Libraries Response to Racial Violence

Original post dated Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The following is a statement from the Dean and senior administrative team of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries to its employees. This statement was originally posted in the Libraries News & Stories blog.

Message from UNL Libraries about systemic racism, violence, and the role of libraries

We are sad and angry about George Floyd's death last week at the hands of a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. Our communities, outraged at this unconscionable act of brutality, have responded, expressing their anguish in numerous ways, including many forms of peaceful protest. Sadly, as you know, there have also been significant outbreaks of violence.

In Lincoln, over the last week, swastikas have been painted in Wilderness Park, in a place of retreat and refuge for many during pandemic restrictions, reminding us of the virulent presence of supremacist thinking, actions, and systems. During a 2018 rally, UNL faculty, students, and staff gathered to support "Hate Will Never Win" in our community and we must remember to continue to uphold that commitment now. With events like these, which have happened too often and all across the country, we are reminded how much work there is left to do to dismantle the systemic injustices of our society. This obligation falls heaviest on those of us who have not lived the experience that Indigenous peoples, communities of color, and religious and ethnic minoritized communities have. This is and will be hard, challenging work, but it is critical that we engage in it.

We believe that libraries, and all of the people who work in them, are an essential part of the solution to creating a more just and equitable society. Although we are not without flaws, and must grapple with our own failings and examples of systemic racism, at its best our profession rests on bedrock principles of inclusion and information justice. These principles must guide us now.

We are engaged in a strategic planning process that gives us an important opportunity to reflect and to direct our energy and our financial resources, in whatever ways that we can, to create lasting change. We will be looking for opportunities to accelerate and amplify this work, and we invite our entire organization to bring your ideas and your energy to it. We also challenge all of us individually and collectively to examine all of our information work through a lens of equity and justice, asking ourselves:

  • How does this activity contribute to equity and justice?
  • Where does this activity stand in the way or present barriers to equity and justice?
  • How do we carry this work forward, not only following major events, but every person, every day, persistently?

Individually, we can each also ask similar questions:

  • How can I contribute to equity and justice?
  • How can I have a conversation about these issues to hear others' perspectives?
  • What can I do to help?

It will take the effort of every one of us to make real and lasting change, and we are deeply committed to our collective work towards this important goal.