The Amherst College Library is dedicated to the ideals of justice and solidarity that are central to the pursuit of a more equitable Amherst College and broader world. As individuals and as an organization, we are committed to honestly facing the history and current state of our professional field, which reflects the biases of the dominant culture in which we exist. Despite assertions to the contrary, libraries are not neutral spaces. We are not neutral actors within them. Our library has been a site where students have voiced the pain, isolation, and marginalization they’ve faced as they navigate racist and discriminatory structures in their lives and here at Amherst, structures that also negatively impact staff and faculty. We continue to learn from students, our broader campus community, and each other as we evaluate our work and practices in an effort to address structural inequities, and we ask our community to partner with us in this process.
Many of us have chosen to work in libraries and archives because they can be spaces of positive connection and community support. At their best, libraries are places of learning and growth, where a commitment to openness and equitable access are key to building an atmosphere of trust and integrity in which all members of the community are valued. We see these commitments reflected in organizational statements of ethics and values, including the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association, and the Core Values of Librarianship, as well as in scholarship and work happening in our field today. These statements provide a context for how we as library workers approach diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we acknowledge that these values are sometimes in tension, requiring us to approach each situation with care and consideration. We want to ensure that the work of the Amherst College Library embodies the highest of these ideals.
We are striving to become a library that is truly a space of community learning, sharing, joy, and belonging. One way we realize this vision is through library-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Reflecting on and reckoning with the ways that libraries have been sites of alienation, racism, erasure, and oppression informs the necessary changes we are making towards inclusivity, justice, and equity. Further, this work enables us to be more present for one another and strengthens the library’s ability to be an active site for enacting the college’s anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, including serving as the home of the ongoing Racial History of Amherst College.
As we make our way through an ongoing, dynamic strategic planning process, we seek to integrate these values and practices into all areas of our work. Together, library staff have identified ways to align our work with this vision and our values, and we have begun making changes at the level of policy, collections, programs, descriptive practices, research pedagogy, cataloging systems, and publishing that center diversity, equity and inclusion. This work is happening across all library departments and in partnership with others across campus, and we will continue to provide updates on changes, progress, opportunities for involvement, and ongoing actions and intentions in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
We are accountable to one another. We can only do this work well in partnership with our community, and we are committed to working collaboratively as we continue to move toward justice. Please contact the Library Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee (https://www.amherst.edu/library/services/requestforms/comments/) or the Director of the Library (email@example.com) with questions, thoughts, or concerns related to this work and these commitments.
Amherst College Librarians assembled a research guide that focuses on resources for the study of racial justice in the U.S. It is a work in progress and will continue to be updated. This guide is by no means exhaustive and is limited to items that Amherst College Library can provide remote access to. If you would like for us to add a related book or film, please send your suggestion to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Amherst Anti-Racism Plan, released on 3 August 2020, President Martin noted the need for a historical study of the College’s ties to slaveholding and to capital accumulation based on slavery. In addition, she called for a racial history of the college extending into present times. To coordinate and disseminate research on the college’s racial past, President Martin has formed a Steering Committee on the Racial History of Amherst College.
Much of the work of the Steering Committee and the first cohorts of Racial History Research Assistants has been based in the Archives & Special Collections in Frost Library. Mike Kelly, the Head of the Archives, is the co-chair of the Steering Committee. This website is regularly updated with research findings, reading suggestions, and other information about the Racial History of Amherst College: https://rhac.wordpress.amherst.edu/