May NMRT Online Discussion Board Article: Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

By Jessica Kiebler

Our May Twitter chat focused on equity, diversity and inclusion efforts across different library institutions. The goal of EDI initiatives is to dismantle white supremacy in the library profession, including the hiring and retaining of underrepresented groups and dismantling systems that promote inequality. This work can often be challenging, especially when working within established systems, so new librarians entering the field should be aware of these efforts taking place in librarianship, the culture within their institutions and how they can contribute.

The discussion questions encouraged librarians to share their personal experiences and information on how their institutions are supporting EDI efforts as well. 

  • How does your library institution support equity, diversity and inclusion efforts? How could that support be improved? 
  • In what aspects of librarianship do you see the most urgent need for EDI efforts to be focused?
  • Since this is a new members chat, what are the ways that new librarians can contribute to creating more equitable and diverse workplaces?
  • What resources on EDI in librarianship would you recommend to new librarians? 

Our discussion mostly included librarians from academic institutions, although across departments. However, the major takeaways below could be applied to any library.

Existing EDI Efforts

A variety of existing equity, diversity and inclusion efforts were discussed ranging from building updates to strategic plan review. A few librarians discussed implementation of single-user/all gender restrooms and lactation spaces. However, it was noted that sometimes these spaces are not always accessible which limits their effectiveness. 

In addition, librarians discussed how EDI updates were made to hiring processes to ensure they were inclusive and that EDI was also included in strategic plans and department goals. There was also a discussion regarding EDI activity being required in yearly reviews, however, those can lead to it feeling like a check-box to be filled and not authentic. There should be discussions of how to ensure people are engaging in order for authentic change. 

Formation of EDI groups was also something currently happening at a few institutions. The group charge can range from implementing diversity programming for education, inclusive teaching interest groups or committees that assist in hosting difficult discussions about EDI. These groups can be instrumental in retention efforts by allowing for difficult conversations that lead to more inclusive communities. However, the group discussed the ways that white librarians should be prepared to engage in these conversations effectively, including understanding the concept of white fragility. 

Future EDI Efforts & What New Librarians Can Do

There were a variety of suggestions new librarians to make change through future initiatives: 

  • New librarians should ask about EDI in interviews and ask specific questions about what libraries are doing around it
  • As the newest hire, ask what policies and initiatives are currently in place. Being new provides an opportunity to be inquisitive and challenge the status quo. 
  • Find out what campus-level diversity organizations exist and offer to join them.
  • Actively look for ways to build relationships with students and leaders. These relationships can be essential in facilitating change. 

Resources for New (and seasoned!) Librarians

What do equity, diversity and inclusion efforts look like at your library and what resources would you share with new librarians to educate themselves on changing oppressive structures in libraries? 

Image Credits:

  • Group of Five Women Gathering Inside Office Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels
  • Man Wearing Brown Suit Jacket Photo by fauxels from Pexels
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