“To show up imperfectly but open to change is better than not showing up at all”
On Friday 17th July, 76 healthcare knowledge and Library staff joined us for the Black Lives Matter in Health Libraries virtual discussion. It was led by Hong-Anh Nguyen and Natasha Howard who have previously delivered sessions on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion to the healthcare library workforce and have acted as beacons in this work.
Natasha, Hong-Anh and I started to discuss ED&I learning opportunities last year. We wanted to push forward open conversations and galvanise us as a workforce to take more action. It might not come as a surprise that our initial idea was to have face to face workshops across each region, but due to the pandemic we had to explore the idea of doing something virtual. Then the world watched in horror as George Floyd was murdered by the people who were supposed to protect him and the Black Lives Matter movement exploded. I, like many white people or people with privilege, was suddenly uncomfortably aware that I wasn’t doing enough. That I wasn’t being anti-racist and that I needed to take action. Fully confronting your privilege and complicity is a deeply uncomfortable but necessary process, and once you have come to accept it, it is time to get to work. Seeing how many people booked on to this session made me realise that many of us feel the same way and that taking action in our professional lives can help make the changes we so desperately want to embody.
We asked the network which topics you wanted to discuss and we had some great questions. When we looked through them ahead of the event there were some clear themes emerging. These are the main questions that we worked through, although further questions and experiences were shared by participants throughout;
- How can library staff, regardless of level or role, effect positive change and influence upwards where resistance is being met?
- What does it mean to decolonise a library in the healthcare context?
- How can libraries promote their EDI collections and encourage engagement with this topic through the resources they provide?
- What should library collections relating to EDI or BAME groups be called? What language would be most appropriate and least offensive?
From our discussions it was clear that many of us are worried about doing or saying the wrong thing, but the clearest message I took away was to educate myself when feeling unsure. That’s why we have created a reading list of resources for you. This covers a wide range of media (articles, books, podcasts), educational tools to work through, broad themes on the topic to more specific information on diversity in libraries. We have made the recording of the event which is available on request to members of the UK health libraries networks (email your request to the address below). Hopefully these resources will be the starting point for us in taking action in dismantling inequality in health libraries and our workforce.
One of the key things I’ve learnt so far is that it is not the responsibility of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic friends and colleagues to educate us about discrimination they may face to work, nor how our services contribute to that discrimination. Those of us with privilege can undertake that learning ourselves. I have made the commitment to being an ally through a process of lifelong learning. With that comes the understanding that I might not always get it right, but as long as we are trying then change can begin to occur. I hope you will join me.
LKS Development Manager, HEE London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex