After months of in-fighting among the Indianapolis Public Library (IndyPL) board of trustees, library workers finally received a climate improvement survey Dec. 9. Board members hope the survey, announced in June, helps give a better understanding of the organization’s current climate.
The survey, created by Ice Miller and a committee made up of IndyPL employees from various departments and management levels known as the Go Team, contains several sections pertaining to the employee’s faith in the board of trustees and library management, as well as their experiences with discrimination and racism during their time at IndyPL. Employees have two weeks to fill out the survey. Ice Miller will use the results to make recommendations to the board, though the firm is not expected to help implement its recommendations. A representative from Ice Miller could not be reached for comment. IndyPL communications director Joe Backe said the firm does not speak to the press during these processes.
Board member Dr. Khaula Murtadha, who often administers climate studies as part of her job, offered in June to do the climate study for free and said she could start the process in a matter of weeks. Some on the board feared it was a conflict of interest, which started debates about whom or what organization should conduct the climate study, delaying it significantly. The board accepted Ice Miller’s bid for $100,000 in September. While the firm is not minority-led, board member Hope Tribble said Ice Miller “set themselves apart” by aligning its proposal with the library’s focus on racial equity in the strategic plan. The Ice Miller team overseeing the study is led by a Black woman.
The cost was a point of contention for employees as this didn’t seem to follow normal procedure. The library board typically goes with the lowest bidder that can adequately get the job done. In the search for a manager of the climate improvement process, Ice Miller was the highest bidder, with the second highest asking for $27,000.
Library Workers Union President and IndyPL employee Michael Torres said IndyPL staff have done many surveys in the past without ever seeing changes. Further, he said the decision to hire Ice Miller reflects an alleged history of Black women being ignored within IndyPL.
“We have experts on the board who have done studies like this before, and they’re ignoring their expertise,” Torres said. “We have three attorneys on this board who are engaging and vetting a law firm and showing again they are ignoring the Black women on the board who are questioning what’s happening.”
Judge Jose Salinas, president of the board, said they went with the law firm because the application submitted was the most comprehensive and the company is local.
“We had four proposals and the board voted on the one they felt gave us the best opportunity to get some of the information we needed to move forward,” Salinas said. “… From memory, theirs was the most comprehensive, and because Ice Miller is based here, there wasn’t anything done virtually, it was all in person.”
So far, the Go Team has had four meetings to discuss the next steps for the library.
One member of the Go Team, who requested anonymity to protect employment, expressed concern that IndyPL staff will be tasked with carrying out Ice Miller’s recommendations and that there ought to be a team specifically dedicated to improving the climate and tackling equity issues with IndyPL.
“This is important, but I’m tired of fighting people,” the employee said. “The fight is just, but it can be a lot. … A question I have is what exactly is [Ice Miller] going to do, and at what point will all the work be put on us? We’re already overworked. It’s like, you already have a 40-hour work week, and ‘Oh by the way, you also have to cure racism by 5:30.’”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.