Library launches Reckoning Initiative to advance equity, inclusion and antiracism

May 13, 2021

The University Libraries has launched a multi-faceted program to advance racial equity, inclusion and antiracism within the organization and through its work.

The Reckoning Initiative makes good on a call to action by Elaine L. Westbrooks, vice provost for University Libraries and University librarian. Following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, Westbrooks wrote: “While this violence may seem far removed from our daily experience at the University Libraries, we do not work here in isolation. We have an obligation—and a great deal of work to do—in order to be part of the solution.”

“Reckoning is an opportunity to look at our values and aspirations as a library, to see where we have fallen short and to find ways to do better,” Westbrooks said about the Reckoning Initiative.

“When we fully embrace inclusive excellence, we become a stronger, bolder, more innovative organization,” Westbrooks said. “We become a place where everyone—employees, students, researchers—can be their best selves and do their best work, without obstacles or barriers.”

Driving the program is the University Libraries’ “Reckoning Initiative Framework,” which will guide efforts in five broad areas: education and training opportunities for Library staff; programmatic work; system analysis and change; integration of inclusion and antiracism into Library work; and tracking and assessment.

A great deal of work is already underway and is highlighted on the new Reckoning Initiative website, said Monica Figueroa, interim librarian for inclusive excellence.

“The Reckoning Initiative is the common thread that unites projects such as reconsidering the language we use to describe library materials or identifying and removing the barriers that have discouraged BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] individuals from pursuing or remaining in the library profession” said Figueroa. “Reckoning provides a lens for thinking in new ways about all the work that we do. How can we be a more just and more inclusive organization across the board?”

To accelerate these efforts, the University Libraries recently announced an internal “IDEA Action” grant program. It will support employees in their efforts to implement inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility in library collections, services and operations. Westbrooks has allocated $250,000 over two years toward the grants.

Figueroa says that the website will reflect these projects and others currently underway. She and members of the Library’s IDEA Council recently led a “21-day racial equity challenge” for employees who wanted to learn more through readings, recordings and discussions. She intends to post the full syllabus soon for other libraries to use or adapt.

“It would be easy just to issue a statement or point to our values” at challenging times, said Figueroa. “But to put real action and leadership commitment behind our words and values, as the Reckoning Initiative does, is something that I think sets us apart. It gives us so much to look forward to.”

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