|The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) has added Juneteenth to the organization’s paid holiday schedule for employees effective in 2021. The library system notes this is an important step toward building a more equitable community by acknowledging the experiences and obstacles affecting people of color, particularly those in the African American community.
“I can start by imagining how the public library can help us find ways to move our country’s policies closer to her creeds,” wrote CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter in a statement released on June 3 following the killing of George Floyd by an officer in the Minneapolis Police Department. “Maybe the library can encourage more expressions of painful stories endured by people of color among us and encourage more attentive listening by those who lack such life experiences.” His full statement is available at CALS.org.
The library has already taken steps to bring Coulter’s words to action by adding Juneteenth to the holiday schedule and discussing how future programs should be developed to engage more people of color and those from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. The human resources department is also hosting a series of cultural conversations to give employees a chance to discuss how they feel about current events as well as share their personal experiences.
“The library and our employees are also part of the community,” said Candace White, CALS Human Resources Manager. “Adding Juneteenth to the holiday schedule is a way to support our staff and encourage them to learn more about each other and the history of our state and beyond. Things can only get better if we acknowledge the painful deeds of the past and present and work toward healing those wounds together.”
CALS currently observes 10 paid holidays: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The library is also closed in observance of Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.
Juneteenth is a celebration held during the month of June in Arkansas and throughout the nation to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated in Texas on June 19, 1865, to mark the date when the news of the emancipation of the slaves reached the state. Since 2005, the third Saturday in June has been officially considered “Juneteenth Independence Day” in Arkansas. More information about Juneteenth in Arkansas can be found online at the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas (encyclopediaofarkansas.net).