University of East London Libraries: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Best Practice
University of East London (UEL) comprises three campuses in the Borough of Newham with one library at the Stratford campus and one at the Docklands campus. Newham is one of the poorest boroughs in London and one of the most adversely impacted by COVID19. The University has a 70% black, Asian, and global majority (BAGM) student population and a staff population of almost 70% white. Most of the students are the first in their families to attend university.
The library team works collaboratively with partners across the institution and the wider sector to improve the outcomes of BAGM students and the representation of BAGM staff in the HE sector and our profession. Here are some examples of work undertaken by the library team to embed equality, diversity and inclusion in our daily professional practice.
Work on the Race Equality Charter
In May 2019, the University of East London was awarded a Bronze award for the Race, Equality Charter (REC). Managed by AdvanceHE, the charter provides a framework for institutions to reflect on and act to remove the obstacles to success for BAGM staff and students. University of East London is working through an ambitious action plan to improve the outcomes for students, enhance BAGM representation in staffing at all levels, and become an anti-racist institution. The library team evidences commitment to this work through collaboration with partners across the institution to meet the objectives of the action plan. The work of the library team includes:
- Collaborating with academic and sector-wide colleagues to curate collections that include diverse theories and thinking beyond the Eurocentric view and making these discoverable on our online catalogue.
- Collaborating with students and academic colleagues to assess and enhance reading lists to challenge thinking as well as reflect the lives of our students.
- Participating in and/or hosting reading groups to discuss critical race theory and works by diverse and silenced voices.
Library team members participate in wider institution networks such as the BAME Network, Women’s Network, LGBTQ+ Network, and the Black Academy, which is a network of BAGM professionals focused on social justice and providing positive role models for students. Collaborative programmes delivered with these networks include:
- ‘A Place to Breathe’ and ‘…And Still I Rise’ – Forums for students and staff to discuss the killing of George Floyd and the impacts of COVID19 on BAGM communities. As part of these events, a list of resources on critical race theory was shared on a library Teams channel.
- ‘Paris is Burning’ – A viewing of the film and discussion about race and sexuality.
- ‘Black Tudors: The Untold Story’ – A question and answer session with Dr. Miranda Kaufmann about her research on this important work.
Library team members work with external networks on EDI initiatives to positively impact our professional practice. These initiatives include:
- Conference on ‘decolonisation of academic libraries’ – Working in collaboration with Birkbeck University of London and Goldsmiths University of London, team members brought together colleagues from across the sector to share theories and practice.
- SCONUL research – Staff members participated in the research to understand the experiences of BAGM staff members in academic and research libraries.
- Forums for BAGM staff – Staff members host and participate in forums for BAGM staff members to network and exchange information about professional practice and career progression.
More Work to Do
Although work on the REC has fostered an environment where it is okay (though still challenging) to discuss race, the mismatch between BAGM staff representation, particularly at senior level, and the demographics of students persist. Recruitment practices, therefore, come into sharp focus. The institution operates a ‘blind’ shortlisting approach, where initials (rather than full names) are shown on the shortlisting forms and demographic information is not foregrounded. However, more work is needed as follows:
- Widen the advertising net so that we are not trawling the same pool of candidates.
- Consider variable routes into the profession such as apprenticeships or reconsider qualifications required to enter or progress within the profession.
- Identify and develop untapped talent within our services.
- Continually monitor the demographics and progression of staff within the service to evaluate impact of EDI initiatives.