• Tattered Cover

Tattered Cover's Diversity Equity Inclusivity Action Plan

On June 8 we apologized for a statement we made in relation to Black Lives Matter and the harm it did to our community. We understand that trust has been broken, and that we have a long road ahead of us to repair that trust. This letter is the first step along that road.

In our apology, we made a pledge to do better. Since then, we’ve had feedback from many of you, including and notably a Community Letter from The Word Storytelling Sanctuary, providing specifics on how we might move forward. Our goal now is to lay out a plan for how we’re going to live up to the pledges we made (and more), and what we’re doing to learn, grow, and better serve all the communities of Denver.

We also acknowledge the harm we caused in our relationship with staff. We are dedicated to listening and reflecting on the views and perspectives of our colleagues to ensure an equitable, inclusive, and responsive workplace as part of our ongoing commitment to be better.

Our first step was to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know. As a white-owned business with a predominantly white staff, we occupy a place of privilege in the literary and retail landscape of Denver. To make Tattered Cover a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) workplace and public space, we needed help. With that in mind, we engaged Prismatic, locally-based and highly-regarded DEI practitioners. We will provide Prismatic transparent and unfettered access to Tattered Cover over the coming months so that they can help us identify how and where we can grow and change. Specific work Prismatic will do, and in some cases has already begun, includes:

  • An equity audit of Tattered Cover

  • Intercultural Development Inventory Assessments of management staff

  • Management coaching

  • Professional learning for members of the extended management team

  • A train the trainer program to help us propagate good practices

This work will build a foundation on which we can institute lasting change. We will not, however, wait until this work is completed to move forward. Using The Word’s Community Letter as a blueprint, we convened two task force meetings to discuss the specific items raised in that letter, the work we’re doing with Prismatic, and how Tattered Cover can best serve the community. The meetings were facilitated by Prismatic and included the following individuals-- representing several marginalized identities—from both inside and outside of Tattered Cover:

  • Manuel Aragon – Board member at The Word Storytelling Sanctuary, and employee at Lighthouse Writers Workshop

  • Jamie Bassett -- Prismatic

  • Robert Franklin, II -- Prismatic

  • Dr. Danielle Harris -- Prismatic

  • Maria Heater – Nelson Literary Agency, former Tattered Cover Retail Manager

  • Derek Holland – Tattered Cover LoDo Store Manager

  • Margie Keenan – Tattered Cover CFO

  • Kiana Marsan – DU Junior, incoming editor of the DU student paper, and former Tattered Cover Teen Advisory Board Member

  • Mikaley Osley – Tattered Cover Director of Marketing and Events

  • Jeremy Patlen – Tattered Cover Gift Buyer

  • Mike Pham – Tattered Cover Technology Director

  • Julia Torres – Educator/Librarian, DPS

  • Len Vlahos – Tattered Cover CEO

(Not all task force members were at the same meeting. Different people attended each of the two meetings.)

Based on the discussions at the task force meetings, and based on the learning we’re doing, here are the tangible ways in which we’re striving to change:

Hiring and Staff

Our goal is to become an organization who authentically prioritizes the recruitment, hiring, onboarding and retention of those who have a marginalized identity, including those who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC); those who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ communities; people who identify as having disabilities; and others who are neglected, overlooked, or treated unfairly by those in positions of privilege. Working with Prismatic, we will conduct a thorough review of our processes for sourcing, recruitment, and hiring, to achieve a more representative workforce and management team. We will complete this review by the end of September 2020, and update the community on our progress via this blog.

In addition to addressing our hiring practices, we seek to make Tattered Cover a safe and welcoming workplace for people with marginalized identities, especially members of BIPOC communities. Beyond the public apology to staff and customers on June 8, a personal letter of apology (dated June 17) was sent to each of the 123 active employees; we instituted a “Staff Insight Survey” to gather feedback on how to be a safer and more welcoming workspace; and we hosted Zoom meetings with staff (and will host more as needed) to discuss the topics raised in the Staff Insight Survey. We will also continue training for all staff around issues of gender identity, including learning welcoming and appropriate vocabulary to use with all customers and staff.

Combining the feedback gathered from the Tattered Cover team, with recommendations from the equity audit conducted by Prismatic, we will create a plan to ensure our work environment is inclusive and responsive to the needs of employees who have a marginalized identity. This will be an ongoing effort.

Curation of Our Book Collection and of Our Event Calendar

We will take concrete steps to ensure that the curation of our collection, and the scheduling of our author events, are more equitable and inclusive, and will feature more authors with a marginalized identity. We will do this by ensuring at least one third of new fiction and new nonfiction titles in both paperback and hardcover, and at least one third of our events, feature authors who have marginalized identities, especially BIPOC authors. As new books are ordered and author tours are announced six months or more in advance, these goals will take time to achieve. We aim to achieve these goals by the second quarter of 2021.

We also recognize that a disproportionate number of locally-published authors have a marginalized identity. We will find new ways of welcoming these writers to Tattered Cover, including the immediate cessation of charging a marketing event fee to any author from a non-corporate publisher, and a 50% reduction in our consignment fees for authors whose books we obtained through non-traditional means. We will also reach out to writing groups comprised of authors with marginalized identities, inviting them to see how we’re growing, learning, and changing, and welcoming them to Tattered Cover.

We will commit to devoting more display space – table displays, endcaps, etc. – to authors who have marginalized identities. Our goal will be, by the end of this year, to ensure that 50% of display space will include writers from marginalized identities, especially BIPOC authors. We will rely on Prismatic’s equity audit to examine how we currently highlight Black authors specifically, and authors with different marginalized identities, and make changes accordingly.

Improving the Customer Experience, and Creating a Welcoming Environment for All

We will create an inclusive customer and community experience while accounting for the historic and current trauma experienced by those who have traditionally marginalized identities. The work we are doing in partnership with Prismatic will play a key role in achieving this goal.

We will participate in an equity audit of Tattered Cover to include a review of the physical, social, and emotional environments and a review of customer-facing policies and procedures in order to evaluate areas of strength and growth opportunities in equity, access, and inclusion. The audit will create a baseline for our team to more deeply understand the steps we need to take to ensure the culture of all Tattered Cover stores provide an inclusive customer and community experience.

Prismatic will conduct empathy interviews with key stakeholders identified by Tattered Cover (community members, employees, former employees, partners, members of BIPOC writing groups, etc.), to better understand the perspectives and experiences of customers. We plan to complete all of the empathy interviews by mid-September 2020.

We acknowledge police interactions expose BIPOC community members to deadly risks. While continuing our pledge to provide a safe and welcoming environment for staff and customers, we will work collaboratively with Prismatic and connect with key stakeholders to develop a menu of alternative and inclusive community and customer safety policies and practices. This work will be ongoing.

Offsite Events, Educational Programming, and Awards Committees

We acknowledge that we need to do a better job of presenting Tattered Cover events in communities where a majority of people with marginalized identities live, work, and study. To that end, we pledge that the Colorado Teen Book Con will move its location each year, and at least every other year, the event will be held in a school or other community space with a predominantly BIPOC population. We will also convene a Teen Book Con Advisory Board, comprised of librarians and educators who reflect Metro Denver’s diverse population. Working with the Tattered Cover staff, this Advisory Board will create the program for the event that is culturally and linguistically responsive and sustaining. As we develop and grow other large scale offsite festivals and/or cons in the future, we will explore following a similar model. We will implement this plan for the 2021 Teen Book Con. (Due to the pandemic, there will be no 2020 version of the event.)

In a time without restrictions on public gathering, Tattered Cover also creates pop-up bookstores at more than 150 conferences each year. We commit to seeking opportunities to engage with conferences attended largely by people with marginalized identities, to ensure we are reaching all communities in Denver. Given the realities of the pandemic, it will likely take more time to fully realize this goal.

Our Role in the Book World

We acknowledge the influence and responsibility Tattered Cover has in the Mountain West’s bookselling and publishing communities. To that end, we will actively engage in learning, listening, and reflecting, in order to be better stewards of equity, diversity and inclusion in the literary community, and will be an advocate for those with marginalized identities in the communities of bookselling and publishing

We pledge – beginning now and through the end of calendar 2021 – that the owners will decline any invitations to sit on judging committees or other influential industry bodies, recommending instead that the committee organizers reach out to BIPOC booksellers.

Reader Privacy and Free Speech

While remaining true to our core principles of protecting reader privacy and ensuring that no Constitutionally protected content be banned, we will be critically conscious of our mindset and actions and through ongoing learning and growth, develop guiding principles that mirror beliefs grounded in equity, social justice, and anti-racism. We will continue to offer the broadest possible tapestry of voices on our shelves, and will be especially conscious of who we give a platform from which to speak at our events.

We will do this by working with Prismatic and our task force members to create an equity statement that identifies our core principles, and by engaging members of the Tattered Cover Extended Management Team in ongoing professional learning. This is part of the work we will be doing with Prismatic over the coming months.

This letter comprises a living document. As we learn and grow, as we continue to receive feedback from different stakeholders, as the world continues to evolve, so too will our practices and culture. We invite you to join us and the larger community as we embark on this journey. You can track our progress on our “Continuing the Conversation” blog.

Thank you for your interest in and support of Tattered Cover.

Sincerely, and on behalf of the Tattered Cover Management Team,

Len Vlahos


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