Project READY: New Online Racial Equity Curriculum Fills Gap for Library Staff

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Project READY on postit notes
Photo used with permission from Project READY.

Creating inclusive and equitable school and public library programs for Black youth, Indigenous youth, and Youth of Color (BIYOC) requires knowledge about topics such as race and racism, implicit bias and microaggressions, cultural competence and culturally sustaining pedagogy, and equity and social justice. Research shows, however, that few library and information science master’s programs include these topics in their curriculum, and there are few professional development or continuing education opportunities available to library staff for exploring these topics.

Fortunately, a valuable new resource has been created, representing the work of more than 40 library and school practitioners, scholars, administrators, and youth from a wide variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. In 2016, The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina (UNC SILS) at Chapel Hill, the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University, and the Wake County (NC) Public School System were awarded a three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop Project READY to address this gap in professional development opportunities for youth services library staff. UNC SILS Professor Sandra Hughes-Hassell and Teaching Assistant Professor Casey Rawson led Project READY as Principal Investigator and Co-PI and developed the online curriculum with UNC SILS doctoral student Kimberly Hirsh.

Project READY (Reimagining Equity and Access for Diverse Youth) online racial equity curriculum is freely accessible at ready.web.unc.edu. The curriculum consists of 27 modules, organized into three sequential sections: "Foundations" focuses on basic concepts and issues fundamental to understanding race and racism and the impact on library services; "Transforming Practice" explores how these concepts relate to and can be applied in library environments; and "Continuing the Journey" explores how library professionals can sustain racial equity work and grow personally and professionally in this area.

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As noted in the Getting Started section of the curriculum, “race and racism are complex topics with long histories,” and that “to truly make progress toward racial equity, something more than a shortcut solution is required.” The curriculum has been designed to support practitioners as they take the deeper journey to:

  • Work to understand the problem’s foundations
  • Work to understand your own relationship to the problem and how the problem relates to your own context/community
  • Work to understand what has already been tried to address the problem
  • Consider multiple options for how to address the problem within your own context
  • Implement one or more strategies to address the problem
  • Evaluate whether the strategy has successfully addressed the problem
  • Share your experiences with others working to address the same problem

Watch the video below for a visual introduction to the curriculum.

The curriculum has been designed to be worked through by individuals or small groups. It is licensed with a reuse with attribution under Creative Commons. Under this license, you are free to share or adapt the curriculum to best meet your needs. If you decide to pursue this learning together with others, WebJunction has a framework for organizing, structuring and leading a group of learners through any self-paced curriculum in the Facilitator Guide: Group Learning in a Self-Paced Course (PDF).
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