Throughout 2019, the South Carolina State Library featured a word or phrase each month related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in libraries. These include an explanation of how the concept is relevant to libraries, reflection and discussion activities for library staff, and where to go to learn more about the issue. We hope that this will begin to create a shared vocabulary and facilitate conversations and reflection among library staff around Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
The EDI Word of the Month was distributed in the Library Development monthly newsletter and the Diversity and Inclusion discussion list. To learn more, please contact the Inclusive Services Consultant.
Inclusion means an environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully; are valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives; have equitable access to resources and opportunities; and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. (Adapted from: ODLOS Glossary of Terms)
Inclusion takes “diversity” one step further. It is not enough to have people with diverse backgrounds and experiences present. Instead, their perspectives are valued and incorporated into every level of the library. This creates meaningful change and effective libraries that are representative of our communities.
Equity is not the same as formal equality. Formal equality implies sameness. Equity, on the other hand, assumes difference and takes difference into account to ensure a fair process and, ultimately, a fair (or equitable) outcome. Equity recognizes that some groups were (and are) disadvantaged and, therefore, underrepresented or marginalized in many organizations. The effects of that exclusion often linger systemically within organizational policies, practices and procedures. Equity, therefore, means increasing diversity by ameliorating conditions of disadvantaged groups. (Adapted from: ODLOS Glossary of Terms. Image courtesy of the Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire.)
In simplest terms, equity means that everyone has what they need to succeed. In libraries, policies, procedures, and practices affect people differently and can create barriers to using library services. Libraries can also play a major role in providing the tools and resources that everyone needs to be successful.
Attitudes and stereotypes that we hold without our conscious knowledge, which may give us a preference for (or aversion to) a person or group. Implicit Bias can be subtle and unintentional, and we may be unaware of how the bias affects us.
Implicit biases can affect our actions and decisions every day without our conscious awareness. This could influence hiring decisions, the materials we purchase or promote, our interactions with our customers, our programs, and priorities. Challenging your own biases will help these decisions to become more fair and equitable.
A set of unearned advantages or benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group. Some common forms of privilege are based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or social class. The reverse side of privilege is oppression: when a social group is systematically denied access to resources based on their membership in a social group.
Examining our privileges enables us to be more equitable and inclusive in our libraries by identifying ways that we are unintentionally discriminating based on our biases.
Brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward any group. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional and are an outward display of bias. (Adapted from Dr. Derald Wing Sue, Columbia University.)
Photo courtesy of Kiyun Kim: Racial Microaggressions photo series, December 2013.
Microaggressions contribute to a hostile and invalidating environment for our patrons and colleagues. The compounded effect of microaggressions and other forms of discrimination is to send the message that some people do not belong and their contributions and perspectives are unwelcome. This harms the individual as well as making our libraries less inclusive and diverse. Becoming aware that we have unintentionally discriminated is challenging and personal, and approaching this as an opportunity to listen and learn will lead to more inclusive environments.
Books with diverse characters from historically marginalized groups that are written by authors who share those identities. #OwnVoices began as a social media tag created by Corinne Duyvis in 2015 to start a conversation about diverse children’s literature.
(Source: #OwnVoices: Why We Need Diverse Authors in Children’s Literature by Kayla Whaley)
An awareness of #OwnVoices will help library staff to promote diverse books that are written from unique and authentic perspectives and avoid unintentional bias or stereotypes.
A framework based on having multiple social identities, which examines how oppressions and privileges overlap and reinforce each other. Intersectionality explores how individuals with multiple marginalized identities experience oppression in complicated ways. The term was originally used by Kimberlé Crenshaw to discuss the intersections of gender and race discrimination in the experiences of black women.
Intersectionality is a reminder to consider the diversity of experiences within any group and to avoid overgeneralizing based on a single aspect of someone’s identity. Libraries can apply this to displays, programs, and services that are representative and inclusive of our entire community.
“Being oppressed means the absence of choices.” - bell hooks
Cultural humility is a perspective that involves practicing lifelong learning, exercising self-reflection and critique, recognizing the dynamics of power and privilege, and being comfortable with not knowing. (Source: www.culturallyconnected.ca)
Cultural humility takes the idea of cultural competency a step further by showing that we can always continue to learn from our patrons. For libraries, this means keeping an open mind and listening to our patrons to provide more inclusive customer service.