By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–In a ceremony by turns solemn and uplifting, interim Chancellor Dr. Kathryn Girten cut the ribbon to officially open the new Social Justice and Diversity Collection in the IU Southeast Library.
The collection is dedicated to the memory of Ms. Breonna Taylor, a 26-year old EMT nurse from Louisville killed by law enforcement officers in 2020. Taylor’s death, along with that of George Floyd, murdered by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ignited nationwide protests over longstanding racial injustice, and resulted in the rejection of so-called no-knock warrants in Kentucky.
It contains books that honor a range of diverse identities and ethnicities. The titles can be found on the Library’s website at libguides.ius.edu/socialjustice.
As Dr. Girten observed, it looks like America.
The collection was the brainchild of Dr. James “Joey” Wilkerson, director of staff equity and diversity and deputy Title IX coordinator at IU Southeast. The idea emerged during a virtual town hall in which the IU Southeast community gathered and discussed the protests in Louisville and social justice more broadly.
Following the town hall, Wilkerson began collaborating with the Library team led by Courtney Block, instruction, reference and user engagement librarian. This team, which included Block’s colleagues Libbie McMahan, Phyllis Nachand, and Melanie Hughes, and was supported by Library Director Kate Moore, set about creating a dedicated space in which to highlight books on topics of social justice and diversity. Students also lent a helping hand: Haley Feigel created a digital guide to the collection, and Caleb Brison helped move shelves and arrange the contents. The collection comprises 78 volumes, divided into three sections, one each for children, young adults and adults. Each section contains 26 books, to honor Taylor’s all-too-brief life.
In her remarks, Dr. Girten commended the staff on assembling a resource for all.
“As it grows, this collection will give courage, hope, and most importantly tools to those seeking or fighting for acceptance, inclusion and empowerment,” Dr. Girten said. “And to those who have grown up—or are still in the process of growing up–in privilege of all kinds, this collection will hold up a mirror, providing context to understand today’s conversations around social justice, and offering tools to make our community, our nation and our world a fairer place.”
Dr. Wilkerson paid tribute to the collaborative spirit that turned an idea into a reality.
“The Social Justice and Diversity Collection is the culmination of almost two years of work between my office and our library,” Wilkerson said. “It gives our diversity, equity and inclusion work a physical literary center on campus.”
Block observed that libraries across the country have not always been hospitable places for people of color, making it even more important that today’s libraries remain dedicated to representation and diversity, and continue to offer resources that urge patrons to pay attention to issues surrounding equality and social justice.
“Libraries today are not only places of learning and access to resources,” Block said. “They are gathering places and social centers that help foster a sense of community and belongingness.”
Homepage photo by Hannah Heffley.