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Diversity Efforts Span Over 20 Years in Academic Libraries | Nebraska today

As the University of Nebraska-Lincoln moves forward with diversity planning and a new commitment to action, Nebraska Today sits down with university leaders to explore how inclusive excellence is embedded into business campus daily.

Since 2019, the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has worked directly with institutional leaders in multiple ways, including through the Inclusive Excellence and Diversity Council. Intended to connect colleges, primary campus units and ODIthe board is led by Nkenge Friday, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives, with representation from across the institution.

The council’s work has been central to guiding university-wide diversity, equity and inclusion plans. And, the momentum achieved through the council is presented in this Questions and answers series.

Today, we continue the series with university libraries, talking with Claire Stewart, dean of university libraries, and Charlene Maxey-Harris, associate dean and tenured associate professor of university libraries.

What is the state of diversity, equity and inclusion in academic libraries?

Academic libraries have been devoting time and resources to diversity efforts for more than 20 years. The dominant knowledge structure of our systems and practices has been built on a white cultural framework. Therefore, it is essential that other voices and knowledge be brought into the library and information profession and the work we do. The libraries have an active diversity and inclusion committee with staff and faculty volunteers under the longtime leadership of Charlene Maxey-Harris, Associate Dean of Libraries, and recently retired Staff Development Officer, Tom McFarland. Many of our efforts are documented in reports, recruitment and retention strategies, staff and faculty training, programs and events, and in the scholarly and creative research activities of individual library faculty and staff. Libraries have a high level of awareness and work hard to translate awareness into action across the organization.

Diversity and inclusion work is an ongoing active process and libraries DEI efforts are woven throughout its 2020-2022 strategic plan. Some examples of DEI goals that are integrated into the overall strategic goals of libraries include:

  • promote organizational effectiveness (Strategic Plan, Goal 6), “implement organizational changes that support the equitable recruitment, development, and advancement of all library staff and faculty…”
  • accelerate open scholarship (Strategic Plan, Goal 2), adopt policies and strategies that facilitate and promote open and equitable access to information
  • advanced teaching & learning (Strategic Plan, Goal 1), integrate various critical thinking resources and practices into curricula and assignments
  • create a sustainable collections program (strategic plan, goal 5), develop collections that increase investments in underrepresented and missing voices to support research and learning

Are elements of the libraries DEI planning already implemented?

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee will lead focused conversations with library faculty and staff. We offer DEI and management training opportunities through the Big Ten Academic Alliance for faculty and staff, including support for participation in the Racial Equity Institute. Libraries will appoint a Collections Librarian to focus on gaps, silences, missing voices, and underrepresented content and resources in our print and digital collections. Accessibility to content and collections continues to be a top concern, one we share and strive to address with others BTAA libraries. Our Archives and Special Collections began defining processing priorities, which focused on organizing and describing collections related to underrepresented and marginalized communities. In addition, guidelines for inclusive and conscientious metadata and description practices are under review.

How are individuals in libraries helping to advance inclusive excellence?

We expect all library faculty, staff and units to explain how their work can be reframed to support DEI. Our administration offers resources, including a planned internal incentive grant program, to support new activities or projects aimed at advancing inclusive excellence within libraries. In the area of ​​access services, for example, student employees are trained to promote inclusion in service delivery with TRUST training (Treat others with kindness, Respect differences, Understand that mistakes happen, Speak up, Try, always try).

Interpreting the meaning of inclusive excellence is a job done by each library unit and individual to help us grow and evolve the organization. Activities that address anti-racism, justice, truth and judgment, equity, diversity, racial equity programs, actions, conversations and behaviors can lead to programs, initiatives, breaking down barriers and open conversations.

Is there a part of the plan that excites you the most and/or has a positive impact on libraries?

We are very excited to integrate our plans into our daily work and the reorganization of the libraries. Our plan is alive in our conversations, our services, who we serve, and the challenge to engage our community. Demographic information about library faculty and staff really highlighted the missing representation and voices in our internal community. We are developing a deliberate recruitment plan to add these voices to our workplace while understanding and realizing that the workplace must be ready to receive, encourage and accept employees who may be different from themselves.

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