Update on the AU Libraries Commitment to Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression

In the summer of 2020, Alfred University Libraries made a Commitment to Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression. In this commitment, we affirmed our support for the mission of the Black Lives Matter movement, recognized the role libraries have played in creating and perpetuating systems of oppression (we are not immune), and committed to action items — both short-term and long-term — designed to strengthen the inclusivity of AU Libraries. Our commitment was intended to be a living document, supporting a sustainable and ongoing process of change. 

One year on from the initial publication of our commitment, we want to update the Alfred University community on our progress and lay out where we plan on going next. 

2020-21 Progress:

  • All professional library personnel participated in a retreat focused on implicit bias and microaggressions, with a focus on how these manifest in libraries and colleges/universities.
  • All professional library personnel participated in a retreat focused on Psychological First-Aid (PFA) training, with a focus on how the approach can be used to support the students, staff, faculty, and others in the Alfred community.
  • All professional library personnel were encouraged to participate in Safe Zone training.
  • A Student Advisory Group was established with the mission of providing a dedicated venue for student input and feedback on where the Libraries are doing well and where there is room for improvement. All AU students are welcome to participate in the group, but the focus is to provide a space to platform the voices of the marginalized students in our community. 
    • The Student Advisory Group helped facilitate progress on several action items in the Commitment, including soliciting suggestions for collection development; evaluating spaces, services, and policies; and collaborating with students on library displays and programs.
  • Integrated dedicated training and best-practices to reduce bias and increase equity in the search and hiring process for a new librarian. Documentation and lessons-learned from this process will inform future searches.
  • Dedicated collection development funds to build the Libraries’ collections of BIPOC scholars and works focused on DEI and anti-oppression work. 
    • Physical materials were purchased from a Black-owned bookseller: Kizzy’s Books & More.
  • Created a resource guide focused on anti-oppression: https://libguides.alfred.edu/antiracism.
  • In collaboration with the Seneca Nation and the Institute for Cultural Unity, the Alfred University Archives developed a land-acknowledgement statement for Alfred University recognizing the history of the land we are on and the historical and continuing relationship with the Native Peoples of this area.
  • Identified “inclusion” as one of three focus areas for the 2021-2024 AU Libraries Strategic Plan.
  • Wrote a brief article for the SUNY Librarians’ Association (SUNYLA) newsletter about the process of developing and implementing the AU Libraries Commitment to Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression with the intention of providing inspiration and insight for other institutions considering developing similar statements/commitments.
    • Adams, K., Bahr, E., Dannick, S., and Romanchock, M. “Making a Commitment to Address Racial Injustice: One Library’s Experience.” SUNYLA News 51(1). SUNY Librarians Association, February 2021. 

Ongoing Projects:

  • Continue working with the Student Advisory Group to hear, discuss, and integrate student suggestions and feedback for library collections, events, projects, services, displays, and policies.
  • Continue soliciting feedback from the student body on “What would make you feel more welcome and/or comfortable in the Alfred University Libraries?”
  • Require all professional library personnel to participate in bystander intervention training.
  • Strongly encourage all professional library personnel to participate in Safe Zone training.
  • Integrate anti-racist and/or anti-oppression values and language into the Alfred University Libraries Mission, Vision, and Values. 
  • Begin a reading and discussion group for library personnel focused on anti-racism and anti-oppression.

New Action Items:

  • Expand the Libraries’ anti-oppression efforts to explicitly incorporate other marginalized populations, such as the LGBTQ+ and disability communities. 
  • Include the Alfred University land-acknowledgement statement at the start of all library programs.
  • Develop documentation of equitable hiring procedures — based on the 2020-21 librarian search process and continued evaluation of best-practices — to inform future library searches. 
    • Along with notes about the aspects of the search which improved equity, this documentation should include notes on the trouble-spots which were identified during the search and suggestions for addressing them in future searches.