All librarians need to consider whom their collections represent. Developing collection management policies that create equitable and inclusive collections can be challenging.
To help all librarians with this important work, Dr. Andrea Jamison wrote Decentering Whiteness in Libraries: A Framework for Inclusive Collection Management Practices. The book will be published this fall from Rowman & Littlefield.
My interview with Dr. Jamison is below.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Dr. Jamison: I am currently an assistant professor of school librarianship at Illinois State University. I work with both pre-service teachers and librarians, and have more than 17 years of experience working in schools and libraries. My research interests involve examining equity issues in library services and the role that libraries play in either perpetuating or mitigating systems of inequity. To that end, I have performed content analyses on collection development policies to assess the extent that policies manifest messages of diversity. Through my studies, I have identified six types of collection development policies utilized in some libraries and was able to develop a checklist for assessing diversity in policies. This work has become the foundation for my upcoming book and continued advocacy. I believe that in order to achieve diversity in libraries, librarians must do more than articulate it as a core value. Diversity must be operationalized in policy and practice.
1. Briefly summarize Decentering Whiteness in Libraries: A Framework for Inclusive Collection Management Practices.
Dr. Jamison: Decentering Whiteness is premised on my early dissertation work conducted at Dominican University. While examining policies, I created a checklist to evaluate the extent that collection development policies articulate messages of diversity. The book highlights some of my research but more importantly attempts to provide concrete strategies for normalizing diversity within library collections. In the book, I argue a need for inclusivity based on the history of inequities in library services. I also provide strategies that I hope will help librarians write more inclusive collection development policies. Collection development policies are critical to the maintenance of diverse collections because they guide professional practice and can serve as the collective consciousness of an organization. Diverse policies are also needed to ensure continuity of service within a singular library institution and across the field of librarianship as a whole. We must move away from the idea of writing policies with benign statements of diversity that is siloed in one section of the policy but does not articulate what diversity means or how diversity shows up in library collections. This book presents these types of arguments based on my research. Given the uptick in censorship that aims to codify acts of discrimination through legislation, libraries need to codify our commitment to diversity through policy.
2. Is the book focused more on the practical or the theoretical?
Dr. Jamison: While the book discusses my research, the overarching goal is more practical in nature. I wrote this book as if I were talking to new librarians, students, and those who consider themselves as novices when it comes to diversity work.
3. Why did you decide to write this book?
Dr. Jamison: My research on policies is the impetus for this book. After conducting a significant number of content analyses, I began to see a trend among sampled policies. Many policies would include these lone messages of diversity but failed to articulate the meaning of diversity within the context of the library collection and how diversity is presented. In other words, I have examined policies that were 100 or more pages long. Some policies would have a message stating that the library has a diverse collection of books. Yet, for the remaining 99 pages or more, there would be no further mention of diversity. These types of policies raised a bevy of questions for me. For example, I wanted to know what policy writers mean when stating that a library has “a diverse collection of books.” Diverse can take on many meanings, and can signal diversity in format or diversity of thought. Also, I wanted to know the types of diverse books available and how those books are selected. This information is useful for patrons seeking content representative of their world. It is also helpful for librarians making selection decisions. Is there a uniform way to select diverse content or is it left up to the discretion of individual librarians? I wanted to lay out these questions as an argument for why it is important for librarians to have a uniform process for selecting diverse content. Again, given that censorship is attempting to remove diverse content from library shelves, librarians must be strategic in ensuring that diverse books have a place on library shelves. I argue that having clearly articulated messages of diversity in collection development policies is one way to accomplish such an important goal. Diverse policies will not only provide transparency about a library’s disposition towards collecting diverse books, but they will also serve as a measure of accountability. We must be held accountable to our core values.
4. How can librarians in all types of libraries use this book?
Dr. Jamison: To begin, I think that the book will help library students and new librarians/library workers to understand some of the more prevalent equity issues within libraries. Practicing librarians, policy writers, and students can use this book to help examine their own practices around policies. My hope is that this book will serve as “one step” towards achieving and maintaining more equitable library collections by having clear policies that describe and enumerate the meaning of diversity and how it is achieved.
5. Based on the content of the book, what actions do you hope readers take?
Dr. Jamison: I am hoping that this work will continue the work of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement by articulating the importance of diverse policies. Libraries won’t be able to maintain diverse books without diverse policies. I see policies as a way to ensure equitable practices for all librarians, #WeNeedDiversePolicies. I hope librarians will commit to writing more inclusive collection development policies and then use those policies to guide their selection practices. Inclusive collection development policies will also help us better protect diverse content that has been subjected to a reconsideration process due to a book challenge.
6. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Dr. Jamison: Yes. I could not have done this work without the help of some wonderful people. I am very thankful to the faculty at Dominican University, my colleagues at Dominican and Valparaiso, Jennifer Leffler, Andrea Falcone, and everyone that helped me articulate my ideas in a coherent way. This work is really a communal effort.
Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.
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