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Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Libraries: EDI Word of the Month

Resources for library staff serving diverse populations

EDI Word of the Month

Beginning January 2019, the State Library will feature a new word or phrase each month related to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in libraries. This will 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 will be distributed in the Library Development monthly newsletter and the Diversity and Inclusion discussion list as well as added to this LibGuide. To learn more, please contact the Inclusive Services Consultant.

January: Inclusion

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Vernā Myers

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)

What does it mean for libraries?

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.

Discussion and reflection:

  • Inclusion means all aspects of identity, and is not limited to race and ethnicity. Fill out the Social Identity Wheel and reflect on your own background. How does this influence your work? How does your identity compare to others in your community?
  • Are library staff from a variety of backgrounds involved in decision making at your library? If not, how can you incorporate multiple perspectives?
  • How inclusive are your programs, displays, collections, and other services? Who else can be included?

Learn more:

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February: Equity

Equality: three people of different height stand on boxes of equal height, but not all can see over a fence.  Equity: the same people stand on boxes of different heights, so all can see above the fence.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.)

 

What does it mean for libraries?

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.

 

Discussion and reflection:

  • What barriers prevent your community members from accessing information and using library services? Consider the library’s hours, locations, policies, facilities, programs, collections, displays, and other services. How can these barriers be reduced or removed
  • How have groups or individuals in your community have been underrepresented or marginalized? Consider gender, race, sexual orientation, language, ability, and other factors. What opportunities do you have to make your library more equitable?

Learn more:

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March: Implicit Bias

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.

What does it mean for libraries?

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.

Discussion and Reflection

  • Take the free Implicit Association Test (IAT) at www.implicit.harvard.edu. How did the test make you feel? Were you surprised by your results?
  • Watch the video series: Who, Me? Biased? What biases have you witnessed or experienced in the library? How can you become aware of your own blind spots?
  • Read the Books & Gatekeepers graphic and Diversity in Publishing survey results. How does implicit bias affect your collections, programs, and displays?

Learn more:

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April: Privilege

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.

What does it mean for libraries?

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.

Discussion and reflection:

  • Watch the video, What is Privilege?  Then complete the Privilege Walk exercise and add up how many steps you would take. Were any of the privileges surprising to you?
  • As a group, complete the Privilege Beads exercise creating a string of beads representing specific privileges held by each participant.
  • Complete the Power Flower exercise.  In what ways do you experience privilege? Which areas do you want to learn more about?

Learn more:

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May: Microaggressions

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.)

Woman holding handwritten sign reading: "What are you?" Human. Being biracial doesn't make me a 'what'.

Photo courtesy of Kiyun Kim: Racial Microaggressions photo series, December 2013. 

What does it mean for libraries?

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.

Discussion and reflection:

Learn more:

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June: #OwnVoices

Infograph of The Diversity Gap in Children's BooksBooks 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)

 

What does it mean for libraries?

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. 

 

Discussion and reflection:

Image source: Lee & Low Books - Enlarge Image

 

Learn more:

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July: Intersectionality

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. - Audre Lorde

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.

What does it mean for libraries?

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.

Discussion and reflection:

Learn more:

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September: Oppression

Oppression is the combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups and benefits other groups. Examples of these systems are racism, sexism, ableism, classism, and ageism. 
The Four Levels of Oppression/”isms” and Change:
  • Personal: Values, Beliefs, Feelings
  • Interpersonal: Actions, Behaviors, Language
  • Institutional: Rules, Policies, Procedures
  • Cultural: Beauty, Truth, Right
Source: Adapted from Vanderbilt
 
“Being oppressed means the absence of choices.” - bell hooks

 

What does it mean for libraries?

To be truly inclusive of everyone, libraries must recognize and actively work against oppression, even when it is deeply ingrained in our culture and institutions. 
 

Discussion and reflection:

 

Learn more:

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October: Cultural Appropriation

The use of elements of another culture (including symbols, art, language, customs, etc.) without understanding or acknowledging the original meaning and context. Cultural appropriation generally refers to the dominant culture adopting elements from a marginalized group without permission. 

What does it mean for libraries?

Library staff can seek out deeper, more authentic representations of diverse cultures and avoid tokenizing or misrepresenting other cultures. This will create a more enriching and welcoming library environment.
 

Discussion and reflection:

Learn more:

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November: Ally

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
A person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group; typically a member of the dominant group standing beside member(s) of the targeted group; e.g., a male arguing for equal pay for women. (Source: The University of Georgia)
 
Allyship is a process, and everyone has more to learn. Allyship involves a lot of listening. Sometimes, people say "doing ally work" or "acting in solidarity with" to reference the fact that "ally" is not an identity, it is an ongoing and lifelong process that involves a lot of work.
 

What does it mean for libraries?

Library staff can learn to be better allies for their marginalized colleagues and community members by listening, learning, and taking action.
 

Discussion and reflection:

  • Read the Guide to Allyship. Can you think of a time when someone pointed out a mistake to you? How did you respond? How do you want to respond the next time you “step on someone’s toes”?  
  • Read the web comic A Bystander’s Guide to Standing up Against Islamophobic Harassment (and Other Types of Harassment, Too). As an ally, what other ways can you intervene as a bystander? 

Learn more:

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December - Cultural Humility

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)

 

What does it mean for libraries?

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.

 

Discussion and reflection:

 

Learn more:

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