'You need to do more': Library budget hearing gets heated over diversity concerns

Pat Loeb
April 15, 2019 - 8:30 pm

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Questioning got heated in Philadelphia City Council Monday as Free Library officials testified about their budget. Council members also raised concerns about the library's commitment to diversity.

The hearing comes in the wake of an anonymous online survey in which library staff complained of bias and harassment.

Siobhan Reardon, President and director of the Free Library of Philadelphia, addressed it in her opening statement.

“The existence of bias and discrimination in the library is disturbing and intolerable,” she said. “I applaud the staff that stepped forward and raised the issue and want to assure you and them that I and the board take these concerns seriously.”

But Councilwoman Cindy Bass, noting a two year delay in creation of a diversity and inclusion committee and a lack of discipline for a white employee who made a remark perceived as offensive, expressed doubt.

“I'm not sure that you get it,” Bass said.

“Okay,” Reardon responded.

“Okay, that's what you say, 'okay,’” Bass asked. “All right, okay.’”

Bass later warned.

“Okay's not acceptable,” she said. “You need to do more. You need to do better or we need to get somebody who's going to do more and do better.”

Bass was not the only council member grilling Reardon on the library diversity. Reardon agreed to return with more answers in two weeks.