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VIVA: EDI Spotlight - George Mason

Virginia's Academic Library Consortium

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Approaches to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: 

George Mason University 

What would you like to share about EDI work done at your library or at your institution?

George Mason University Libraries is committed to promoting the work of access, diversity, inclusion, and equity. In 2017, the Libraries adopted an updated strategic plan and revised our mission, vision, and values statement. Within this plan, the Libraries identified six key priorities, one of which was to focus on how we might expand as “a diverse, dynamic, and responsible organization.” Correspondingly, we have undertaken several endeavors to promote and encourage EDI work within our organization

In support of our key priority to expand EDI within the Libraries, an Action Item Team was formed to assess and review our organization over the course of 2018-20. In line with that assessment, the team drafted a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement and Action Plan, and proposed the formation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEIC). This plan was adopted and the new council was convened in September 2020. During this first year, the council began laying the groundwork for moving forward in a sustainable manner. Since then, they have arranged organization-wide opportunities for library faculty and staff, including trainings and enrichment programs.

Additional work outside of the formal auspices of the council is ongoing in various divisions across the Libraries, such as Collections Strategy, Metadata Services, Resource Licensing and Delivery, and Teaching and Learning. We have taken great strides in our interlibrary loan (ILL) practices, created various InfoGuides to better support our diverse community population and foster inclusivity, and expanded our educational efforts and trainings.


What are your library and/or institutional plans for future EDI efforts?

ILL Practices

Over the past two years, the Libraries’ ILL team has undertaken several initiatives to better serve our patrons beyond the traditional means of resource sharing. Our focus has been on reducing barriers to access to better support users’ teaching, learning and research needs, including 1) updating our scanning operations to provide searchable PDFs instead of traditional image PDFs; 2) upgrading our ILLiad web pages to be more accessible and support access through mobile devices; 3) providing staff mediated access to our physical collections for users at a distance with mobility and/or medical needs; and 4) expanding access to Special Collections through a Special Collections-ILL pilot to meet the research needs of users who are not able to travel to use the collections onsite. 

Resource Guides

The Libraries has worked to amplify historically underrepresented voices by creating new resource guides, a few of which are highlighted here. Anti-Racism, #BlackLivesMatter, and Civic Action offers readings and resources on topics of anti-racism, white supremacy, abolition and prisons, policing, protest, and civic activism. Diverse Voices in Music Scholarship and Repertoire provides a first step to conducting research on music from diverse voices, focusing on strategies and key resources. Finding Diverse Voices in Academic Research offers strategies and resources on searching for and highlighting diverse voices in scholarship, both inside and outside of traditional library and other information systems. Our guides are continually being developed by librarians and staff, with input from members of our university community.

Educational Programming and Trainings

Some of our current initiatives and programs we plan to continue and/or expand include:

  • Offering a presentation on land use acknowledgement, focused particularly on the history of our region’s peoples.
  • Contributing to the work of the university’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force by serving on committees; drafting an Inclusive Excellence plan specifically for the Libraries; and contributing to the redesign of the central plaza of the university, renamed to honor civil rights leader Roger Wilkins, and now including a memorial to the Enslaved Peoples of George Mason.
  • Exploring the history and legacy of our university’s namesake through launching an interdisciplinary research center in 2020, the Center for Mason Legacies. With the center’s latest project, Black Lives Next Door, librarians, faculty, and student teams are working hard to combat erasure in the archives and tell fuller stories of our surrounding region.
  • The adaptation of Black Minds Matter for library employees. Black Minds Matter is a free and open online course designed “to raise the national consciousness about issues facing Black students in education” and “draw parallels between the violence facing Black Lives in policing and the symbolic violence facing Black Minds in schools, colleges, and universities.”  Originally designed as a five-week program, the Libraries’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council modified the curriculum to extend over a six-month period, with five synchronous sessions plus asynchronous material, to provide flexibility for busy schedules. The cohort reads texts, watches commentaries, and participates in discussions.
  • The development of Anti-Racist Teaching Strategies learning modules for library instructors. Developed by the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Team, this home-grown course is designed to assist library instructors in understanding what it means to be anti-racist and how to translate these efforts into the classroom. This course is a series of three learning modules that can be completed over the course of a semester.
  • Reparative Metadata work. We are committed to reparative cataloging practices and promoting inclusivity in the Libraries. The work of reparative cataloging, led by our Metadata Services team, is taking place in many areas, from privacy and identity management to antiracism efforts.
  • The creation of an EDI speaker series and discussion forum led by the Libraries’ DEIC. In the summer of 2021, DEIC hosted a workshop with Dr. Nicole Cooke. In her presentation, we discussed ways of “radically re-envisioning LIS.” To continue this conversation, DEIC facilitated a discussion of one of Dr. Cooke’s works. The conversation proved to be so engaging, a second meeting was scheduled to allow for further discussion and brainstorm ways the Libraries can improve our environment and the experience of others in LIS.
  • Investigating ways to encourage a diverse student worker roster across the Libraries. One way we are working on this is through our participation in Hampton University’s Leading the Charge: Advancing the Recruitment and Retention of People of Color within the LIS Field grant.
  • Expansion of the Killing Me Softly cohort. Killing Me Softly is “a game demonstrating how it feels to suffer microaggressions and acculturative stress day after day.” Cohorts currently consist of 20 participants who meet periodically throughout the course of a semester in a safe space to discuss feelings represented in the game as well as those that are a result of the game.


The past 18 months have held many challenges and changes. How have you grown and learned to do things better? Were there initiatives that didn’t go as you had planned or things you would do differently in the future?

Moving Forward

During this process, we have learned that sometimes it takes a crisis for projects to take off beyond the idea phase. Many EDI projects proposed previously were able to gain support in response to national and local events, as well as given more space as we all adapted to changing work environments and locations due to the Covid 19 pandemic. We have also learned to embrace and amplify the work of others, not try to reinvent the wheel every time. In addition to Black Minds Matter and Killing Me Softly, another example of this was promoting the work of April Hatchcock (Director of Scholarly Communications and Information Policy at NYU Libraries) who developed a Green Book for Libraries, a resource exclusively for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOCs).

With many initiatives now under our belt, the Libraries at Mason is enthused to continue this work by listening to our library and university community in order to provide thoughtful programming related to EDI efforts. We welcome conversations and partnerships with our colleagues.