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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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SDSU Library dome (Photo: Jim Brady) SDSU Library dome (Photo: Jim Brady)

SDSU Library Expands DEI Commitment and Collections

With a focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice, more than one dozen digital collections have been acquired since 2020.
By Rebecca Williamson

Like many academic and research libraries, the San Diego State University Library has made a core commitment to creating and supporting inclusive communities, spaces and collections, resulting in a number of new initiatives that support and extend the university’s commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice. 
“The library has one of the most well-developed unit-level diversity plans in terms of specific strategies to address representation, climate and success of their faculty and staff,” said Jennifer Imazeki, associate vice president for faculty and staff diversity. “But their plan also goes much further than most in its commitment to improving diversity, equity and inclusion for the entire campus through their efforts to expand collections and support for social justice across the curriculum.”
Many of these initiatives are now framed by the recently adopted Library Diversity Plan and led by faculty and staff serving on the Library Diversity Council.
“When SDSU introduced a new strategic plan in 2020 with one of its five priorities as ‘equity and inclusion in everything we do,’ University Library faculty and staff saw a reflection of important work they had already begun,” said Scott Walter, the SDSU Library dean. 
The commitments to diverse collections and to supporting campuswide efforts to recruit, retain and support students of color can be seen, for example, in the library collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity to establish the Chicana/o Collection in Love Library in 2007 and the Latinx Resource Center in 2020-21. 
A commitment to engaging diverse communities can also be seen in long-term projects such as the “Civil Rights and Communities of Color in San Diego” project in Special Collections and University Archives. To provide a foundation for continuing efforts to promote greater diversity in library collections and to ensure stronger support for academic programs promoting teaching, learning and scholarship in related areas, the library has adopted a collection development diversity statement
In part, the SDSU Library statement reads as follows: “We value diversity within the collections and the variety that is found among those collections. We value a range of coverage in perspectives, authorship, audience, and subject matter. We recognize that the diverse community the library serves needs inclusive collections, which are a foundation for learning and a basis for the creation of new knowledge.”
Building on this commitment, the library has acquired a significant number of new materials over the past year to support SDSU ethnic studies programs as well as co-curricular learning about equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The focus on social justice issues in the library collection was also shaped by the death of George Floyd and the subsequent national discussion of the role of libraries in promoting strategies for anti-racist social change
Building on a strong foundation of existing materials in both circulating and special collections, the library’s Social Justice Collection contains materials related to the study of race discrimination, race and policing, systemic racism in the United States and anti-racism. In support of SDSU’s pioneering efforts to include the study of race in its Criminal Justice program, materials are also being added to this collection in areas such as policy studies and discrimination in criminal justice administration, law enforcement, and policing. 
More broadly, this collection is designed to support teaching, learning, and scholarship on issues related to equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice across the curriculum. Currently comprising thousands of books, journals, and other digital resources, an initial guide to the social justice collection has been developed by Outreach and Diversity Initiatives Librarian Gloria Rhodes and is available through the library’s collection of online research guides.
“While there is certainly a need to do more, the library has become a more welcoming place for students of color,” Rhodes said. “It has been intentional about diversifying our collections to reflect students of color and their communities. The funding to enhance our social justice collection is a testament to our commitment to increasing the diversity in our resources.”
Diversity in library collections has also benefited from the support of SDSU donors, most recently through SDSU President Adela de la Torre’s direction of support from the Annual Fund to acquire new digital collections related to Ethnic Studies and social justice work, including collections in Border and Migration Studies, African American Studies, LGBT Thought and Culture, Refugees, Relief, and Resettlement, and more. 
With a focus both on diversifying library collections and on making sure that more resources were available digitally to promote the widest access to these resources during the pandemic, more than one dozen digital collections in these, and related, areas have been acquired since 2020.
The library is also engaging in new partnerships to promote a greater sense of belonging in library space for the diverse SDSU community, including the recent partnership with Arts Alive SDSU to host one of the winners of its Social Justice Mural Competition in the 24/7 area of the library. 
Finally, the library has also made progress in one of the key goals of its diversity plan: increasing the diversity of the library faculty and staff. 
In August, two new librarians joined SDSU following faculty searches that attracted many diverse candidates: social science librarian Ashley Wilson, whose position was created with a specific mandate to contribute to the social justice collection and related services and resources, and Greta Heng, cataloging and metadata services librarian. In addition, the library created a new faculty position last year for a communities and cultures archivist to be charged with collaborating with Black, Latinx, Indigenous and immigrant communities in San Diego and the Imperial Valley region to identify, preserve and provide access to archival collections documenting their history, culture, and experience. Recruitment for this position will continue in the coming year.
In the coming year, the library will adapt the American Library Association’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Scorecard for Library and Information Organizations for local use. This tool provides a rubric for scoring a library on five criteria: Embeddedness of DEI into the Culture and Climate of the Organization; Training and Education; Recruitment, Hiring, Retention, and Promotion; Budget Priorities for DEI; and Data Practices.
“Over the past 20 years, academic libraries have become increasingly committed to diversity in their collections and programs and increasingly successful in engaging campus colleagues and community partners in doing the work that advances university goals around equity, access and student success,” Walter said.
“2020 was a watershed year for establishing a strategic, scalable, and sustainable approach to diversity work as a cornerstone of library work at SDSU, and I look forward to continuing to work with our faculty and staff to make that work stronger and increasingly meaningful for our students, staff partners and faculty colleagues.”