We are currently in the midst of two related public crises. Systemic racism, specifically anti-black racism, continues to take lives and cause suffering through violence and various forms of oppression. The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected black, indigenous, and LatinX people because of systemic racism. At Stewart Library, we commit ourselves to doing anti-racist work as part of our mission and obligation to advance knowledge for social justice.
We have much work to do. As Elaine Westbrooks, the University Librarian at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, writes:
[Library systems] implicitly and explicitly perpetuate inequity because they have been traditionally centered on whiteness and patriarchy as a default. They permeate everything that we do—what we collect, how we describe it, how we deliver services, how we organize our operational functions and design our spaces, how we structure our budget, where we invest resources, how we recruit, what we choose to elevate and highlight. (Westbrooks, June 1, 2020)
We must listen and learn as part of our individual and collective self-education. One of our starting places is Nicole Cook’s Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages. My own on-going education has been grounded in the following work. It is no accident that black women and women of color authored this essential scholarship.
Jennifer Brown, Jennifer Ferretti, Sofia Leung, and Marisa Méndez-Brady, We Here: Speaking Our Truth. Library Trends, 67 (2018). Ungated copy.
Kaetrena Davis Kendrick’s multiple studies of low morale in library workplaces.
We must also take action. We commit to Westbrooks’ call to interrogate our systems and make structural changes that advance anti-racism. At a recent Board of Trustees meeting, in talking about the library’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I asked my colleagues that we not get back to normal, because normal has been inequitable and unjust. I will share our progress and ask that you hold me and my colleagues accountable for this work.
Dean of the Library