Where do you start with EDI?
The Library EDI Group began its activities in February 2022 and the question of where we should focus our activities was the most challenging. Equity, diversity and inclusivity cover such important areas with each one meaning different things to each individual. The group was determined that any activity should not be tokenistic. We were aware that a lot was already taking place to improve EDI across the HE Library sector and, to be honest, we felt that we were a few steps behind. We knew we had to act, but where do you start? Here’s what we have learned:
Learn from others
We were keen that any activities we undertook should make a positive impact and they needed to be sustainable to make meaningful change. We particularly wanted to discover what we could learn from others in the sector who were already active in this area. We were also keen to learn from Library colleagues, as well as colleagues in marginalised groups, so we could ensure that the workstreams that took place would be meaningful for our context. Sector-wide webinars and conferences were helpful for learning about good practice, as were honest one-to-one conversations with colleagues in other institutions, who had more experience in this field. Through this we started to learn what worked and, more importantly, what didn’t!
Early on we undertook a Library staff survey to hear more from our colleagues directly. We asked them about their current understanding of EDI and how they felt we were performing as a service in this regard. We thought that the survey would also act as a benchmark to help measure the success of our activities. The results provided a helpful focus for a group away afternoon where we reflected on these and noted all of the ideas we had gathered from our research activities. Activities were prioritised and gathered under three workstreams centred around our users, staff and collections. Gradually we found some shape to the EDI work and we have just repeated both the survey process and the planning approach for our second year of activities.
EDI is very personal and so learning about other people’s lived experience, if they are willing to share it, is key. After consulting with Library staff, our next step was to contact staff networks to find out more about their Library experiences. We were concerned about adding extra burden to marginalised groups and so found it helpful to engage when there was a specific activity in mind, eg LGBT+ History Month, so we could work together to amplify messages. Going forward we want to make more contact with student groups to ensure that we have a better understanding of their experiences too.
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Working with colleagues across teams and across the organisation has been key. We have ensured that all of the Library teams are involved in our activities so the responsibility of improving EDI is embedded across the service rather than being seen as only the EDI Group’s job. Working with colleagues in the LGBT+ Staff Network on LGBT+ History Month and with SWAI colleagues for Neurodiversity Celebration week has been a pleasure and it has been great to make the most of our Library spaces and resources. Celebrations are perfect opportunities for bringing people across campus together to work towards a common goal, and so we have really appreciated working with the EDI Service to find out what is happening across the campuses and have their help co-ordinating activities to help join us all together to give all our work more impact.
Be prepared to feel uncomfortable
Whilst we have delivered activities to support learning about EDI, like reading lists, subject guides and repository collections, and we have introduced changes to some of our processes in relation to recruitment, there is so much more to do. New colleagues within the Library and the University are teaching us more about decolonisation and radical empathy, helping us to understand the systemic nature of EDI challenges. At a very basic level, the ethnic diversity of our staff community is not what we would like it to be and whilst it is a sector issue, we are aware that other local university libraries have a wider ethnic mix that better reflects their area and so we need to consider very carefully how to improve. We are clearly not getting everything right.
Some of our most impactful work has come from creative ‘What if?’ moments that colleagues have had or from seizing opportunities when they arose. For example, we had planned out which celebration weeks and months we would support in early 2023 to allow plenty of time for planning each one, but then an opportunity arose to work with SWAI on the Neurodiversity Celebration Week and our planning had to speed up rapidly. Thankfully we had templates and processes in place for both physical and digital displays so we could slot resources for new topics into place quickly, but colleagues still had to be willing to pivot quickly.
The key thing to remember is that EDI is a long-term project. Activities have to be sustained and make a meaningful difference to people. We were delighted to win the Vice-Chancellor’s award for EDI enhancement but the work continues. This year’s plans include working with colleagues from Enhanced Academic Practice on decolonisation activities, continuing to develop and encourage greater diversification within our content and collections, as well as supporting staff to deepen their confidence in this area. We will continue to seek opportunities to work with colleagues across the University to improve the staff and student experience. We recognise that we are only at the very beginning of our journey, but we are pleased to have started.
If you would like to find out more about the EDI Group, contact us or view our EDI reading lists, subject guides and repository collections, please visit our Library webpage.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Reflections, comments, discussion and opinion on EDI topics from Loughborough University staff and students