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Equity in Action: Libraries Staff Share Insights from Professional Development Course

June 3, 2021

This spring, six Drexel Libraries staff completed the virtual course Equity in Action: Fostering an Antiracist Library Culture, offered by Library Journal, a library trade publication and professional development content provider.

The three-week course is designed to help library leaders cultivate an antiracist culture by evaluating and improving library spaces, programs, services, and collections policies. Sessions included presentations from live guest speakers, interactive workshops, and group discussions that addressed issues like acknowledging privilege and biases, dismantling white supremacy in the library, and cultivating antiracist workplaces and hiring practices.

As part of the project-based learning course curriculum, attendees worked in small groups and performed a diversity and accessibility audit of their organizations. Dedicated expert facilitators helped each group map out initiatives to transform their organization’s resources and services to better meet the needs of all users.

“Drexel Libraries staff worked together as one team,” explained Rachel Weidner, Administrative Coordinator at the Drexel Libraries and one of the course participants. “We worked through homework assignments together, and then submitted our work via an online forum. Our facilitator offered thoughtful responses about our work and then helped guide how the group presented and outlined next steps for the Libraries to take. It felt great to be surrounded by so many people invested in library culture, and social justice at large, and the collection of resources and activities we gained access to through the course will be such a valuable asset for all Libraries staff to utilize.”

Janice Masud-Paul, Librarian for Health Sciences who also completed the course, added that the course encouraged participants to examine their own level of cultural competence and emphasized the importance of having discussions about anti-racism with library colleagues while working to implement change, even though these conversations might be difficult.

After completing the professional development course, Libraries staff shared a brief overview of what they learned from the class during a virtual Libraries all-staff meeting, held May 7, 2021. They shared key takeaways from the sessions and discussed staff development goals and next steps to advance the Drexel Libraries’ commitment to creating more inclusive and equitable services, resources, and learning environments.

To end their presentation to Libraries staff, the course participants facilitated an abbreviated version of the Privilege Bead Exercise [PDF], an activity they participated in during the Equity in Action course that helps individuals explore and understand privilege. Libraries staff completed the activity on their own and then moved into Zoom breakout groups to share their reactions and discuss the importance of understanding and leveraging privilege. 

"The bead exercise allows you to think about your personal privileges through seven lenses, such as ability, race and class,” said Jennifer Lege-Matsuura, Health Sciences Librarian at Drexel. “During group discussions, we evaluate the exercise itself, not personal answers. We did this activity in class and wanted to use it to start the conversation with staff here at the Drexel Libraries. We hope that it encourages a broader view for all participants when approaching our work in the Libraries."

The staff participants also suggested goals for the Drexel Libraries to include offering more staff development and learning opportunities, auditing the Libraries’ collections and licensed resources, and building a more diverse workforce. These ideas were added to others that the Libraries’ managers and leadership prioritized in strategizing actions to improve diversity in the Libraries.

The following Drexel Libraries staff completed the course Equity in Action: Fostering an Antiracist Library Culture:

Elise Ferer, Librarian, Information Assistance and Undergraduate Learning
Jay Kibby, Librarian, Online Resources and Acquisitions
Jennifer Lege-Matsuura, Librarian, Health Sciences
Janice Masud-Paul, Librarian, Health Sciences
Tainesha Ware, Coordinator, Administrative Services
Rachel Weidner, Coordinator, Administrative Services