Emory Libraries holds anti-racism forum

The Emory Libraries for Anti-Racism Forum was held on Monday in response to a nation-wide call for change following incidents of police brutality in recent weeks. Organized by the Emory Libraries Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, LEAF, and the Librarians Assembly Council, 145 people attended the forum via Zoom and took part in large and small group discussions on race.

“These issues affect everyone,” said co-DEI chair Saira Raza. “As a collective, there are ways the library can contribute, and we want to explore those.”

The forum was opened by Dean and University Librarian Yolanda Cooper, who greeted employees, encouraged them to find their voices, and turned the proceedings over to the team of representatives from the aforementioned committees who ran the forum. No members of Emory Libraries’ leadership attended as it was important to allow employees to speak their minds with their peers.

“We are in a unique position to have a person in Yolanda who prioritizes forums like these,” said Saira. “DEI was a major goal of hers from Day One. It is truly special to have someone brave enough to speak openly about the need for change.”

One of the key features of the forum was the use of Zoom Breakout Rooms, in which smaller groups were able to discuss the issues with the help of room facilitators. Room facilitators for this event were LEAF Chair Ayana Bohannon (events coordinator, CCR), Erica Bruchko (humanities librarian, RESC), Chaun Campos (library specialist, Oxford Library), Maya Cody (manager, CCR), Paige Crowl (teaching and learning librarian, Oxford Library), Melanie Kowalski (scholarly communications librarian, RESC), Chris Pollette (librarian, assessment and user experience, RESC), Sarah Quigley (librarian, Rose Library), Saira Raza (librarian, Goizueta Business Library), and Becky Sherman (librarian, Rose Library).

The purpose of the breakout rooms was to open up the conversation beyond the people who always get to talk about these issues as part of their committee work. The breakout rooms were experimental, and the team is learning how to make them more effective as they go.

Forum organizers intend to hold themselves accountable for moving forward with ideas that arose during the discussions. If you participated, they would love to have your feedback on the forum.

In an email sent out this week, forum organizers (Saira Raza & Becky Sherman (DEI Committee), Melanie Kowalski, Sarah Quigley, Chris Pollette (LAC), Ayana Bohannon & Katie Sparks (LEAF)) pledged to take these upcoming steps:

  • The DEI Committee, LEAF, and LAC will be meeting to compile the recommendations generated by the break-out room discussions and will send a summary to the LIB-ALL listserv.
  • We will work with senior management and relevant departments/units to plan and implement recommendations for immediate and more long-term sustained action
  • We are committed to continuing this conversation by creating more opportunities for staff discussion. Please mark your calendars for one upcoming opportunity–on June 24, the DEI Committee will host the first of a series of “Coffee and Critical Conversations” events for staff. 
    • This discussion series is an invitation to staff across teams, units, and libraries to build community this summer at Emory Libraries. Participate in a guided discussion around a collection of short videos and podcasts curated by the DEI Professional Development sub-committee. BYOC: Bring Your Own Coffee. If you have questions or concerns, please email Melissa Hackman, melissa [dot] joy [dot] hackman [at] emory [dot] edu. Zoom links and sign-ups to come.
  • Have you recently read a book, listened to a podcast, or seen a film that you would like to share with others? Please join us in crowdsourcing a list of recommended resources on eradicating racism. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Og4He6VG7B7irMkio15D5GN9qNNu7pAkwgcyifDqvCA/edit?usp=sharing

If you would like more information on these groups or would like to get involved, please visit their LibNet pages:

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Page: DEI
  • Library Employee Advocacy Forum: LEAF
  • Librarians Assembly Council: LAC
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