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UBC Okanagan Library Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Describes EDI work underway at UBCO Library. Provides resources relating to EDI.

Purpose of the group

The Dismantling White Supremacy in Libraries Reading Group was formed to explore the complicity of folks who are primarily white in enabling and supporting structures of white supremacy in the academic library and the academy, and how the structures of colonialism, imperialism, and oppression manifest in our spaces, collections, services and staffing.

This group meets weekly to read the literature about white supremacy in libraries and archives. We discuss findings and tie the ideas back to how these are evident in our library, on our campus and in our institution.

Participants

  • Kristy Baxter, Center for Scholarly Communication Coordinator
  • Kim Buschert, Faculty of Management Librarian
  • Sajni Lacey, Learning and Curriculum Support Librarian
  • Donna Langille, Community Engagement and Open Education Librarian
  • Jessica Lowry, Centre for Scholarly Communication Associate

Reading list

A list of what we've been reading is available on Zotero.

Themes

The reading group has identified several themes from the readings. These include:

Historical oppression

  • Morality in the library
    • occupation tied to democracy, 
    • fantasized free access for all, 
    • white perspective that libraries are inherently moral or “good”
  • Universities founded by wealthy white men oppressors who are valorized and not held accountable for historic actions
  • Exclusion of non-white folks; immigrants allowed who could ‘pass’ and be assimilated into the culture

Architecture and spaces

  • Space and architecture communicate white supremacy and are symbols of power (of the state), elitism, and exclusivity
  • Art and signage that reinforce existing power structures
  • Rules for patrons (implicit or explicit) and surveillance
  • History of library as site of assimilation
  • Buildings physically resemble sites of trauma, e.g. government buildings, residential schools

Role of Librarians, Librarianship in reinforcement of white supremacy

  • Recruitment, hiring, and retention
    • Unpaid labor 
    • Conformity
    • Mentoring 
    • Microaggressions
    • Precarity 
  • Critical librarianship and critical pedagogy
    • Can use terminology that blurs white supremacy
  • Privilege of librarianship
    • Gender and whiteness in librarianship and library administration
    • Whiteness in librarianship
  • Archival activism and community archivists
  • Counternarratives, resistance and advocacy through collections, reference, instruction
  • Reference work
  • Metrics in library work and teaching value quantitative perspective
  • Devaluing of emotional labour, professionals other than librarians in favour of ‘emerging technologies'‚Äč

Collections (incl. archives)

  • Myth of objectivity and neutrality in collections, policies, and spaces (perspective that disrupting this is amoral)
  • Cataloguing (Dewey and Library of Congress) reinforces existing power structures (marginalized folks were meant to be categorized, not meant to browse the books)
  • Historically marginalizing terms and cataloguing systems are still used
  • Indigenous knowledge has to be sought out, collections biased towards western perspectives

Archives and special collections only include, and sometimes valorize, some voices, need to actively highlight these gaps and perspectives in instruction, and seek to broaden collections