New Report From Ithaka S+R: “National Movements for Racial Justice and Academic Library Leadership: Results from the Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2020”
National Movements for Racial Justice and Academic Library Leadership: Results from the Ithaka S+R US Library Survey 2020 was published by Ithaka S+R on March 17, 2021.
Jennifer K. Frederick
Summary and Key Findings
Academic librarians, like so many others in the higher education and library sectors, have discussed equity, diversity, and inclusion for many years. A number of prominent initiatives have worked to address these issues across the profession and within individual institutions. Yet, libraries have struggled to make progress on these stated values, especially in meeting their goals of employee diversification.
The organizing led by Black Lives Matter activists in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd sparked an increase in demands for racial justice across the higher education sector. Many leaders called for an end to police violence and pledged to address their institutions’ history of racism. Academic libraries in turn have grappled with renewed attention to increasing the diversity of their employees, addressing retention issues, and fostering equity and inclusion for both internal and external constituents. Some have also focused their efforts on library practices such as increasing the diversity of their collections.
To better understand the impact of these national events and long-standing challenges on academic libraries, we surveyed 638 library directors in fall 2020 to examine how perspectives and strategies relevant to issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism evolved over the last year.
Executive Summary and Key Findings
- Library directors more highly value leadership capacities to foster equity, diversity, and inclusion than previously. Respondents are three times more likely to consider this ability as one of the top three most important skills for directors to possess compared to 2019.
- Library directors are less confident in their personnel strategies related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. Fewer directors believe their libraries have well-developed strategies relative to 2019. Leaders at doctoral universities continue to believe their libraries have relatively more well-developed strategies.
- Most library directors did not expect that employees of color would be disproportionately affected by cuts due to COVID-19. However, job types with relatively greater percentages of employees of color were more impacted by recent furloughs and role eliminations. Black directors and those at doctoral universities and public institutions shared relatively greater concerns about the potential for this happening.
- The majority of directors have not developed strategies to re-center their collections around authors of color and/or anti-racist content. Likewise, most libraries have not developed criteria for evaluating and making decisions related to the diversity of their collections.
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About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.