The Library Diversity Committee: Supporting Diversity and Inclusivity in the Academic Community

Raymond Pun, First Year Student Success Librarian, California State University, Fresno /

Today, universities and colleges across the United States are having open and sometimes intense conversations about the matters of diversity, multiculturalism and inclusivity in their campuses. These conversations are often a great start for students, faculty, administration and the community to learn and engage with each other through respectful dialogue and understanding.

Some university libraries are taking steps further by creating a diversity space, showcasing exhibits and partnering with other academic and student centered departments to promote diversity and inclusivity. How can libraries support these important conversations and discussions on campus? In one example, Fresno State's Library Diversity Committee has been leading many initiatives that support the university's commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive campus.

At California State University, Fresno (also known as Fresno State), one of the 23 campuses of the California State University system, there is a special committee known as the Library Diversity Committee (LDC). This committee is made up of librarians and library staff. The committee is dedicated to supporting the University's mission of promoting and celebrating a culture of diversity, internationalization and inclusion in library services, resources and programs.

The committee strives to support diversity and student success; promote and enhance library resources and collections relating to diversity; offer and support diverse programs that enrich the academic experience of the University and its surrounding communities; and create opportunities and increase diversity awareness among library colleagues.

The LDC at Fresno State has been around for over a decade. Currently, the committee is divided into three main subcommittees: International Coffee Hour (ICH), exhibits, and outreach and social media. These subcommittees often work closely with different campus and community partners in creating or building diversity programs.

To promote internationalization, LDC partners with the International Student Services and Programs to host weekly presentations called International Coffee Hour delivered by international students in the Henry Madden Library. Every Tuesday in the academic semester, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., international students give presentations about their hometown, country and culture. Each week is different as well: one week can cover Malaysia and another week may cover Oman. ICH is a public program that is open to all to attend and the library provides an open space and refreshment for this event. The library also promotes materials and books relating to each country into the program. Typically about 50 to 60 audience members attend each week.

This kind of campus collaboration fosters and promotes a culture of internationalization. With a growing number of international students on campus, this has been highly effective and receptive to partner with the office to create this regular series in the library and promote international student services and the library as well.

In exhibits, LDC often collaborates with many academic departments or community programs to promote a variety of resources, cultural relics and artifacts. The exhibit is located in the library's diversity lounge, which is an open space that is designated to promote diversity and inclusivity. In this lounge, there are periodicals and magazines in different languages, and library and campus resources on multiculturalism. The exhibits committee often set up and design exhibits that are reflective of campus or library related programs.

For example, there was an exhibit geek culture; the committee assembled books and other resources to promote cosplay, comics and geek culture. We also worked closely with a fashion merchandising class to display international fashion culture materials by students. One way to create this kind of opportunity is to explore course offerings and identify if there are opportunities for the committee to get involved and then contact the instructor. These are examples of how LDC has utilized the exhibits to promote and foster diversity in the library.

Like any other committee or unit, there needs to be outreach and social media promotion. This committee focuses on documenting and promoting our activities on social media such as Facebook. For outreach, members of LDC organize library orientation and tours for international students in the beginning of the semester to introduce new resources and services. We also host resource tables at special events that welcome new or returning students and faculty in the beginning of the semester. These are some ways to create an outreach program on campus and to introduce the library's services and resources through the library diversity committee.

Unfortunately campus partners do not usually think of the library as a resource for students beyond academic needs. However, through a special committee, we have gained recognition that the library can also partner in exhibits, programs and other outreach services.

LDC's ideas often come from our committee meetings, which we have once a month, but the ideas also generate from external partners. We often hear about something new or going on campus and find ways to connect or collaborate with these groups. Since our group has gained a lot of visibility on campus, we often get requests to create new exhibits, new programs and resources. It took a decade to build this kind of presence on campus but it certainly was not an easy task. The committee is always looking for creative ways to express diversity and inclusivity in the library.

Libraries have a tremendous amount of resources and creativity to support these initiatives. Whether you are in a community college, liberal arts school or a big public university, there are opportunities for the libraries to promote and foster multiculturalism beyond books and DVDs. The LDC in Fresno State hopes to inspire others to partner with their campus units to support diversity and inclusivity in all their forms.

Below are selected resources that that may be of interest on diversity in libraries and what the LDC at Fresno State is working on:

National Diversity in Libraries Conference (NDLC)

2016 Conference on Inclusion and Diversity in Library and Information Science

Sorting Out Race Exhibit in the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State

Native Voice: Natives Peoples' Concepts of Health and Illness at Fresno State

Library Diversity Committee at Fresno State's Facebook page

 

Photos, from top:

Promotion for the Library Diversity Committee at Fresno State.

Poster for an International Coffee Hour featuring Cambodia.

A presentor at the International Coffee Hour in the Henry Madden Library at Fresno State.

A peek at an exhibit on geek culture.

Members of the Library Diversity Committee at Fresno State.

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