U-M Library statement: work against systemic racism

June 10, 2020

The disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 crisis on communities of color, and the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor — and the violent treatment of Sha’Teina Grady El just down the road from us in Ypsilanti Township — are but a few recent manifestations of centuries of systemic racism and violence in our country.

The relentless pain, suffering, and injustice that this systemic racism inflicts upon the Black community, and the damage it causes, is evident and ongoing. We must work for change, and we must shift the burden of this work away from the people being harmed.

At the University of Michigan Library, we’re focusing on both new and longstanding efforts to combat racism and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Among our immediate efforts are: creating safe venues for internal conversations about how racism and bias affect the lives and experiences of the people who work in and visit the library; discussing with the U-M Division of Public Safety and Security how their officers will engage with people in the library when the community returns to campus; and enrolling our supervisors and managers in a multi-part cultural competency program to foster understanding, respect, and communication across cultures and identities.

In keeping with our mission to share knowledge, we are also highlighting resources that can help everyone who is doing anti-racism work. Our undergraduate collections librarian has published an antiracism reading list, and the Peer Inclusive Educator (PIE) Team from Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs compiled a similar list, 10 Ways to be Antiracist. And among our relevant Research Guides are ones covering Diversity, Equity, and InclusionCultural Competence, and Interracial Resources

We’ll also be refreshing and continuing the work set forth in our diversity strategic plan, which commits us to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce and to supporting the recruitment and retention of a diverse student body; serving as the go-to resource for trusted, inclusive, and culturally-informed content and expertise; providing physical and virtual spaces that are accessible and welcoming to all of our constituencies; and providing services that meet each individual at the place from which they arrive — culturally, socially, and academically. 

The library as steward and disseminator of information and knowledge, and as trustee for the public good, has never been more essential, and so it’s essential that we keep the promises — explicit and implied — that we have made to our community.    

Amidst the many uncertainties of this moment, one thing is certain: we have so much more to do. Let’s get to work.


James Hilton
Dean of Libraries


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