Working towards Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in BC Libraries

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The Boston College Libraries acknowledge historical, structural, and systemic injustice. The struggle against racism, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination is central to our mission and profession.

BC Libraries EDI Values Statement
pencil sketch on brown-tinted paper of neo-gothic building with gothic doorway, tower, and decorative details
Bapst Library, architectural drawings in pencil and pen by Maginnis and Walsh, undated, Boston College building and campus images (box 14), John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

So what exactly does that mean in terms of our work?  In the last year, it’s meant a series of changes geared towards making BC Libraries a more welcoming environment for the entire community. 

In 2019 Tom Wall, University Librarian, formed an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group to write the Libraries’ EDI Values Statement and create an action plan for the libraries. Based upon the values statement, the EDI Working Group identified six key areas: Collections, Staff Support, Physical Environment, Services, Staff & Leadership Training, and Workforce Recruitment & Retention.

Upon the recommendation of the Working Group, Tom established the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Committee in September 2020 to oversee the work going on in these areas, serve as a general advisory body to the University Librarian, and communicate the work being done both throughout the libraries and to the BC community at large.

As we end our first full year of our action plan, we thought it would be timely to share some of the key highlights of the year in each of the six areas. If you’re eager to hear more, monthly updates and the larger action plan are available on the EDI website, and any member of the EDI Advisory Committee (contact information is listed on the website) is happy to answer questions or talk further about our work.

Colorful round Celting design with concentric circles composed
“Transforming Light: The Stained-Glass Windows of Boston College.” Celtic Heroes images from the Roche room, Bapst Library. Page 086: Detail.

Library Services

To make our services more accessible for all:

  • All BC Libraries improved directional signage, reviewed ID policies, confirmed service desk functionality, and revised financial policies affecting users. 
  • Access Services expanded automatic renewals and same-library/same-campus requesting services to include all Boston College students, faculty and staff
  • The Instruction Team created guidelines and best practices for inclusive pedagogy.
  • Our TCs updated our public computing software inventory and have begun investigating how to provide real-time public computing availability (aka you’ll be able to check if there’s a computer free before you trek over to O’Neill)

Library Collections

To ensure BC has both diverse library collections and access to those resources:

  • The EDI Collections group posted a commitment to ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion in our collection development policy. Our subject specialists are now working on how to realize that commitment within each particular discipline. 
  • The group is in discussions about how we, as a community, can promote equitable access to our rich collections. 
  • In our efforts to promote discovery, BC Libraries are pleased to roll out our first bi-lingual resource guide for Chinese language resources

Physical Environment

To make our library buildings a more welcoming place:

  • The EDI Physical Environment liaison developed a rubric to assess elements of EDI in the Boston College Libraries’ physical spaces.
  • Heads of public services created a questionnaire from the rubric, which each special library head and the Head of Access Services for O’Neill and Bapst used to review their building
  • Each library is working with the Physical Environment group to establish priorities and timelines for their spaces.

Workforce Recruitment & Retention

To investigate making our library staff more diverse:

  • The Workforce Recruitment & Retention group researched and wrote recommendations on job postings, search committees, candidate identification, and exit interviews.
  • The University Librarian Advisory Council reviewed recommendations and worked with the group on what changes should be made. 
  • The group also produced an EDI Statement that is required on all BCL job postings. Hiring managers may choose to add additional EDI language to the job posting with approval by the University Librarian Advisory Council

Staff Support

To provide support to library staff: 

  • The Staff Support group  launched 3 BC Libraries Affinity Groups. These groups are specifically for those who identify as BIPOC, as LGBTQIA, or as having a disability.
  • Requested feedback from library employees who don’t work a 9-5 schedule to better support them with inclusive scheduling practices.

Staff & Leadership Training

To provide learning opportunities around EDI issues for library staff:

  • The Training group launched an EDI events and learning opportunities calendar for library staff. The training committee routinely adds new events to the calendar and also solicits event suggestions from library staff.
  • The group delivered the first in an ongoing series of learning opportunities for staff and leadership. In collaboration with the Office for Institutional Diversity, they offered discussion groups, led by trained facilitators from around the University, which were based on the Courageous Conversation model.

As we start our second year, we’ll be continuing initiatives in all of our six areas as well as working throughout the libraries at large so that EDI implications are considered in every decision we make. Progress updates will continue to be posted on our website, so watch that space for more on how we are making BC Libraries an inclusive and welcoming environment for the entire BC community.

–By The BC Libraries EDI Advisory Committee

Bright morning sun streams through a large skylight into an atrium with red and yellow banners featuring St. Ignatius and Bapst and O'Neill Libraries.
O’Neill Library atrium staircase

Kathleen Monahan

Reference, Instruction & Digital Services Librarian, John J. Burns Library