Home 9 Full Text Articles 9 Optimizing Library Services — Library Collections and DEIA: Progress and Opportunities

Optimizing Library Services — Library Collections and DEIA: Progress and Opportunities

by | Jul 18, 2022 | 0 comments


By Ms. Julia Gelfand  (Applied Sciences, Engineering, & Public Health Librarian, UCI Libraries, University of California – Irvine, USA)  and Ms. Sarah Lester  (Librarian, College of Engineering, Kennedy Library, California Polytechnic State University) 

Column Editors:  Ms. Genevieve Robinson  (Director of Content Solutions, IGI Global) and Ms. Cheyenne Heckermann  (Marketer, IGI Global) 

Against the Grain V34#3

Column Editor’s Note:  Recognizing the continued challenges librarians face around the necessity for implementing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA), Julia Gelfand, Applied Sciences, Engineering, & Public Health Librarian, and Sarah Lester, College of Engineering Librarian, write about progress and opportunities in integrating DEIA in library practices and selection decisions.  As a stalwart supporter of the DEIA movement, IGI Global can collaborate with institutions on transformative agreements in support of social justice, and offers a selection of DEIA titles, including our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion e-Book Collection.  40% of IGI Global’s researchers come from non-western countries. — CH & GR

Earlier columns have addressed different aspects of how to optimize library services that will promote, encourage and support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) and whether library collections are indeed acquiring diverse content.  By combining those themes, nearly a year later, after two years of a pandemic, and the social uprising following the murder of George Floyd, we ask what current actions are being taken in libraries and whether the DEIA movement is indeed showing any new focus or differences in relationships with publishers and information providers. 

More recently, we saw some of the controversies erupting across the national horizon when Senators sitting on the Judiciary Committee questioned a new Supreme Court Justice nominee about content found in school and public libraries because of the covered social issues.  These Senators cannot imagine how young and old Americans are currently struggling with these stories and information, and they are calling for the removal of these texts.  This narrow determination of why citizens can’t choose what sources they want to read, rather than have access to only materials that are pre-selected by a radical few who share a belief system that may be in dire opposition to one’s own values is mystifying and politically biased.  Banned Book Week is another example of noting what titles and content are being removed from the public by those that think that they can determine what readers can choose to read.  In their 2021 ten most challenged books list, the ALA reported the highest number of books banned in a single year (729) since 2020.  By celebrating and sharing those titles, including works by beloved authors such as Maya Angelou, it allows people to understand the ways banning eliminates readers from having choices to learn, explore and make their own decisions about the lives they want to live.  The entire notion of not giving the public the choice of what they want to read at the time of need dilutes the democratic principles of public education, lifelong-learning and responses to inquisitiveness.  The result increases limits and restricts access to issues of social concern, identity models, and other human conditions with which not everyone is always comfortable.  This is especially troubling in what we like to consider a safe environment:  the library.  Where else do people go but to libraries and published scholarship to read and explore more about whatever they choose to learn?

The roles of libraries are changing as libraries define their sense of relevance to their stakeholders, be it elected civic officials, library trustees and regents, and school and campus administrators.  It is more than just library collections that must be addressed by taking actions changing the balance of equity, diversity and inclusion in libraries and in publishing.  When referring to library collections, we need to consider the entire infrastructure of where those collections reside, what they contain, who selects and processes them, how they are made accessible and marketed to readers and from where they came.  The latter refers to the publishing world which also shares some of the weaknesses of a large global enterprise in that it is led by mostly highly educated white leaders.  The ALA Policy Manual states:

“Diversity is a fundamental value of association and its members, and is reflected in its commitment to recruiting people of color with disabilities to the profession and to the promotion and development of library collections and services for all people.”

Addressing disparities among role models in academic settings will contribute to advancing opportunities for new generations of students to consider options for their own careers and also for giving back or paying forward the chances they can realize when demographic disparities are reduced.  Mentorship goes a long way in promoting chances for career exploration and advancement.  Together libraries and publishers have begun to discuss such concerns by assessing their lists and looking inward at their staffs and decisionmakers, holding webinars and conferences that look at how systemic some of these issues are and what can remedy them.  The entire scholarly communications horizon suggests that by embracing more openness with structures, procedures and outputs, barriers are reduced and access increases.  Amy Brandt, Director of the MIT Press, stated at the 2020 NISO Plus Conference, “Open is not enough,” as we must “question the ownership and diversity of research infrastructure.  The future of knowledge depends on building an open and diverse research infrastructure.” 

Library collections have morphed to different heights during the pandemic with greater reliance on digital resources and responding to how to best reflect the values inspired by diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA).  As many libraries continue to develop strategic planning processes and incorporate a DEIA component, we are observing how this contributed to actionable work in libraries.  Writing from the perch of academic libraries, and reflecting on the last two years, the most pressing issues include the following elements to be discussed in more detail.  Diversity shows itself in many different aspects of library collections and implies embracing differences.  Content comes from a variety of sources — large and small commercial publishers, university presses, scholarly societies, government agencies, non-profit bodies, and self-published works.  Scholarly content also finds itself well published by commercial publishers which can afford to pay out larger signing bonuses and royalties for content sold than other more typical scholarly publishers.  The range of diversity extends differently between books or monographs and journals and varies among disciplines.  Still, authors and editors are mostly from privileged white backgrounds.  It is important for libraries to work with smaller publishers who have made it a point to ensure that their authorship includes a more diverse range of backgrounds.  In academe, we see the humanities in an ongoing crisis with less demand, STM publishing intensifies in the serials marketplace, and digital initiatives proliferate in both the humanities and sciences.  The rise of the business major has shifted interests and collections across academe.  It also is visible in the closer alignment of business information resources with other subject matter.  When libraries assess their commitments to diversity they examine the following elements:

• Authorship — Are underrepresented, marginalized or indigenous authors growing in the library’s  collection? Are women, people of color, from different parts of the world, who are giving new voices to experiences and are  able to tell their stories without being highly edited by “white elites” in publishing houses primarily in the US or Britain?

• Language — Are we using less stereotypical descriptors to define sourcing like not relying upon terms such as third world, underdeveloped, or marginalized, but will consider using southern hemisphere, global south/north, developing nations, and Sub-Sahara, where distinctions of economics are used that are not demeaning, patronizing and categorically inaccurate. 

Equity recognizes that the way readers and users access materials may differ based on various limitations be it socioeconomic, educational opportunity, or location.  In many ways the increase in availability of open access (OA) materials decreases these limitations.  However, because of the digital divide, much of that is still dependent upon programs that provide free or low-cost access to the internet, computers and technology overall.

Inclusion may be reflected with multilingual, multi-format content that allows readers and users to access content in original submitted languages as well as via translation and to gain the special attributes of sound, texture, relationships that one can detect with film, objects, audio, and mixed media.  Recognizing talents of authors, actors, performers, and creators who are sighted, deaf, or have any form of disability opens up a landscape of output that should be considered as any other submission for its merits.  The translation is for all to “participate fully, be respected, and be treated in an equitable manner.”  (Creating a Social Justice Mindset: Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice in the Collections Directorate of the MIT Libraries, 2017:8).

Accessibility has always included providing support to students who need special attention for visual impairments, hearing losses, mobility issues.  We are now challenged by how to provide access to new technology as well.

For representation in literature, we have learned a lot from the recent Black Lives Matter movements about racial stereotyping, gender and sexuality identification, religious freedoms, bringing up the fact that we need to hear from a range of populations authoring such materials and being the subject of that content. 

Social Justice, probably the component most left off the checklist, expands on the under-represented side and forces issues about analysis, understanding, filling gaps in history, not repeating the past and urges the discussion of fairness, equity, and inclusion in the way we talk about history, race, and academia.

Regarding affordability, the cost of books and journals for libraries has skyrocketed amidst reduced budgets.  Textbooks have challenged students to go without and libraries are not always able to provide access to or license eBooks needed for remote instruction due to publishers who saw their potential revenue models erode when individual students’ purchasing declined. 

Library materials budgets have not kept up with inflation much less provided room to expand collections.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) have shifted mindsets for faculty to either create or use materials that are already in library collections to use in classroom teaching reducing the costs for educational materials by relying on new content released by open publishing initiatives.  This is one example of expanding the open movements that include open access, open data, open source, open peer review, and many other ways to launch openness in how we engage, communicate, collaborate and conduct ourselves while rethinking traditional business models. 

Scholarly Communications take on best practices for how to treat scholarly outputs and offer a future for new beginnings by creating new partnerships.  This includes campus publishing opportunities.  Institutional repositories have made OA copies of published outputs and scholarship available to readers behind the paywall and provides a space for institutions to emphasize why OA mandates can be achieved.  Additionally, libraries and institutions can work with small- and medium-sized publishers, including IGI Global, to collaborate on a unique and tailored publishing agreement that includes OA options.

Transforming new operational models are guiding models to achieve these goals and include the following practices at many libraries: 

• Collection Development Diversity Statements are more plentiful and common indicating how “Values-based diversity has a valid place in libraries’ strategic thinking,” and is broadening the understanding of “diversity of thought, diversity in approach, and diversity in ideas.” (Harris, 2014). 

• Collection Strategies Diversity Statements–such as from MIT Collections Directorate and other policy statements

• Appoint Library Diversity Officers to assure that all library employees are fully cognizant of practicing DEIA objectives, and that library services and collections share such a commitment

• Train staff to be experts in global gender equality to the extent possible

• Expand the sourcing of materials to reflect DEIA principles, adding materials from non-traditional sources and venues, promoting them to wider user communities

• Review author credits making sure greater representation of authors/editors/contributors reflect all forms of diversity to ensure that publications are reflective of the breadth of researchers working in these areas rather than tokenizing individual BIPOC researchers.

• Increase the scope of coverage within curricular and subject guidelines to reflect DEIA to the extent needed for library user community showcasing student body profiles and demographics 

• Highlight DEIA actions so that library users and readers become aware of these inclusions

• Offer ways for library users to become more aware of resources and content that meet their information needs though library guides, exhibits, programming, and basic services

• Promote range of Open Practices in all information use, knowledge creation, publishing options and career aspirations

• Contribute to the shaping of the collections that publishers and information providers are compiling to address DEIA themes–the idea of a collection may be an easy fix, but is not always the only solution to easy collection development decisions, when librarians may want to select content more independently that meets their institution’s specific policy goals.  By having increased flexibility for acquiring, spending resources and building collection breadth and depth is highly individualized by a library’s collection scope.

• Relationship building with publishing partners who share DEIA commitments as well as open practices that lead to transformative agreements, and other mutually shared values.

As Science and Engineering Librarians, we are committed to the efforts our colleagues are engaged in through professional affiliations, like those of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) which has a Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and is working to:

“1) increase visibility and discussion of DEI issues;  2) develop guidance to foster inclusive environments in which all engineers thrive;  and 3) facilitate and encourage adaptation of strategies to promote the empowerment of all through the work of the commission, guided by the CDEI strategic framework.”

We expect these goals to translate into programming, instructional and publishing outputs from this society as well as its many sister associations with tracking to measure its work and impact in these critical areas.  In addition, we expect to stay informed about efforts underway that contribute to new and novel ways to consider and incorporate DEIA activities in collections.  Something to look forward to is the work underway at the University of Toronto, where a team of science librarians are exploring how equity, diversity, and inclusion in collection development practices in STEM fields that will address:

• Where should we focus our “EDI” efforts in collection development practices in STEM areas?

• How can we increase practical knowledge, authenticity, and accountability among STEM librarians with collection development responsibilities while acknowledging the complexity and multidimensional aspect of EDI? (contact Naz Torabi at <naz.torabi@utoronto.ca>) 

We must do our own parts to promote DEIA principles in our own library collections, with users, potential authors and future generations of readers.

In all these areas progress has been made, but our collective work remains.  Publishers, researchers, and librarians have shown a desire to improve conditions for users with marginalized identities.  There are notable efforts to better understand the ways that libraries have contributed to social structures that uphold white supremacy.


Baildon, M., et al (2017).  Creating a Social Justice Mindset: Diversity, Inclusion, and social Justice in the collections Directorate of the MIT Libraries.  https://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/108771.

Brand, A. (2020).  The Other I-Word: Infrastructure and the Future of Knowledge.  Inaugural address of NISO Plus Conference, February 25.  https://niso.cadmoremedia.com/Title/d92d5178-20b2-4ba8-9682-2923f63ad211.

Harris, RC. (2014).  Quoted in Eyeing the New Diversity: An Emerging Paradigm for Recruitment and Retention by Alexia Hudson-Ward.  American Libraries, August 18.  https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2014/08/18/eyeing-the-new-diversity/.

“National Library Week kicks off with State of America’s Libraries Report, annual ‘Top 10 Most Challenged Books’ list and a new campaign to fight book bans”, American Library Association, April 4, 2022.  http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2022/04/national-library-week-kicks-state-america-s-libraries-report-annual-top-10.

Recommended Reading

Kauffman, Rhonda & Anderson, Martina. (2020).  Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Library Technical Services.  In Stacey Marien, ed.  Library Technical Services: Adapting to a Changing Environment.  West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University, 213-236.  https://www.opencommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1070&context=libr_pubs.

Roh, C., Inefuku, H., Sugimoto, C. and Gelfand, J. (2021).  Diversity in Scholarly Publishing: Creating a More Inclusive Future.  Virtual program of the ACRL Publications Coordinating Council presented at ALA 2021.  https://www.eventscribe.net/2021/ALA-Annual/fsPopup.asp?Mode=presInfo&PresentationID=872177.

Green, H., Roh, C., Shorish, Y., York, M. and Schaffner, M. (2022).  Community-Based Solutions to Shared Challenges: Innovating Together for Inclusion, Equity, and Justice in Scholarly Communications.  Panel Discussion, Project Muse Meets, April 5.

Column Editor’s End Note:  If you are interested in learning how you can support your faculty’s DEIA research efforts in DEIA, visit our Accessibility and Assistive Technologies, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Gifted and Special Education, Religious and Indigenous Studies, Women’s Studies, and other Emerging Topic e-Collections pages for information on coverage and more.  For questions or assistance on these e-Collections, title lists, or transformative agreements, contact <eresources@igi-global.com>.  


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