What would you like to share about EDI work done at your library or at your institution?
- VCU Libraries Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC) has been highly active and engaged.
- Built consensus and developed a diversity statement to be shared publicly.
- Initiated a process to develop a diversity statement reflecting the views of VCUL employees with the intent of posting the diversity statement on the VCUL website as a public affirmation of these values.
- Collected feedback from employees about what they would and would not like to see in a diversity statement by using an anonymous online form, and various options for in-person feedback including Zoom drop-in sessions, virtual departmental meetings, and promoting the initiative in VCU Libraries All-Employee Town Halls.
- Developed the first draft of language in a Google doc and collected feedback via Google form, comments, and suggestions directly on the Google doc.
- Used feedback to develop the second draft of the diversity statement and distributed it for additional feedback from library employees.
- Coordinated with VCU Libraries leadership to fund and support time to participate in a program to learn more about the community where we work called Jackson Ward in Richmond, Virginia, for all VCU Libraries employees, including student employees. Walk the Ward provides information about the historic educational, economic, religious, and social institutions that inspired the names “Black Wall Street” and “The Harlem of the South.”
- Wrote and shared posts with information about diverse groups on the staff intranet. Posts were shared to offer VCU Libraries employees the opportunity to learn about holidays and observances that lift up marginalized populations. In addition, the posts included upcoming webinars, recordings, and articles highlighting inclusion and diversity, particularly those sponsored by professional library organizations and Virginia Commonwealth University.
- The Anti-Racism Work Group formed as a self-governing group to examine and document systemic racism within the VCU Libraries and VCU. It offers a safe environment for employees to share their experiences with colleagues and to advocate for change.
- VCU Libraries has been building collections from underrepresented and diverse authors and publishers. Many of the e-resources are represented on the Anti-Racism LibGuide. Additionally, the Health Sciences Collections Librarian collaborated with colleagues to create a spreadsheet of recently published health sciences books, ebooks, and films that have EDI content, to make it easier for others to see what is in our collection. This spreadsheet includes helpful notes that can be edited by other librarians as needed and it can be easily filtered by health sciences discipline. While not comprehensive, the project surfaces EDI content that might be more of a challenge to track down otherwise.
- Partnered with the VCU HHMI Inclusive Excellence Program to support the VCU Science Hub’s efforts to engage STEM undergraduates from minoritized communities, first generation students, and transfer students. Through the sponsoring of STEM Student Hours (a collaborative office hours experience with faculty from across STEM disciplines), Not on My Resume (a career development series featuring VCU alumni), and an undergraduate research series, VCU Libraries engaged in fostering an inclusive community for STEM undergraduates. VCUL supported a faculty member joining the Science Hub to build this connection and collaborate with faculty from other units to grow the Science Hub into an institutionally celebrated initiative.
- Created an anonymous form that gave employees the opportunity to share feedback with senior leadership. When possible, submissions are addressed at monthly Town Hall meetings.
- Leadership group devoted time monthly to discussing DEI articles or programs to enhance learning, understanding, and to address issues.
What are your library and/or institutional plans for future EDI efforts?
- Four new gender inclusive restrooms are being built at Cabell Library and the Health Sciences Library. Construction is expected to be completed by Summer 2022.
- Planning is underway for the construction of a reflection room for VCU community members to use in Cabell Library.
- VCU Libraries charged a work group to review fines and fees with an equity lens, considering how particular user groups may be disproportionately affected by library fines, fees, and associated policies. Work began in Fall 2021.
- The Research & Learning Inclusive Service Excellence work group has formed and will make recommendations that ensure our service excellence approach and guidelines in the Research & Learning division are as inclusive as possible. Among their tasks, they will explore and understand how white professionalism, white supremacy, and all forms of systemic oppression (including, but not limited to, ableism, ageism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and xenophobia) may adversely affect service environments and experiences, both for library users and employees. Their work will be used to improve our service approaches and documentation.
- Plan to continue investing in Affordable Course Content initiatives that make college more affordable and accessible for our community.
- Developing structures and practices to improve our inclusive hiring practices.
- In the future, the IDC will develop a staff intranet webpage to better inform library employees about the work of this group.
- The IDC is identifying community service opportunities for VCUL employees to participate together to create awareness of all aspects of diversity.
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?
The following answers are from individuals and groups who shared their thoughts.
- For me, I’ve come to better understand that there are generally not quick fixes to the deep, systemic history of exclusion in higher education. There is work to do every day, but meaningful results require a commitment to long work.
- Creating the diversity statement was a challenge that the IDC embraced over the last year, and this challenge brought the IDC closer together to be sure that we considered all feedback.
- As with many things, the more you learn, the more you realize there is to learn on a subject. It is important to commit time, energy, and resources to learn more about equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice then try to apply what you’ve learned in your working and personal life. Acknowledge when you make mistakes or fall short of expectations but continue striving to do better to change yourself and the systems in which you work.