This week's post comes from Kathryn Kjaer, Head of Library Human Resources, University of California, Irvine Libraries. Learn more about our guest authors on our Featured Authors page.
Transforming academic libraries into truly equitable, diverse, and inclusive organizations will require ongoing, intentional efforts by individuals of all identities and at all levels. Within our profession, many diversity initiatives have been instituted over the last decade or so. We have implemented mentoring and career development programs to increase professional opportunities for colleagues from traditionally underrepresented groups. ACRL, ARL, and other professional organizations have sponsored symposia and educational programs to increase awareness of EDI issues. Academic libraries have incorporated EDI mission statements and diversity plans into their broader strategic goals. We have empowered diversity committees to serve as catalysts to develop programming, learning, and ongoing dialog around EDI topics within our organizations. All these initiatives are important building blocks that are helping us create the transformation we seek. However, awareness of these initiatives should not lead any of us to be complacent and assume that somebody else is taking care of equity, diversity, and inclusion. The transformation of our libraries into equitable, diverse, and inclusive organizations depends on individuals stepping up to the challenge.
Those of us who have benefited from a system of white privilege have a huge responsibility to learn about and understand the historical and sociological factors that have contributed to a lack of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the systems and structures of our organizations. The burden of transforming our libraries cannot be borne solely by those who traditionally have been marginalized. We must educate each other about the legacy of racial, LGBTQ, and ableist biases, acknowledge where barriers to inclusion exist and work to break down these barriers. Read, research, and listen to the voices of those who have been underrepresented in our profession to identify the systemic practices that may be excluding certain individuals from full participation.
If you serve on a search committee, make it your responsibility to incorporate EDI values into the recruitment process. Make sure that the search committee, and all those involved in the recruitment, learn about implicit bias and how to minimize its influence when reviewing applications and evaluating candidates. Study guidelines, such as the Tool for identifying implicit bias: awareness of common shortcuts, to develop unbiased recruitment practices. In addition, think about what is really required to be successful in the position. Many hard skills can be taught or learned on the job while other behavioral and value-oriented characteristics are developed over a lifetime. Do your standards favor years of experience over things like a passion for teaching and learning, the capacity to interact effectively with a diverse student population, or the ability to collaborate in a team setting? When evaluating applications, consider the value of transferable skills and real-life experiences which can be outstanding measures to gauge someone’s potential to succeed. Also, make sure that a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion is treated as a core requirement for the position. Be an advocate for individuals who bring different life experiences and cultural insights and whose participation will enrich your organization. During the interview process, be open and welcoming to candidates who may be apprehensive about relocating to your area. Provide opportunities to connect diverse candidates with affinity groups on campus and to learn about religious, cultural, and social organizations in the community. Help each candidate see the possibilities that exist to develop a rewarding work/life balance when joining your organization.
Whether a new hire chooses to remain with your organization or not is contingent to a great extent upon that person’s interactions with other individuals in the workplace. Inclusion is about much more than numbers and percentages. It goes beyond compliance and demographics. Inclusion is about people feeling that they belong; that their contributions are valued; that they are respected; and that they have agency within the organization. You can contribute to an inclusive environment by initiating a positive relationship early on. Reach out to a new hire to get acquainted and welcome them to the library whether you have a formal working relationship or not. Showing your support and camaraderie may contribute a lot to the retention of that new hire.
Be an ally when negativity emerges. If you witness a microaggression in which someone is being disrespected for who they are – speak up and support the person who is being mistreated. Don’t look the other way for fear that you might not say the right thing. Trust your instinct for basic human kindness, empathy, and fairness. Showing your support as an ally in the face of disrespect will help to build a culture in which EDI values are pervasive. An environment where microaggressions go unchecked undermines employee engagement and morale and undercuts an employee’s desire to stay.
If you are in a leadership position, look for ways that you can foster EDI among your staff. Promote training and learning opportunities that contribute to a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Incorporate EDI principles into your goal setting process. Find ways to hold people accountable for participation in diversity training, skill building, and other EDI activities as part of performance reviews. Above all, model EDI principles in your own work, your interactions with others, and the standards you expect of others. Use your leadership position to challenge organizational practices that may be hampering equity, diversity, and inclusion in your organization and find ways to implement new activities that will advance EDI values.
The transformation of libraries into models of equity, diversity, and inclusion will not happen without the ongoing, daily efforts of many individuals. What will you do?
DiAngelo, Robin J. White fragility: why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Boston: Beacon Press, 2018.
Kendi, Ibram X. Stamped from the beginning: the definitive history of racist ideas in America. New York: Nation Books, 2016.
Tool for identifying implicit bias: awareness of common shortcuts, https://inclusion.uci.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2018/12/Identifying_Bias_Arial_2014v5_11-18.pdf
Dalton, Shamika, and Villagran, Michele, “Minimizing and addressing microaggressions in the workplace: be proactive, part 1.” College & Research Libraries News. Vol 79, No 9 (2018): October.
Dalton, Shamika, and Villagran, Michele, “Minimizing and addressing microaggressions in the workplace: be proactive, part 2”. College & Research Libraries News. Vol 79, No 10 (2018): November.
Miller, Frederick A. and Katz, Judith H. Safe enough to soar: accelerating trust, inclusion, and collaboration in the workplace. Oakland: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018.