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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh announces first head of DEI and accessibility initiatives

Gene J. Puskar
The Carnegie Library will welcome its first Director of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility in the new year.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will welcome its first director of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility (IDEA) in the new year. Pittsburgh native Deborah Rogers comes to the library system from higher education.

Rogers will lead the library’s efforts to ensure patrons have equitable access to its books and services. Carnegie Library president and director Andrew Medlar said the position comes as the library prepares to develop a new strategic plan.

“Inclusion and diversity and equity and accessibility must be key to what that plan and what that future is going to be,” Medlar said. “I'm thrilled that she'll be here right at the very beginning of that so that she can contribute to it.”

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The new position, Medlar explained, will examine and adjust how the library system and its procedures reflect the communities it serves. That includes everything from its recruitment and retention policies, to the free computers and Wi-Fi available to patrons.

“Is there anything standing in the way of everyone being able to use those? Let's look at that,” he said. “Let's make sure that our buildings are as physically accessible as possible.”

In terms of its internal procedures, Medlar said Rogers will look at the ways in which the library’s interview processes “may be inadvertently sending messages that are not as welcoming to diverse candidates and potential colleagues as we would like them to be.”

Medlar said the director of IDEA will continue the library’s ongoing work to deconstruct barriers to access. In January, the library system eliminated all fines on overdue material.

Deborah Rogers comes to the Carnegie Library from higher education.
Provided by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Deborah Rogers comes to the Carnegie Library from higher education.

In doing so, the library purged its system of pre-existing fines that prevented cardholders from accessing library services. As of March, about two dozen of the county’s 46 libraries had adopted similar policies.

According to Medlar, the Carnegie Library also continuously audits its collections to make sure that they are “as inclusive as necessary and as possible.”

Rogers currently co-chairs the American Academy of Religion’s Women of Color, Scholarship, Teaching and Activism Unit. She previously served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, NY.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Rogers is a graduate of the now-closed Schenley High School in Oakland, and an alumna of Howard University in Washington D.C.

Rogers will officially join the Carnegie Library on Feb. 20.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.