Howard County Times

Howard County Library System opens Equity Resource Center to foster learning about racism, culture, history

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The Howard County Library System on Monday unveiled a new Equity Resource Center and exhibit at the Central Branch in Columbia.

The center houses a new equity collection of more than 9,000 fiction and nonfiction titles, featuring selections with themes such as the criminal justice system, emancipation, immigration and policing, according to a news release from the library system.


The center, which was unveiled Monday afternoon before a crowd of community partners, also features the “Undesign the Redline” exhibit, which focuses on “redlining,” or the denial of services to residents of specific, often racially associated, communities or neighborhoods.

The unveiling included remarks from library system President and CEO Tonya Aikens, members of the system’s Racial Equity Alliance and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.


“During this time many of our neighbors, and frankly many of us, have felt isolated, sometimes alone, sometimes questioning ourselves and the direction in which we’re going,” Ball said. “It is quite a fit that in the heart of Columbia, a place that was known throughout the world as a place not just for diversity, but equity and opportunity, where we can have those difficult conversations, where we can explore the very best of us and challenge that within us that needs to change and evolve.”

Following the death of George Floyd — a Black man who was killed under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer in May 2020 — community members began calling for spaces where they could come together to learn more about people who are different from themselves, as well as more about their own cultures and histories, according to the release.

The center aims to provide a space to educate community members on the experiences of people of different backgrounds and cultures, the library system said.

When there is not a formal library program, class or event in the space, residents are welcome to use the space informally, the release states.

The Howard County Library System on Monday unveiled its new Equity Resource Center and “Undesign the Redline” exhibit at the Central Branch in Columbia.

The “Undesign the Redline” exhibit, which was first hosted at the library in 2018, features an interactive timeline of instances of racial and social injustice throughout history from the Civil War to Black Lives Matter. The exhibit is currently scheduled to run through February.

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Aikens said she hopes the center and exhibit will help the community to better understand their culture and history.

“Hopefully [the center] will add a deeper understanding of not only where we came from, but also where we can go,” she said. “That’s the great thing about learning; it’s not just for the sake of it. It’s to create something better for today and tomorrow, for ourselves and for our children and their children.”

People can tour the exhibit on their own, arrange private tours by emailing or registering for public tours at 11 a.m. Wednesdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays.


Amy Brooks, who is a member of the Racial Equity Alliance and an English teacher at Oakland Mills High School, said the center will serve as a resource for her and her students.

“Having these resources and emphasizing their importance in having it centered in such a beautiful way for all of our community to come in makes my job easier as an educator,” Brooks said.

“It really goes hand in hand with what we are trying to do with the Howard County Public School [System] curriculum in trying to get more diverse voices in our novels and in our curriculum to really celebrate all of our students.”

The Equity Resource Center, located on the second floor of the Central Branch at 10375 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia, also will showcase stories received through the Brave Voices Brave Choices initiative that launched earlier this year. The program invites community members to reflect on personal experiences related to racism and discrimination by contributing stories through the library system’s website.