IBJ.

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