Racial justice: For too long, we’ve been part of the problem. Now let’s be part of the solution.

Doe Library reflected
Doe Library and the Campanile are reflected in the window of Moffitt Library. (Photo by J. Pierre Carrillo for the UC Berkeley Library)

Seven out of nine members of the UC Berkeley Library’s executive leadership team are white. Reflecting a history of colonization, the Library’s collections have too often overlooked perspectives of BIPOC or confined them to the margins. Even our physical spaces are reminders of a legacy of oppression, sitting on the territory of Huichin, the unceded ancestral land of the Chochenyo Ohlone.

In many ways, the Library has long strived to be a champion for all — from pioneering a scanning service that creates accessible versions of books to collecting in more than 400 languages to serving as an international leader in the fight for free, immediate access to research.

But in other ways, we’ve fallen short.

For far too long, we have been bystanders when we could have been fighting for change. This is not to say that we have done nothing: Social justice, equal rights, and equal treatment for all have been bedrock principles of the Library as we fulfill our public mission. But we are not going to pretend that we have done nearly enough. Implicit bias ripples throughout our organization, and we can do better to fulfill our promise of inclusivity in how we collect, who we employ, and how we interact with one another.

Here’s how we’ll start:

  • Developing an actionable plan: We created a Task Force on Racial Justice to identify problems, suggest solutions, and hold the organization accountable as we work to address anti-Black actions and injustice against people of color. The task force will develop both initial recommendations and a comprehensive report to help confront the specter of racism in our workplace, in our spaces, and in our services. We will share the reports on our website. The first year of work will be a long-overdue start, not an end.
  • Fixing underlying structures: All standing committees and councils are rethinking and revising their charges to help support the Library’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Engaging the entire organization: All Library employees are now required to complete Berkeley’s introductory training on implicit bias. Members of all search committees must take a class on implicit bias and the hiring process. And all managers and supervisors will complete an expanded six-part series on the influence of implicit bias.

Racism and systemic oppression are centuries-old problems in this country, woven into the fabric of our nation from the very beginning. We recognize that the work that lies ahead will not be easy. Change is a direction, not a destination.

As a Library at a public university, we aim to empower everyone with knowledge in a welcoming, inclusive environment — for our staff and for the community we serve.

Complacency is no longer an option.

We can, and we must, do better.