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OCULA Council: Statement & actions against anti-Black racism

By OCULA Council

OCULA stands in solidarity with Black people and all those who stand against anti-Black racism, bigotry, and white supremacy in Canada, the US, and around the world. 

Recent protests held across the globe may stem from the latest senseless murders of Black Canadian and American citizens at the hands of white police, but they are also a cumulative response to the systemic racism, violence, and oppression that disproportionately harm and, as we witness time and again, take Black lives. These protests are a call to action.

OCULA is committed to supporting Black people and racialized communities. We will take real, sustainable actions to begin dismantling those systems and structures that unjustly favour some and overtly discriminate against and harm others.

Libraries pride themselves on being open, free, neutral, and responsive institutions, offering collections and community for everyone. In reality, many of our systems and structures are rife with bias and discimination, reflecting a legacy of white supremacy and bigotry. We need look no further than our library classification systems, which marginalize and ghettoize the history and scholarship of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) so that their voices are diminished, difficult to locate, or lost entirely. These systemic injustices are also reflected in the lived experiences of our BIPOC patrons and colleagues, who know that libraries are not safe spaces when they can become the targets of racism and microaggressions within our walls.

We also know that our profession does not reflect the diversity of cultures or communities that make up Canadian society today. Academic librarianship in Canada is predominantly white (CAPAL, 2016).

We cannot ask or rely upon our BIPOC colleagues to carry a disproportionate burden of the work needed to make our libraries and institutions less discriminatory. Rather, it is time for white librarians and library staff to do the difficult but necessary work of dismantling systems, structures, policies, and practices that are racist, exclusionary, and harmful to BIPOC colleagues and communities.

We have included below both the actions that OCULA will take to help make our profession more equitable, as well as a few recommended resources to help begin the work of learning, unlearning, and relearning about equity, diversity, and inclusivity in libraries.

We know that there is much more that can be done, and we are open to your suggestions and feedback. Please join us where you can!

Actions and Recommendations

We share the following links and information in the hope that you will take the time to listen, learn, read, do, and donate (if and where you can).

  1. Read the Ally Toolkit for Canadians, which includes 29 actionable items that BIPOC allies can take, both now and in the future.
  2. Read Desmond Cole’s recently released book The Skin We’re In. Seek it out, recommend its purchase at your library, and get yourself a copy—or read Cole’s 2015 Toronto Life essay that inspired the book: The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times—all because I’m black. Desmond was OCULA’s Spotlight Speaker at OLA Super Conference 2018.
  3. Introduce (or instigate!) conversations with your colleagues and at your institutions about equity, diversity, and inclusion. Ask what tangible steps are being taken by your library to reduce and eliminate discriminatory organizational culture, practices, and policies.
  4. Talk to your children about racism. There are many resources to help you do this: on Instagram, @blackbabybooks provides suggestions for age appropriate books about racism or that feature black protagonists and @theconsciouskid offers advice on “parenting and education through a critical race lens”.

OCULA Actions and Commitments

As your elected Council, we are committed to taking the following actions to share in and continue the work done by Black and racialized colleagues in our libraries and institutions.

  1. Develop an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee. OCULA Council members have recently formed an EDI Committee, which has a mandate to support OCULA members in improving equity, diversity, and inclusion in their libraries.
  2. Engage in open, brave, and sustained discussion about race and racism in the library sector.
    • To inform its priorities, the EDI Committee will host an open discussion to learn what you need from OCULA to support EDI work at your institution.
    • InsideOCULA will launch a new EDI column, elevating BIPOC voices and perspectives and encouraging dialogue on this topic in a permanent, accessible format.
  3. Create an EDI Toolkit. We will equip our members, and in turn our profession, with the knowledge and resources required to make academic libraries more equitable, diverse, and inclusive for everyone.
  4. Make a personal commitment. OCULA Council members will serve as EDI change agents at their respective institutions and in their work.

Members of OCULA Council are your elected representatives, supporting and elevating the work of academic libraries and their staff across Ontario.

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