University Libraries Statement in Support of Black Lives Matter

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officers. On March 23, 2020, Breonna Taylor was murdered by police officers after being awakened in the middle of the night in her own home in Kentucky. On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while jogging in Georgia. These are the names we hear today, but there are countless others whose lives were tragically cut short in acts of violence going back to the earliest days of colonization. The inhumanity we see today is a result of unchecked white supremacy that has perpetuated a culture in which police brutality and violence towards Black bodies is normalized, in which police are not held accountable for their actions by the law, and in which there is no justice for Black communities.

In response Black organizers are leading a multiracial coalition of people across the United States and in other countries, and have marched in protest against these injustices and the killings of Black people, only to be met with an increasingly militarized and violent response by police. We commit to act in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters who are currently engaged in a Week of Action to pressure those in positions of authority to act. We condemn the police and mob brutality that has terrorized Black communities for centuries, and the justice system that has failed Black Americans.

We need to look inward, to our own organization and our own overwhelmingly-white profession. Libraries strive to expand access to information, provide spaces for learning, and preserve knowledge. But people of color often do not feel welcomed in our spaces or seen in our collections. The status quo is not acceptable. The leadership team of the Libraries is committed to creating an equitable workplace and community and we understand that it is our obligation to do the heavy lifting on this important work. We recognize that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders within both our local community and the larger profession have contributed enormous thought and effort into how to make meaningful change, and we will be humbly guided by their work in our efforts.

In close collaboration with University Libraries faculty and staff and the DU community, we commit to:

  • Reviewing commitments made in our 2016 “Open Letter from University Libraries Faculty” to ensure that we are not falling short of them,
  • Hiring and retaining BIPOC employees not by tokenizing individuals based on their racial/ethnic identities, but by creating a welcoming and actively anti-racist institutional culture,
  • Not asking BIPOC to do emotional and intellectual labor for white people new to anti-racist work,
  • Reviewing and then revising or eliminating policies and procedures that disproportionately impact communities of color (e.g. borrowing and lending policies, fine and fees structures, security protocols, collection development guidelines),
  • Challenging our own prejudices and supporting our community by calling attention to crucial, critical underrepresented voices as we build our collections,
  • Being careful to use appropriately sensitive language in describing the materials we collect and provide access to,
  • Addressing inequities perpetuated by racist, exclusionary technology, 
  • Recognizing that our budget is a political document; it says almost everything about what, and who, we support.

Libraries exist to serve their communities through access to information for research, teaching, and personal and professional growth as well as spaces for collaboration. By acknowledging the power and responsibility that comes with this role, we will remake our organizational and professional culture so that it supports and contributes to an anti-racist higher education institution and community. 

In solidarity,

Michael Levine-Clark, Dean

Carrie Forbes, Associate Dean

Jack Maness, Associate Dean

Merisa Bissinger, Director of Business and Operations

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