VIVA: Member Spotlight EDI:SU
What would you like to share about EDI work done at your library or at your institution?
A major step for the university was the 2020 decision to remove the name of Harry F. Byrd, Jr., the former state and U.S. senator who opposed desegregating schools, from the institution’s School of Business. At the same time, the university assembled a team of diversity officers to ensure that fostering inclusion on campus is not the job of just one person or department. The team includes the Assistant Provost for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity; the Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity, Inclusion, and Residential Services; and the Assistant Athletic Director for Student Success, Inclusion & Equity. Together, they work to make inclusion, diversity, and equity integral to the university’s structure. In October 2020, an Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Survey was administered to faculty, staff and students in order to gather information about the current campus climate. In May 2021, SU Conservatory faculty adopted a detailed five-year plan to build on previous campus EDI efforts and to ensure accountability. Currently, an antiracism and racial justice training module for faculty and staff, hosted in the Canvas learning management system, is being rolled out to every department across the university. In concert with these efforts, SU Libraries faculty and staff are working to make library collections and services more inclusive and equitable. Despite a constrained collections budget, the library adopted the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Ebook Collection from Gale Ebooks and acquired a selection of fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, poetry, and musical scores that reflect diverse authorship and experiences. These and other resources are featured on an Inclusion, Diversity & Equity (IDE) Resources research guide. Library staff also initiated changes in policy, such as expanding virtual reference and instruction services and eliminating overdue fines, to reduce barriers to access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we created an electronic newsletter with the goal of reaching students, faculty and staff outside of the walls of the library with news of these changes.
What are your library and/or institutional plans for future EDI efforts?
Faculty and staff are learning how to make their classrooms and offices more inclusive and equitable rather than merely paying lip service to inclusion. As participants in campus-wide initiatives on textbook affordability and inclusive pedagogy, librarians are advocating for meaningful change. Our newly formed library outreach committee is planning virtual and on-site programming to engage with EDI topics and to highlight EDI scholarship by Shenandoah students and faculty.
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?
While EDI efforts over the past 18 months have necessarily focused on awareness and redress of systemic racism, going forward we also hope to address the various ways that ordinary library systems, facilities, and practices may marginalize members of our community as a result of any of their intersecting identities and abilities. We invite feedback on our efforts from those outside the library in hopes that they will help us create more diverse collections, more equitable services, and more welcoming spaces for online and in-person learning.