SOLIDARITY & ACTION
University of Kansas Libraries | June 11, 2020
"Let that same crucible scorching the nation also bring its heat here,
and let us scoop something new out of its ashes."
Playwright and KU Associate Professor of English Darren Canady’s meditation at the June 10 vigil atop Mount Oread both sears and spurs – challenging us to draw upon the deep historic ruts and courageous battles of our hilltop home and redefine a community that is worthy of us all.
The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are devastating – and but a few in the egregious cycle of Black lives stolen by racist violence. Each of these unjust deaths is a tragic loss, and the persistence of this brutality is overwhelming and deserving of our outrage.
KU Libraries recognize that a normalization of violence against Black community members is rooted in systemic racism. Even the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – with its disproportionately heavy toll among people of color, particularly African Americans – coldly illuminates the depth of these societal inequities such as access to health care. These conditions are deeply distressing and wholly unacceptable. Black lives matter. KU Libraries stand in solidarity with all who advocate for our radical and necessary reform.
Libraries are a gathering space – a place where everyone belongs – and you come to us when you are looking to stretch your minds together and grow in understanding. In order to fully comprehend the structures of our society and factors at play, we in the libraries need to do a better job of helping ourselves and our communities to grasp the weight of these systemic influencers. We need to reduce barriers in accessing the knowledge that will help to critically stretch our perceptions and reshape a different type of community.
Librarianship as a profession is deliberative and contemplative. We think and reflect, we consider carefully as we explore ideas with one another. We have been trying to do this with our leadership team, faculty and staff here at KU Libraries. Building upon our established commitment to diversity and inclusivity, we have identified a start to targeted actions we believe will help us lead and advocate for meaningful change.
KU Libraries leadership commits to working with our faculty and staff to:
- Expand our external programming efforts, focusing on opportunities to draw in pivotal leaders, changemakers and experts who will propel our communities in revolutionary thinking as we move to challenge racism in all forms
- Dedicate targeted collection funds toward the purchase of anti-racist resources and materials that amplify marginalized voices
- Prioritize the digitization of these types of resources – expanding electronic access and procuring additional copies to reach a broader range of users, particularly during times of physical distancing
- Commit to reshaping institutional archiving practices that better reflect this movement, and the diverse voices of our student body, faculty and staff
- Propel increased awareness of collection materials that highlight marginalized voices through creative communications and strengthened collaborations with campus and community partners
- Advocate for the diversification of curricular content at the university, and seek to better understand resource needs that will support our communities in understanding, adopting and advocating for anti-racist principles
- Lead in continually refining better practices for hiring students, faculty and staff who will bring diverse experiences to our organization
- Support our employees’ personal commitments in partnering around service and social reform, to start by taking a collective day for healing and learning.
As Jayhawks, we will uphold our university’s aspiration “to be a place that doesn’t replicate, tolerate or perpetuate racism, systemically, or individually.” We have room to grow in our acceptance of this responsibility. KU Libraries can, and should, and will be better.
While the road to social and racial equity is long, we will not turn away. We commit to moving forward – a coalition of voices, striving to be tireless in our advocacy of Black, Indigenous and all people of color, because, as we are reminded by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, “the machinery of racism does not sleep and neither should we in our efforts to counter it.”