by Kent Miller and Mary Roach | Library Diversity Interim Co-Deans of the Libraries | on April 8, 2016
Following a series of events on the University of Kansas (KU) campus in mid-November 2015, student activism around issues of racial equality and social justice quickly escalated.
In the days following, the interim co-deans of KU Libraries, Kent Miller and Mary Roach—in collaboration with interested library faculty and staff—prepared to issue a library-wide statement of support to our campus on race and diversity. All library employees interested in helping to develop the content of the message were invited to attend a discussion and contribute ideas. The deans’ message was shared with the campus community on November 20, 2015.
That same week, KU Libraries hosted a conversation on microaggressions on campus with the Office of Multicultural Affairs in the Learning Studio at Anschutz Library that was open to all KU students, staff, and faculty.
In November and December, KU Libraries hosted or sponsored an array of events for library faculty and staff. Two staff members initiated and facilitated two conversations with KU Libraries staff and faculty about ways to support student activism and to create a more inclusive space for students (discussions which were supported, but not coordinated, by libraries administration). KU Libraries hosted two virtual seminars (“Race Consciousness in Classrooms and Curricula: Strategies for College and Faculty” and “Strategically Improving Campus Racial Climates”). Library staff also conducted a professional development workshop titled “What We Do Matters: Libraries & Social Justice.”
KU Libraries faculty and staff have engaged in other efforts to increase awareness of the libraries’ resources pertaining to issues of diversity and equity. Two LibGuides are currently being finalized—one highlighting Kansas Collection and University Archives student activism, and another focused on social justice, which is now available. In addition, rotating month-long collections of relevant library resources will be displayed in the Learning Studio; February marked the first such exhibit, on the topic of Black History Month.
In January 2016, KU Libraries’ Deans’ Cabinet established a cross-functional initiative (CFI) focused on Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice, comprised of faculty and staff from across the organization. This CFI will serve as a sustainable means through which to incorporate diversity, equity, and social justice education as essential components of the structure and culture of KU Libraries. The CFI will provide leadership and guidance in the libraries by prioritizing, developing, and promoting diversity, equity, and social justice initiatives as professional development opportunities that advance inclusivity and align with our established values. These efforts will build capacity among libraries staff and faculty to become resources on these issues within the KU community.
One of the Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice CFI’s early priorities was to invite Mark A. Puente, ARL’s director of diversity and leadership programs, to the University of Kansas. Mark visited campus on March 21, 2016, to take part in a series of discussions with members of the CFI, the Deans’ Cabinet, and KU’s vice provost for diversity and equity, in addition to providing an open presentation to KU Libraries faculty and staff.