Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at UNCG LIS
A commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is of necessity a commitment to growth. What follows is an imperfect statement of our development at this point in time. Thus, this document should be understood as one that will deepen and develop, particularly as we work with our entire community to refine, enlarge and improve it. If you have suggestions about how we can improve EDI in our department, please let us know via this anonymous form.
At UNCG LIS we are committed to creating a learning environment rooted in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We welcome students, faculty, and staff of any age, race, gender, disability, religion, socio-economic status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. We stand in full support of our students and faculty members who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), LGBTTQQIAAP, differently abled, or are from other marginalized groups, and recognize their valuable contributions. As library and information professionals, we are fiercely committed to ensuring fair and open access to information for all people, and we recognize that we must particularly focus on access for people who have been historically disenfranchised in the information environment; we are champions of intellectual freedom and fight for inclusivity of people and ideas. As educators, we must work to remove the barriers of systemic racism and increase outreach to underrepresented students, so that tomorrow’s librarians are as diverse as the communities they serve. As a department, we strive for our curriculum and our faculty to reflect scholarship from the widest variety of perspectives. We acknowledge that while we have long been committed to this issue, we can and we will do more to help dismantle systemic racism and oppression and its impact on BIPOC and the many other people marginalized for some aspect of their humanity.
At UNCG LIS, we are redoubling our commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion by starting new initiatives and building on existing frameworks. These are meant to be enduring structural changes, and will evolve as we respond to feedback.
- Admissions. Holistic admission is equitable admission. The ACE Scholars (Academic and Cultural Enrichment Scholars – more about the ACE Scholars program below) were recruited during the time when the GRE test was required. In many cases, it was necessary to modify our reliance on this score as a predictor for success. It became obvious that the GRE may be useful to predict academic success in a subject-oriented masters program, but for the MLIS, which is based primarily in practice and service, the ability to complete the program is better judged by commitment, motivation, and previous experience. Moreover, the expense was prohibitive to some students, so we have since dropped the GRE as a requirement for admissions altogether. We also use scholarship dollars to help BIPOC and other underrepresented students when appropriate. One way that we do that is through matching the ALA Spectrum Scholarship awards. In recent years, our program has hosted four Spectrum Scholars.
- Curriculum. We are undertaking an audit of our curriculum to ensure that it meets the high standards for diversity, equity, and inclusion that we have set for ourselves. Starting in Spring 2021, we will ask all core curriculum courses to incorporate modules from Project Ready, with a goal of adding a required EDI course by Fall 2022. We are including more critical theory in the curriculum, and we have established an internal resource that highlights scholars from diverse backgrounds with diverse perspectives that instructors can incorporate into their courses. We continue to expand this repository and plan to add subject headings. We encourage faculty to invite guest lecturers to provide alternate views. Also, we are increasing engaged learning (requiring a field experience now, for example), which will ensure that students experience more authentic and often more diverse environments in which to apply their learning.
- Faculty and Staff. We are undertaking efforts to increase EDI awareness in faculty and staff. Starting in Spring 2021, LIS faculty and staff will undertake a curriculum to improve our understanding of EDI issues. This will include Project Ready, which is focused on racial equity, and will be supplemented by material that will focus on other equity issues such as gender, disability, and sexual preference. We acknowledge that supporting BIPOC students is a commitment on behalf of the entire department (not just BIPOC faculty) and encourage existing instructors and faculty to train in mentoring BIPOC students, such as recent workshops administered by The Coalition for Diversity in Language and Culture at UNCG. We pledge to expand the diversity of our faculty and staff at every opportunity.
- Students. We are partnering with LISSA to uncover and attempt to address student concerns, and have established an anonymous feedback form so students can provide feedback (see link below). We will also periodically seek feedback from students about their experiences with Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in our department. Not all students are familiar with these concepts, so we will incorporate EDI training into admissions modules to establish an immediate framework and understanding on which to build in the classroom.
- Equity. We believe everyone at UNCG LIS should have a voice, regardless of age, race, gender, disability, religion, socio-economic status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. We also acknowledge the many other forms of oppression that our underrepresented faculty members and students may experience, and offer our full support to you. Our commitment to EDI is supported at the school and university levels. For example, the School of Education’s Faculty Access and Equity Committee focuses attention on issues of access, equity, and diversity by designing and implementing formalized activities that explicitly address access and equity issues in teaching, research, and service. The School and University have also organized book readings and invited guest speakers. Moreover, the LIS department distributes financial support equitably, and non-tenure track faculty are given a place at the table.
- Communication. We have established a standing response team to enable us to move quickly and inclusively to respond to events that require our department to voice support for our students and faculty.
Our Commitment to EDI is Longstanding. Although there are many ways to view the history of the LIS Department’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, two initiatives stand out. One is the iDEAL (information, diversity, equity, and libraries) Summits that began in 2009. These summits have brought speakers, community members, students, and faculty together to discuss ways to address inequities in library service and education. Another related effort is the ACE (Academic and Cultural Enrichment) Scholars initiative, a series of three grant-funded projects that focused on bringing diversity into librarianship.
The 2009 iDEAL Summit was constructed to be a day of community engagement and featured then ALA President Camila Alire as the keynote speaker. The LIS Department and community discussed ways that multiculturalism and equity could be brought to library service. In subsequent years, the Summit discussed LGBTQIIA issues (LGBTQIA Out on the Open Shelves: Serving Hidden Communities, Mario Ascencio), international librarianship (Rethinking the Local: Reimagining Libraries in a Flattening World), radical library service (Fearless, Disruptive, and Savvy Library Outreach: Stories from the Field, Laurence Copel), information literacy (Information Literacy Across the Lifespan, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe), and service to children and adults with autism spectrum disorders (Connecting Libraries and Autism, Meg Kolaya and Dan Weiss ). We discussed these topics through the multiple lenses of diversity, equity, and library services. Our 2021 conference will explore leadership and diversity (Leading from the Heart!, Wanda Brown).
The Academic and Cultural Enrichment (ACE) Scholars initiative began in 2008 and was a joint effort of the UNCG University Libraries and the LIS Department. Partner institutions included local HBCUs including NC A&T, Bennett College, Livingstone College, Johnson C. Smith College, and Winston-Salem State University. The goal was to recruit 15 students into a cohort that would be mutually supportive. Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Studies paid for tuition, equipment, and the enrichment of conference attendance, both locally and nationally. A second cohort entered the program in 2010. A third round of funding was obtained that focused on the need for New Americans to serve in community college libraries and began in 2013. In total, 49 ACE Scholars graduated with the MLIS. These individuals were Black, Latinx, LGBTQIIA, and first-generation graduate students. They are now working in community college, public, school, special, and university libraries.
We want to know how we can do better. If you have any suggestions, comments, or concerns, please use this anonymous form.