Evaluating diverse texts in Morse Library

Library and Information Technology Services piloted a program to assess its print materials for diverse subjects and authors, making a more welcoming library for all Beloiters.

Students collaborating on the first floor of Morse Library. Students collaborating on the first floor of Morse Library.

Beloit College’s Becoming Better plan aims to center anti-racism and equity in every corner of campus, including the literature and information that students engage with in and out of the classroom. Since the initiative launched in 2020, Library and Information Technology Services (LITS) has been working to make its print collection more diverse and reflect the college community’s interests and identities.

LITS began analyzing its collection in fall 2021 to better address the Becoming Better initiative’s fourth goal of “sharing a common language about issues of race, sex, power, privilege, anti-racism, and anti-Blackness.” The program seeks to quantitatively evaluate Morse Library’s current print materials every year.

In October 2021, LITS analyzed 132,732 print materials and identified that 28,726 of those items — or 21.6 percent — were related to one or more12 diversity, equity, and inclusion-related categories, without accounting for the library’s ever-growing digital collections. The most common among these categories in the college’s collection were labeled Equity & Social Issues, Asian, and Black, while the three least common were Middle Eastern & North African, Disabilities & Neurodiversity, and Substance Abuse & Addictions.

Since completing this analysis, LITS staff have begun evaluating ways to bring in more diverse print materials while addressing current class needs, faculty and staff research interests, community demographics, alumni accomplishments, and patron requests.

In early March, LITS staff installed permanent signage directing patrons to diverse physical mate... In early March, LITS staff installed permanent signage directing patrons to diverse physical materials in Morse Library.

Already, the library has expanded its collections on all 12 of the identified DEI topics, particularly with topics in Middle Eastern & North African culture, disabilities and neurodiversity, and substance abuse and addictions. LITS staff also created permanent signage on the first floor that highlights where patrons can consult resources from diverse voices.

LITS is committed to dedicating resources to purchase new print materials and maintain a subscription to ProQuest’s virtual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ebook package. Morse Library is already subscribed to numerous databases, including Black Thought and Culture, Black Studies Center, Disability in the Modern World, and LGBT Thought and Culture, along with current and historic newspapers from all over the globe.

“Diverse books create a lens through which we see ourselves and reflect the emotions and experiences of others around us, helping us understand our place in the world,” says Student Success and Engagement Librarian Haley Lott. “With this perspective, we can build a stronger, more empathetic community that rejects hate and bias and embraces the traits that make us all uniquely human.”

While diversity analysis programs are fairly new in the world of college libraries, LITS staff are setting an example for other academic libraries and are committed to evaluating this data in relation to the unique needs of the Beloit College community.

April 04, 2022

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