As we wrote in Randall Library's Statement on Systemic Racism, we as individuals and collectively as Randall Library have a responsibility to address systemic racism and make positive changes in the culture at UNCW. To this end, library leadership and Randall’s Diversity Committee have started discussions and are generating ideas for concrete steps Randall can take to reckon with our history and to be more inclusive of all our users. In broad strokes, the ideas fall into six broad areas:
- Support of teaching and scholarship
- Collection development
- Programming (for the campus and the community)
- Listening to and learning from our users to become a more welcoming and inclusive place
- Recruitment and retention of diversity in our faculty/staff
- Staff development around systemic racism and bias
One of our first efforts will be to draft a comprehensive plan, which will evolve as we listen and learn from our users.
Why is this important for us as a library? As our colleague from UNC Libraries, Elaine Westbrooks, eloquently articulated, “[libraries], like any institution, operate through a set of legacy systems that have been in place for decades. These systems implicitly and explicitly perpetuate inequity because they have been traditionally centered on whiteness and patriarchy as a default. They permeate everything that we do—what we collect, how we describe it, how we deliver services, how we organize our operational functions and design our spaces, how we structure our budget, where we invest resources, how we recruit, what we choose to elevate and highlight.” (Westbrooks, 2020)
Libraries can be intimidating places for students; we often hear students say they are afraid to ask a question or approach a staff member. How much more intimidating are we to students who don’t see themselves represented in our staff or our collections or who feel unwelcomed in our spaces? Those of us in the U.S. demographic majority (who are white, straight, cisgender) take for granted ingrained cultural systems that reflect a historically dominant perspective and experience; we are often oblivious to what our colleagues and students of color and other marginalized groups face routinely in the library and on campus. We have to look inward at our own biases and look outward, opening our minds to recognize the experiences of others if we are to address racism and make positive change.
We recognize this will be a long journey that will require commitment and perseverance, where, individually and collectively, we will experience challenges and setbacks and also inspiration and hope. We hope that our students, faculty, staff and community users will join us in our efforts.