Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 20 February 2024

The following post is one in a regular series on issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, compiled by a team of OCLC contributors.

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Photo by Romain Vignes on Unsplash

Country of the blind: A memoir at the end of sight 

Andrew Leland’s memoir documents his journey dealing with a genetic disorder that is slowly diminishing his sight. As a voracious reader, writer, and editor, Leland discusses the challenges he has faced in adapting to assistive technologies. His journey isn’t just about learning new technologies but about dealing with intersectional identities as a sighted person learning to integrate into the culture of people with low vision. If you want a quick hit, check out Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible podcast interview with Leland.  

Listening to Leland’s interview, I was struck when he asked many of the questions I’ve asked myself.  As my vision diminishes, should I learn assistive technologies while I’m still sighted? Despite a life of wearing corrective glasses, I have not necessarily identified myself as a member of the low-vision community – although it animates my interest in accessibility. Leland’s discussion of his own journey here was particularly poignant to me. Contributed by Richard J. Urban. 

Intellectual Freedom Round Table virtual book club 

The IFRT Reads discussion group of ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Round Table will host the second installment of its 2024 series in the form of a free hour-long webinar on 27 February 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  During the first session held on January 24, Chapter 2 (“Understanding the Library Bill of Rights and its Significance to Diversity in Collection Development”) of Decentering Whiteness in Libraries:  A Framework for Inclusive Collection Management Practices, by Dr. Andrea Jamison, assistant professor of school librarianship at Illinois State University (OCLC Symbol:  IAI), was discussed.  Dr. Jamison will be present and answering questions for the February 27 installment, registration for which is now open. 

As chair of the working group responsible for the 2019 “Diverse Collections:  An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights,” Dr. Jamison stands in a unique position to talk authoritatively about building diverse collections according to the core principles of intellectual freedom. Currently, Dr. Jamison serves as Chair of ALA’s Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT), which is specifically charged with promoting services “for all ethnolinguistic and multicultural communities in general.” Contributed by Jay Weitz. 

Academic libraries leading the way in access and diversity 

Insight Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education, has awarded 56 academic libraries the inaugural 2024 Library Excellence in Access and Diversity (LEAD) Award for their outstanding programs and initiatives promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The LEAD Award highlights initiatives in areas such as research, technology, accessibility, exhibitions, and community outreach. “As higher education institutions provide more than just legally required accessibility and disability services, they could find guidance from their own academic libraries, who are often at the forefront of this field. From digital resources and sensory spaces to personalized assistance, many academic libraries prioritize creating an environment where all members of the academic community can thrive, ensuring equal access to information.” Out of nearly 150 applicants, the 56 winners will be featured in the March 2024 issue of Insight Into Diversity, with the outstanding work of ten libraries featured in a preview

This welcome recognition of libraries leading the way highlights the range of initiatives and programs implemented across libraries. From prioritizing diverse hiring practices to an embedded Equity and Engagement Librarian, and from fellowship programs for underrepresented groups, to providing sensory spaces and adaptive computing labs, their successes provide the field with models and inspiration for libraries to prioritize this work locally. Contributed by Jennifer Peterson. 

University of North Texas libraries advised to suspend Pride Week events 

On 15 February 2024, the KERA News website reported that the University of North Texas legal counsel advised UNT Libraries (OCLC Symbol: INT) to suspend planned events for Pride Week. In an email sent to library employees on 9 February, university administration stated that “using staff and faculty time on the activities we were planning around Pride Week would be in violation of SB17,” a bill passed by the Texas State Legislature and signed by Governor Greg Abbott on 14 June 2023 that prohibits publicly funded colleges and universities from conducting “trainings, programs, or activities that advocate for or give preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” Melisa Brown, senior director of UNT Relations, stated that the “recognition of commemorative months [such as Black History Month, Pride Month, International Women’s Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Disability Pride Month and the like] is something the university has celebrated for years, and UNT plans to continue this. What is changing in the university’s recognitions is that any event the university funds must focus on the history of the culture being celebrated in order to be compliant with the law.” 

Recognizing diverse groups through various library events is a common method of promoting inclusion on college campuses. Although the article does not describe the events that had to be suspended, it is unfortunate that Texas librarians find themselves under threat of losing funding for developing programming that celebrates diversity. Contributed by Morris Levy

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