A Pledge: Self-Examination and Concrete Action in the JMU Libraries

Posted on: June 9, 2020

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” — Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race 

Black lives matter. Too long have we allowed acts of racism and deeply ingrained, institutionalized forces of white supremacy to devalue, endanger, and grievously harm Black people and members of other minoritized and marginalized groups. State-sanctioned violence and racial terror exist alongside slower and more deep-seated forces of inequality, anti-Blackness, colonization, militarization, class warfare, and oppression.

As members of the JMU Libraries Dean’s Council and Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, we acknowledge these forces to be both national and local, shaping the daily lived experiences of our students, faculty, staff, and community members. As a blended library and educational technology organization operating within a PWI, the JMU Libraries both participates in and is damaged by the whiteness and privilege of our institutions and fields. Supporting the James Madison University community through a global pandemic has helped us see imbalances, biases, and fault lines of inequality more clearly.

We pledge self-examination and concrete action. Libraries and educational technology organizations hold power, and can share or even cede it. As we strive to create welcoming spaces and services for all members of our community, we assert the fundamental non-neutrality of libraries and the necessity of taking visible and real action against the forces of racism and oppression that affect BIPOC students, faculty, staff, and community members.

Specifically, and in order to “fight racism wherever [we] find it, including in [ourselves],” we commit to:

  • Listen to BIPOC and student voices, recognizing that they have long spoken on these issues and have too often gone unheard.
  • Educate ourselves and ask questions of all the work we do. (“To what end? To whose benefit? Whose comfort is centered? Who has most agency and voice? Who is silenced, ignored, or harmed? Who is elevated, honored, and made to feel safe? Who can experience and express joy?”) 
  • Set public and increasingly measurable goals related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism, so that we may be held accountable.
  • Continue to examine, revise, and augment our collections, services, policies, spending patterns, and commitments, in order to institutionalize better practices and create offerings with enduring impact.
  • Learn from, and do better by, our own colleagues.

We are a predominantly white organization and it is likely that we will make mistakes as we try to live up to this pledge. When that happens, we will do the work to learn and rectify. We will apologize, examine our actions and embedded power structures, attempt to mitigate any harm caused by our actions, and we will do better.

Signatories 

Dr. Bethany Nowviskie
Dean of Libraries, Professor of English, & Senior Academic Technology Officer, JMU

Dr. Brian Flota
Associate Professor, Humanities Librarian, Library Faculty Assembly Representative, JMU Libraries

Kristen Shuyler
Director of Communications and Outreach, Associate Professor, JMU Libraries

Dr. Aaron Noland
Assistant Dean of Libraries, Assistant Professor, JMU

Zach Sensabaugh
Music Library Assistant, Outgoing Staff Advisory Council Representative, JMU Libraries

Mark Lane
Digital Preservation Librarian, Assistant Professor, Libraries Leadership Group Representative, JMU Libraries

Stefanie Warlick
Interim Associate Dean of Libraries, Professor, JMU

Kelly Miller-Martin
Director of Facilities Operations, JMU Libraries

Andrea Adams
Interim Associate Dean of Libraries, Associate Professor, JMU

Liana Bayne
Libraries Administrative Assistant, JMU

Bill Hartman
Director of Technology, JMU Libraries

Kevin Hegg
Director of Digital Projects, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member, JMU Libraries

Jess Garmer
Educational Technology Instructor, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member, JMU Libraries

Karen Snively
JMU Music Library Services Manager, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member

April Beckler
Reserves Coordinator & Interlibrary Loan Borrowing, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Member, JMU Libraries

Hillary Ostermiller
Communication & Media Studies Librarian, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Vice Chair, JMU Libraries

Alyssa Valcourt
Science & Math Librarian, Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair, JMU Libraries

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