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Interview with: Terry Kirchner, Executive Director, WLS

Q: Why did you make a Pathways Pledge?
A: The nature of our business is outward, as clearly libraries are trying to be inclusive and open for everyone, but I don’t know that we had ever looked inward at ourselves and that’s really my pledge for this year. We’re in the process of doing a DEI audit of our operations to get a better sense of the ways that we are perhaps not as open as we think we are in terms of our policies and our hiring processes.

Q: What would you say to other employers as to why you took the Pathways Pledge?
A: For me the Pathways Pledge is a way to go from good intentions to actual action. I’ll be honest, it’s a little scary. We all like to think that we’re doing a good job, but I’ve never really had anyone come and assess how inclusive am I really? Do I have certain filters that perhaps don’t allow me to see some of the things that I may be doing that are actually against what we as an organization say we’re trying to achieve?

Q: Do you have a particular success that you can cite?

A: One of the first things that we’ve done is look at our job descriptions. There are certain jobs where higher degrees are required by law based on the type of work we do, but I think we overinflate some of the requirements, and this is really a chance for us to step back and think about what are the real skillsets that we need for certain jobs, and not just copy and paste from past job descriptions. This is a great first step. We talk about wanting to create a more diverse workforce, but if we can’t find ways to invite people into our profession so that they can discover if it’s a career path for them, why bother? I'm hoping that we’ve opened up the door for more people to learn about libraries and the social justice work.

Q: And so what would you say to encourage other employers to take the Pathways Pledge?
A: I think we all have to be brave and we have to be empathetic. We have to be ready to be wrong or at least be open to new ways of accomplishing our goals.

Thank you Terry for leading the way and making a Pathways Pledge! We encourage employers and educators to take 5 minutes and make an action pledge.