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Dean's Update: Developing an Inclusive Infrastructure

June 10, 2021

Current narratives around topics of diversity, equity and inclusion during expansive discussions about racism, injustice, and polarization in our society resonate with challenges librarians and other professionals face in developing infrastructures to facilitate connections to information and data resources. 

A review of this month’s In Circulation articles illustrates the Drexel Libraries’ shared focus on these important topics—whether discussion of racial injustices in societal and political arenas or of commitments to strengthening communities around personal growth and engagement with diverse ideas. Regardless of the topic of exchange, ranging from transportation safety through disinfection, to promoting collections beyond organizational boundaries, these stories of the Libraries’ latest activities surface our belief in the impactful value of improving systems for identifying and retrieving information resources in service of expanding comfort zones through learning.   

One library staff member’s interest to learn more about a collection of musical recordings inspired us to launch a new event series, delivered as interactive webinars. The Drexel Audio Archives, curated in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, includes audio tapes from the Sigma Sounds Studio, the Philadelphia-based recording studio that had recorded many of the musicians that created “The Philly Sound.”  Read about—and listen to—a tour of this Archive, along with recollections from a few Drexel alumni who launched the WKDU program The Black Experience in the 1970s. The alumni shared insights about the bonds that grew among students and faculty who created The Black Experience radio show and often played this music that emerged from the City’s Black community and reflected their own culture. The Libraries event was a rewarding implementation of its core mission to improve infrastructures to facilitate self-directed learning in informal environments and build community across members of campus diverse units.

The article Equity in Action is an example of the Libraries’ priority to support and encourage staff to expand their knowledge through professional development. A diverse group of six staff from across the ranks joined other professionals from libraries of all types and sizes from across the country for an engaging continuing education course that exposed them to issues, exercises and skills about how libraries may contribute to improving antiracism, diversity and inclusion. Upon completion of the course, the group shared insights and exercises with colleagues in the Drexel Libraries.

Another article about launching a new Archival Collections Database describes a milestone in developing the Libraries’ systems infrastructure. The results offer improved, integrated search and discovery functions for information seekers to identify and retrieve collection guides from three of Drexel’s archival collections: Drexel University Archives, The Legacy Center and the Academy of Natural Sciences. Information about these collections was previously available online in separate locations. This new database brings this information together all in one place.

Finally, a recap of this academic year’s last ScholarSip event illustrated the Libraries’ nearly decade-long tradition to strengthen community across formal disciplinary boundaries defined by academic programs that support teaching and research. This year’s exploration of interdisciplinary research around the COVID-19 virus ended with a presentation about a new Drexel partnership with SEPTA, the region’s transportation agency. The “food for thought” presenter reflected on the stimulating team of research experts and transportation administrators working on a 2-year funded project to make public transportation safe and raise customer confidence to ride the region’s trains and buses again. The speaker’s expertise reflects the importance of inclusiveness in building the research team, with his knowledge of environmental engineering, microbiology, and collaborative project management.

The core values and principles promoted by American libraries are evident in these recent Drexel stories. They also parallel the vocabulary we frequently hear in discussions of current challenging topics facing our society:

  • Diversity—of ideas, as well as authors and communities
  • Inclusiveness—to provide equal access to opportunities and resources
  • Equity—as a quality of being fair and impartial in disseminating information and facilitating connections between resources and people
  • Infrastructure—as the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of the academic enterprise

This issue’s articles both reflect diversity of ideas, diversity of authors, diversity of audience attending our events, and show how an organization develops practices and policies around internal diversity.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries