The staff of the Duke University Libraries are angered and heartbroken by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as numerous other abuses of power against Black Americans. This racial injustice is rooted in historical and systemic white supremacy, and we recognize that our institution has played a role in that injustice. The longstanding impact of institutional racism must be addressed, and we commit to reckoning with it within our Libraries. Doing so will require engaging with our history, looking at our systems with a critical eye, further diversifying our staff, and re-centering our work to lift up marginalized and underrepresented perspectives. In this decisive moment, we will be intentional in our support for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and will join with colleagues at other cultural heritage organizations to create, in the words of the Association of Research Libraries, “an equitable, enduring research information environment.”
In this work, we seek to live up to one of the guiding principles in our strategic plan: “Diversity Strengthens Us.” More than ever, we must prioritize our commitment and live this value in our work. Racial injustice is in the very fabric of our communities and institutions. The critical role of the Duke Libraries in our university’s teaching, learning, and research makes it an essential space to seek understanding, have challenging conversations, and together determine what we can do to be a civic-minded and just society.
We have work to do to address the inequities so starkly revealed by recent tragedies. To expand our cultural competence and combat racism, we will carry on our efforts to:
- Dismantle white privilege in our collections and services. We are reaching out to students, community members, faculty partners and colleagues to listen to and learn from their work and experiences. We seek to be transparent about our own history and to make our Libraries more welcoming, inclusive, and accountable. Through assessment we seek feedback from students and faculty.
- Diversify our staff, recognizing that different opinions, backgrounds, and experiences will lead to better decisions and invigorate our organization.
- Practice more inclusive metadata creation, with the goal of harm reduction from biased and alienating description and classification. In doing so, we have found inspiration in the film Change the Subject, which documents student-led metadata remediation efforts at Dartmouth.
- Tell history from the inside out. We seek opportunities to work with communities to tell their own stories and preserve their own histories. We are learning from our work with the SNCC Digital Gateway, CRMvet, and Teaching for Change.
- Renew our commitment in the University Archives to documenting, investigating, and sharing our complex institutional history.
The Duke University Libraries will continue to work actively to identify actions we can take to improve. DUL staff are caring and respectful, and we will not place the burden of this work on colleagues of color unless they indicate a willingness to engage. Together we reaffirm our commitment to seek strategies and opportunities to learn about and support diversity, equity, and inclusion and to contribute to a more just and equitable future for Duke, especially for our Black students, staff, and faculty.
Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian & Vice Provost for Library Affairs
and the staff of the Duke University Libraries