Lesley Williams served as head of Adult Services at the Evanston Public Library for over 15 years, presenting well over 100 adult programs a year, ranging from folk-dancing to full-length professional theater, to presentations from authors such as Naomi Wolf, Alan Furst, John Mearsheimer, and Ali Abunimah. During her tenure at EPL she launched the popular Mission Impossible community reading program, in which library patrons take a year to read and discuss challenging classics such as
Ulysses and Moby-Dick; and the “11 Months of African American History” series, with monthly discussions of the August Wilson Century cycle and African American themed lectures, movies, and art.
Williams wrote a successful grant for the American Library Association/NEH Muslim journeys program and received the Latino Americans 500 grant program. She has presented at the ALA annual conference on how to offer controversial topics in library programming and has served as a library programming consultant, most recently for the PBS Great American Read series. She currently reviews books on racial equity, Islamophobia, and Palestine for
Booklist, and is co-president of a local fair housing organization.
As the sole African American professional at my library for over 20 years, one of the few Jews of Color at my synagogue, and the mother of a biracial daughter I have daily experience with the challenges diversity and true inclusiveness present to organizations and communities. Much of my effort in the Evanston community has been to push the library towards a more robust commitment to equitable service throughout the community.
Along with Jewish Voice for Peace and several local faith and diversity groups, I organized four community rallies against Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination and bigotry in 4 local communities. All attracted at least 200 hundred people, the largest had 1500 attendees. Putting these together involved coordination between the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities, as well as representatives from LGBTQ, disability rights and immigrant activism.
I have spoken at events and panels for the American Library Association, Internet Librarian, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews against Anti-Muslim Racism, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. I regularly lead and moderate panels for local organizations and schools.
I led a “Courageous Conversations” series on race for Walker School and was a presenter on community engagement for the Evanston/Skokie District 65 Teacher In-service. I have been asked to speak on diversity and inclusion for the Evanston Township High School Black Female Summit, for Beth Emet congregation in Evanston, at the MAS-ICNA conference, the Chicago Teacher’s Union Women’s Day program, and Northwestern University’s alumni day.
In 2019, I gave a 2-day workshop to the Beaverton OR Public Library staff on how to move from talking about racial diversity to implementing equity in library programming, collections and services.
Keywords = Inclusiveness, Community Engagement, Interfaith Work, Anti-Racism, Equity, Diverse Books, Digital Divide,
$ Speaking Fee (negotiable)
Willing to Travel