On Tuesday, February 23, the Baylor Libraries released a statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of its vision and mission.
"The Baylor University Libraries commit to increase diversity, recognize, value, respect, and empower all members of our community. We actively challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination. We commit to a policy of equal opportunity to resources, services, and spaces for all persons. The library is a place where differences are welcomed, people are nurtured, all perspectives are heard, and every individual feels a sense of belonging. Cultural environments evolve and our commitment is both an imperative and a shared responsibility. Such work is continuous and contributes to the flourishing of our communities."
"Diversity, equity, and inclusion stand at the heart of library culture," said Jeffry Archer, dean of the Baylor University Libraries. "Libraries are open spaces of inquiry and conversation that welcome and provide access to a wide array of perspectives across academic disciplines. Collectively our print collections, online journals, digital archives, and public spaces should reflect the full range of human understanding and experience."
In November 2019, interim dean of libraries John Wilson convened an internal committee charged with developing a statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion that would enhance the mission of the Baylor Libraries. Over a two-year period, the DEI committee challenged themselves with readings, presentations, and conversations that resulted in an aspirational statement to guide the work and shape the culture of the Baylor Libraries. This statement was distributed for internal comment among library leadership and employees and, following administrative review, was released to the public.
"Our team is encouraged by the movement of the Baylor Libraries to evolve with the needs of our diverse community," said DEI committee member Sylvia Hernandez. "This statement will lead us forward as we grow in our cultural understanding and provide an environment that will embrace our differences."
Committee members included Sylvia Hernandez, Andrew Telep, Carlye Thornton, Jonathan Tomes, Vedana Vaidhyanathan, and Ethel Walton.
This statement complements ongoing diversity initiatives and projects within the Libraries:
- The Libraries are committed to increase diversity among its employees. Working in concert with the American Library Association, as positions are available for hire the Libraries will strive to attract a diverse candidate pool as part of its competitive hiring process.
- Since 2005, the Baylor Libraries have been home to the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project. The goal of this project is to collect and digitally preserve black gospel music from the "golden era" (1945-1975). Over 3,000 black gospel tracks are currently available to stream.
- Work is underway on a Black Gospel Archive and Listening Center in Moody Memorial Library. Over $200,000 is being invested to create this space that will visualize African-American culture in a heavily used library space. The listening center provides a space for scholars to access materials in the black gospel music and developing black preaching collection.
- In concert with the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, the Baylor Libraries have hosted the Pruit Symposium which has gathered scholars invested in researching black sacred music. The 9th annual symposium, "Lord, Don't Move the Mountain: Women's Voices in Gospel Songs and Hymns," will be held with presentations on Feb, 25, Mar. 2., and Mar. 9.
- The Libraries will actively work to increase the diversity of perspectives of its collections, particularly in the humanities and social sciences.
- Exhibitions of curated collections throughout the Libraries are being developed with an eye toward the diversity of our holdings and the Baylor community. Recent exhibits include a map of Baylor's Waco campus drawn in 1939 by Enrique H. Ramirez, a book art exhibit by Alisa Banks, and a coming art exhibition by Baylor Lady Bear Trinity Oliver.
Now that this iteration of the DEI statement is released, the committee will join Baylor's broader efforts to provide opportunities for learning and engagement that will develop a sustainable culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the Libraries.
The vision and mission of the Baylor Libraries is available at baylor.edu/library/mission.