Libraries and the history of white supremacy
Vogel Library acknowledges that the profession of librarianship has a history not only in accommodating but also enforcing white supremacy, racism, and oppression. We support the ALA's various statements on diversity and inclusion, but we also want to progress further than those statements imply. The book Knowledge Justice:Disrupting library and information studies through critical race theory is an excellent introduction to the various ways libraries have contributed to inequality and how they can do better.
Within Vogel Library's sphere of influence, we are committed to investigating and changing services, policies, and environments that are not equitable to our community and the world.
Vogel Library Collection
The Vogel librarians are committed to managing the various collections in order to provide access to content that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive.
- Librarians achieve this through acquisition of resources created by and representing a diverse array of identities, as well as acquiring content that is itself inclusive and socially just.
- Our Collection Update for Currency project will also shift the scale away from such a heavy emphasis on white, male, cisgender authors and white European and American-centric content as a byproduct of managing for currency. The project also provides insight into which areas should be a higher priority for acquiring newer, more equitable material.
- Our various displays usually highlight topics related to identities and personally developing cultural competency.
- A larger issue within librarianship is the biased wording used for Library of Congress subject headings. Phrases such as "Indians of North America," using the term chosen by the US government for a people group rather than the own-name, and outdated terminology for sexualities and genders are only a few of the harmful practices perpetuated by LoC controlled vocabularies. This is a discipline-wide problem, but there are some local changes we can enact that we are exploring, such as changing the classification numbers in the 200s--Religion--to not be so Christianity-centric.
- The library's suggest a purchase form is always available for our community to provide us with more ideas.
Vogel Library staff is interested in analyzing our spaces both in terms of accessibility for all abilities and for the welcoming vibe for all identities.
- Our survey in the spring of 2021 did not garner enough feedback to be useful. We plan to use a different method in the spring of 2022.
- Our diversity audit of the images on the library's walls revealed an emphasis on white, European, and white American ideals, as well as a promotion of capitalism and wealth as desirable status symbols. Since the library does not control most of the images on its walls, this information was shared with those on campus that do have the power to change.
- In the winter of 2021, our circulation student workers proposed changing bathroom signage to eliminate the strict separation based on the gender binary. While the library cannot make changes to its bathrooms separate from campus policy, the Wartburg campus did add signage supporting non-gendered usage of all campus bathrooms shortly after our proposal for this.
- The library is currently part of a conversation about re-design; while this conversation is not specific to the library, it is an opportunity to take a hard look at physical features in terms of many things--Euro-centric design, yes, but also accessibility for the differently-abled (elevator, door, and shelf spacing) and those with sensitivies (colors, sounds, and lights). This conversation is ongoing as of fall 2021.
Vogel Library staff is passionate about ensuring our community members are not treated differently based on aspects of their identity as an indirect result of unexamined policies.
- We reviewed our circulation policies in December 2020. From that, we decided on a two-stage revision that will ultimately extend loan periods and eliminate late fees for most items. This should help balance some of the inequitable treatment of students from lower socioeconomic situations, which also had a correlation to students of African American identities (a symptom of the larger white supremacist nature of the USA).
Both the library's permanent staff members and the library's circulation student workers engage in DEI work personally and professionally: we personally develop our own souls through education and reflection, and we professionally move the library forward through education, discussion, and making changes together in the workplace.
- In the academic year 2020-21, library supervisors began reviewing our job descriptions to look for coded wording that might be excluding potential hires based on a variety of identities. We also updated the hiring practices themselves (such as interview questions) to better emphasize the importance of DEI for library staff.