In 2020 and 2021, continued incidents of racist police action and systemic inequalities disproportionally affecting black communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color (BIPOC) have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
These incidents have prompted us to undertake long-overdue reflection regarding the deep-rooted history of racist social systems in our country. Library Leadership and Personnel acknowledge our place in this system and our responsibility to change all that we can. We acknowledge that systemic racism is ingrained in higher education and in academic libraries. In Angela Gavin’s 2015 article “Soliciting performance, hiding bias: Whiteness and librarianship”, she says “librarianship is paralyzed by whiteness” by adhering to white cultural norms, and this stymies true inclusion. This paralysis also keeps libraries, including Cook Library, from fully serving our communities and achieving true and sustainable innovation. Therefore, we commit to moving forward as an actively anti-racist unit within Towson University and the world.
Our strategic plan articulates goals to support diversity-rich learning experiences, programs, services, and collections, to make the library more accessible, and to recruit and retain diverse personnel. This statement works in tandem with our strategic plan to create intentional space for anti-racist work and education, to hold our library organization publicly accountable, and to help foster honest and meaningful engagement. We put forth measurable action items to be completed within the next 2-5 years in order to move the library to become a truly transformative organization.
Moving forward, Cook Library will center anti-racism to build a culture of accountability, transparency, and support for library personnel, students, and the TU community. We affirm that we are ready to listen and act when our BIPOC students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community encounter racial bias or experience microaggressions. This includes the commitment to hold each other accountable for and taking actions to interrupt our own implicit bias. As a community, and with support from leadership, we commit to:
Learning & Reflecting
- Conduct an organizational equity audit by Spring 2023.
- Host DEI training on a yearly basis for all library personnel, including cultural competency training, for librarians, and equivalent training for staff. Selected librarians will complete inclusion advocate training.
- Library managers and supervisors will complete training on creating safe workplaces and structures for employees outside of white supremacist norms by December 2022.
- Research and Instruction will complete an examination and assessment of instruction strategies, activities, and the department will also provide for regular review of instruction practices to demonstrate anti-racist pedagogy by end of 2022.
- Pending IRB review and approval, complete a user experience study by Spring 2023 to assess the experiences of BIPOC students in the library and with library representatives in the classroom and report findings publicly so that we may use them to inform change in our spaces, services and interactions.
Creating Meaningful Change Internally and Externally
- Actively support and continue to enhance the advancement and celebration of DEI in the library system through our diverse collections, inclusive programming, and responsive services. Review and report progress to the IDEA Committee each summer.
- Prioritize the hiring and retention of BIPOC professionals by participating in Inclusion Advocate training and evaluating how whiteness is centered in professionalism and challenging those biased norms in job descriptions, the places jobs are posted, and the internal culture of our institution. Review and report out progress to the IDEA Committee each summer.
- Increase funding for professional development and explicitly prioritize programs that center anti-racism, overcoming bias, diversity, equity and inclusion for the 2021-2022 Academic Year.
- Prioritize yearly training on bystander intervention. Communicate transparently about racist or bias incidents, when possible, and the reporting process in order to swiftly address incidents. Confront incidents of racist speech and actions within our community with invitations to more honest, vulnerable, challenging conversations.
- Affirm that neither students nor staff or faculty that identify as BIPOC will be burdened to speak on behalf of People of Color in the library or in the library-led classroom.
- Make space for BIPOC scholarship and support via programs, exhibits, and spaces by determining funding for and implementing internal action grants for local projects focused on inclusion and anti-racism by Spring 2024.
- Host library programming on racism’s effect on information justice and higher education and invite BIPOC scholars and speakers to share their work. Review and report out progress to the IDEA Committee each summer.
- Support members of our community who have questions about anti-racism and need help understanding the complex history of systemic racism and oppression in the United States.
- Make digital and physical collections and services more welcoming and accessible by taking actions that address accessibility barriers in the physical space, by ensuring that instructional materials are 508 compliant, and that vendors are aware of our 508 compliance requirements by Spring 2024
- Make digital and physical collections and services more welcoming and reflective of our diverse community by conducting collection audits, assessing our cataloging practices to ensure usage of appropriate subject headings and terms, and by prioritizing collection development of inclusive library collections in all liaison/content areas to ensure representation of diverse content, voices, and perspectives by Spring 2024
- Commit to eliminating late fees by December 2021.
- Develop local standards, informed by professional ethics, surrounding data security and privacy. Enact changes to improve the security and privacy for our students, faculty, staff, and community users by Spring 2025
- We are committed to routinely assessing and auditing this statement and its actions to determine if our changes have the intended impact. The Library’s IDEA Committee will prompt Library Leadership Council to review this statement yearly.
Those with power and influence over policy must imbue their work with active, anti-racist decisions, practices, and policy. We plan to assess our progress regarding these commitments yearly and share updates publicly with the university community. This is an ongoing journey, and one where we will likely misstep. Together, we will create a future where higher education does not prioritize white culture while dismissing the voices and contributions of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color. We will continue to move toward that future through our individual actions, our long-term strategic plans, and every step in between.
Last revised: April 14, 2022