In an ongoing effort to update and expand the Diversity Research Guide, the Library Diversity Committee recognizes staff diversity work and initiatives.
We envision this page being a rotating spotlight on staff diversity work on projects, collections, or initiatives within the library, museums, or press or any outside diversity, social justice, or inclusion work.
It is becoming increasingly clear that championing diversity and its strengths is crucial at this moment in our nation’s history. From what I understand, historically, diversity with respect to its relation to library operations meant simply adding more diverse materials and resources to our collections to meet the needs of diverse populations. As collections became more diverse over the years, the attention shifted to recruiting a diverse staff and faculty representative of the variety of different perspectives reflected in diverse communities across the nation. Next, we began to think more deeply about the range of diverse voices that we service. We began to strategize methods for improving inclusivity and outreach to individuals coming from marginalized socio-economic statuses, people with non-cisgender identities and diverse sexualities, and those functioning with disabilities. Overall, each of these imperatives has constituted positive and constructive developments, and each has contributed to our larger mission of fostering an ethic of “inclusive excellence.”
Both my research and my teaching here at the University of Delaware center on racial and cultural diversity. I approach the concept of race, for instance, by critically analyzing the various ways in which it has helped to shape both our current institutionally mediated system of knowledge production and the products of scholarship that emerge from it. Not only do I teach how the materiality of books and ephemera has worked to inform our perceptions around race and ethnicity, I also focus on interracial dynamics that contribute to this process of social construction. In “Teaching African American Material Culture with Digital Humanities”—an Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center (IHRC) grant funded course package—I designed two courses that use historic ephemera and bibliographic artifacts from the library’s special collections to examine the themes of race and gender, particularly within the context of Africana studies. We attempt to cognize cultural agency in bibliographic materiality, print production and reader reception reciprocities, and the granular analysis of the otherwise unnoticed personal traces of textual transmission. These are object-oriented courses that search out new ways of looking at multimodal textual artifacts, enabled by the affordances of contemporary digital technologies. I felt it was important, however, to include site visits and museum visits to help contextualize the material and bring the issues surrounding diversity to life.
Teaching these courses is just one way that I demonstrate my commitment to diversity here on campus. I also feel that it is vital to stay connected to the activities that celebrate diversity through University of Delaware’s Diversity Caucuses. In my view, we are consortium of diverse communities united in our intersectionality for the common good of education and learning.
Jesse Ryan Erickson PhD, MLIS
Senior Assistant Librarian and Coordinator of Special Collections and Digital Humanities