IACRL Introduces New DEI Task Force

Illinois Association of College & Research Libraries Forum (IACRL)

March 17, 2021

by Elena Carrillo, University of Illinois Chicago

Diversity equity inclusion image

On February 12, 2021, Emily Gilbert, Vice President/President Elect of IACRL called the first meeting of the IACRL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force. The task force consists of five members and two co-chairs from all across the organization. The members are: Firouzeh Rismiller, Instructional Services Librarian and the liaison to the Departments of English and Writing, Rhetoric, & Discourse at DePaul University; Dee Anna Phares, Assistant Professor and Social Sciences and Humanities Librarian from Northern Illinois University; Rob Morrison, Dean of Library & Learning Support at National Louis University; Elena Carrillo, Clinical Assistant Professor and Head Librarian of Access Services at the University of Illinois Chicago; and Laura Barnes, Sustainability Information Curator and Strategic Communications Coordinator for the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center in Champaign. 

The co-chairs for the committee are Gwen Gregory, Associate Dean of Collections at Northern Illinois University, and Olia Sweiss, Librarian from Midwestern Career College (and the subject of this issue’s Member Spotlight). 

Using the ILA Diversity Committee charge and objective as a model to work from, the first important duty of the group was to develop a charge and set of guidelines preliminary to creating an agenda of goals and objectives. This initial charge was submitted to the Executive Board on March 8, 2021, and as of this writing is awaiting approval. 

In communicating with Co-chair Gwen Gregory, she discussed the many challenges with regard to DEI work in academic libraries, noting that they could “vary depending on the institution'', but also that large problems may also be endemic, noting that some of these include “equity in status and treatment of workers, structural racism as reflected in our collections and policies, and the demographics of our profession.” Gregory believes IACRL has long relied on its support and network relationships with organizations like CARLI, ILA, RAILS, and IHLS, which can be further leveraged for communications and professional development specifically related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She also noted that the IACRL listserv and newsletter are tools that help bolster connections and facilitate discourse across the state. 

“I have been fortunate to work with a diverse group of supportive and engaged colleagues at several libraries,” Gregory said of her past experience with DEI initiatives. In addition to learning and participating on task forces and committees in the workplace, she continues this work outside of the library as well. “In the past few years, I participated in several online DEI-focused courses that helped me to better understand myself and my world,” she said. “I have also served as a coach for community college students in Chicago, which gave me a deeper personal understanding of the experiences of some in our society. I now try to share the privilege I know I have with others, whether colleagues I mentor or students I interact with on campus.”

When I asked Gwen for a reading recommendation for her fellow library employees interested in broadening their understanding of DEI, she recommended that everyone should read a “wide variety of authors.” She said: “If you like science fiction, seek out books by black, Asian, trans, and indigenous authors. Same with mysteries or romances.”  For an interesting take on this idea, try the American Indian Library Association’s Read Native 2021 Challenge.”  If you’re not sure where to begin with Native American and Indigenous work, Oprah has compiled a list of 31 Best Native American Authors to Read in 2021 to get you started.

While the DEI Task Force works on determining next steps and setting their agenda, there are some things the group passionately agrees upon: this work is essential and will be on-going. Updates from this new initiative will be forthcoming!


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