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Diversity and Libraries

February 11, 2021

I’m lucky enough to work for an institution that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, that regularly offers workshops and safe spaces to discuss diversity on our campus, which has been incredibly helpful as a white woman who wishes to be a better ally.  It’s not a hidden secret that many higher education institutions have accepted one group of people over others since it’s conception. I think it is really important to remember this, recognize how far we have come, and continue to do the work. Recent social unrest, though truly horrifying, has forced us to reevaluate where we are in implementing concrete strategies towards diversity. There are two areas I think libraries can focus on in support of diversity; our physical (and virtual) space and our resources.  

A library’s role on campus has changed throughout the years. Our physical space is so important. As an undergrad, I spent many, many hours nearly every day in the library and always felt welcome. But what if I didn’t? What if a student on your campus does not feel welcomed? What could that do to their self-esteem, their studies, and their grades? To ensure we meet the basic needs of our students, it is important to work continually to demonstrate our shared values.  Is your institution offering workshops on unconscious and conscious bias? Are you hiring people of color? Does your work environment allow for open and honest communication?  Do signs and posters show diverse people? These are just a few things to consider that have helped me, as a white woman, understand my role as an ally.  

Our ethos is sharing information, access to ALL information, but when systems in place favor the majority over the minority, it’s our responsibility to open the door wider on resources by people of color, widely share these resources, and use them in our courses. Recently, the librarians at my institution discussed purchasing resources by authors of color. I’ll admit, this was not something I immediately sought out to do in the past, but now of course it is something I will prioritize. It’s not enough to just consciously order materials by BIPOC authors, they must also be used. I see this as an opportunity to work with our faculty and encourage them to use these materials by diverse authors in their classes, if they aren’t already.  

As we continue into Black History Month, my hope is that these conversations and steps forward continue well beyond the month of February. There is a lot of work to be done, and no doubt we will make mistakes, but our role in contributing to diversity initiatives is an important one. If we work together, I believe we can take important, actionable steps to support our diverse student body.  

One Comment leave one →
  1. JHasse permalink
    February 12, 2021 4:45 pm

    Database to check out: https://citeblackauthors.com/

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