Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Part One: Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
SLIS actively encourages students of multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual backgrounds to apply. Our student body represents a wide range of nationalities, ethnicities, languages, and ages.
In addition to being a founding principle of Simmons College, inclusion and diversity are major facets of the 2015 Strategic Plan of the American Library Association (ALA), the largest library association in the world. We’re working to increase diversity within our school, and, by, extension, our profession.
The SLIS Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, assembled in 2016, works to develop recommendations to the Dean on increasing access to all SLIS resources, devising methods to gather timely feedback on issues of inclusion and student well-being, and researching best practices on faculty and staff development around diversity and inclusion. The Task Force is also a point of connection between students and the Dean, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part Two: Diversity Grant
In Summer 2014, Lisa Hussey and Em Claire Knowles (SLIS) along with Johnnie Hamilton-Mason (School of Social Work) and two students were awarded a grant from the President’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, entitled "Cultural Competence, Collaboration, and Courage: Understanding and Overcoming Institutional Racism." The grant funded collaborative programming and training for the entire Simmons community to raise awareness about diversity and inclusion.
Drs. Hussey, Knowles, and Hamilton-Mason reported on their progress in a collaborative program during the 2015 joint Simmons alumni/professional day event on March 21, 2015. Some of these activities included weekly/bi-weekly anti-racism study group meetings; dinners for ethnically diverse students; and an outside speaker who spoke on the subject of "What Should Archivists Know about Doing History." In Spring 2015, Dr. Hussey made a presentation on racial microaggressions to the faculty.
Part Three: Faculty and Staff Expertise
Dr. Lisa Hussey focuses her research on the subjects of diversity, management and leadership within the LIS profession. She primarily teaches courses on management for LIS professionals, reference and information services, and ethics and diversity within the LIS field.
Dr. Em Claire Knowles serves as the Assistant Dean for Student and Alumni Affairs at SLIS. Her area of academic and research interest include user instruction, the recruitment of the underrepresented in the LIS profession, and diversity and employment trends. She has collaborated with Myrna Morales (UIUC) and Chris Bourg (MIT) on, "Diversity, Social Justice, and the Future of Libraries" in Portal: Libraries and the Academy, vol. 14, No, 3 (2014) pp. 439-451.
Part Four: Increasing Diversity in the Student Population
In summer 2007, Simmons-SLIS was awarded $26,480 from the Simmons’ Diversity Council (TDC) to increase the number of students of color in the Archives Management Program through recruitment and retention. The project includes mentoring and practical work experience for students. Six students have benefited from this effort. Dean Emerita Michele Cloonan matched that funding with a $15,750 scholarship for one student. The Simmons College Archives, part of the Simmons Library, offered internships and opportunities to these students thanks to the support of Library Director, Daphne Harrington.
Since the inception of the ALA Spectrum Initiative Scholarship program sponsored by the American Library Association, Simmons has successfully recruited over forty scholars, one of the highest numbers amongst LIS programs. Past Spectrum Scholars have been active in promoting the Spectrum program by holding annual fundraisers. We take pride in the contributions of these students as active leaders on campus and in the profession. Simmons College has matched the $6,500 Spectrum awards for each student to cover the cost of two courses.
In the last four award cycles, the following Simmons students were awarded Spectrum Scholarships:
- 2016-2017: Marcela Aristizabal, Meia Geddes, Nancy Loi, Arielle Petrovich, and Ayoola White (ProQuest Scholar)
- 2015-2016: Priya Charry, N. Suzana Chilaka, Joyce Gabiola, Hannah Mills, and Sara Powell
- 2014-2015: Dhyana Berry and Darren Young
- 2013-2014: Anastasia Green, Micha Broadnax, Ashley Dean, and Andrea Devlin.
In 2016, a new fellowship was established, with a focus on diversity. The Dean's Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives assists in planning activities and events related to diversity, social justice, and inclusion. The Fellow's responsibilities include attending the monthly SLIS student leaders meeting, maintaining and updating the SLIS webpage on Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, identifying, advertising, and promoting workshops, lectures, etc on related topics to the SLIS community, assisting in planning alternative spring break activities related to social justice, creating a resource and reading list on diversity, social justice, and inclusion in LIS, creating exhibits on diversity issues for SLIS displays, and contributing to the Simmons Diversity Archives project with the College Archivist.
Part Five: Bias-Response Protocol
In Fall 2016, Simmons College implemented a Bias Response Protocol to inform, instruct and support those who have been affected by bias. The Protocol includes instructions for reporting an incident or concern via a secure web form on the Simmons website, or anonymous reporting through EthicsPoint. These services are available to faculty, staff, and students of Simmons.
Part Six: Additional Diversity Events and Initiatives
- Simmons SLIS has hosted the monthly meetings of the Massachusetts Black Librarians Network, Inc., for over 15 years.
- The Trejo Conference, which brought together LIS professionals from a variety of practice areas to present their experiences and promote field-tested strategies for engaging Hispanic/Latino populations in outreach, library, and information literacy activities, was held at Simmons in November 2010.
- From 2005-2014, the Library and Information Science Student Association (LISSA) planned Alternative Spring Break activities with urban schools. LISSA solicited volunteers to collect books and organize events. Spearheading the initiative were LISSA officers, Massachusetts School Library Association-SIG, and other SLIS students.
- Diversity Summits and ongoing lectures (2000-2005) included invited speakers such as DeEtta Jones of the Association of Research Libraries, who spoke about incorporating diversity concerns into strategic planning, and Robert Martin of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), who spoke to the SLIS community about diversity initiatives in IMLS and in the LIS field. These summits allowed the Simmons SLIS and wider professional community to continue the dialog on ways to improve diversity at Simmons.
- Simmons SLIS coordinated two service learning opportunities at the Boys and Girls Club of Boston in Charlestown, which offers accessible and affordable after-school time programming to children and teens. Students, faculty, and staff volunteered in March and June of 2016 to sort, label, and catalog books in the Boys and Girls Club children's and young adult library.
- The Diversity, Equity, Race, Accessibility, and Identity in LIS (DERAIL) Forum was held on March 26, 2016 at Simmons College. DERAIL is a student-initiated forum for students to engage in meaningful conversations about critical approaches to librarianship, archives, children's literature, cultural heritage institutions, and museums. The goal is to create a space for student community and dialogue on how anti-oppression and social justice work can be centered in our training and professional work in all information environments, and why it's important. The event was specifically for students; SLIS faculty and staff were invited to attend only virtually, via live-stream on the day of the Forum. SLIS faculty and staff were able to interact with the online moderator and follow the conversation on Twitter @derailforum.
- Dr. Janet Ceja was awarded a Dole Innovation Grant in Spring 2016 to support the project Eastorias. Eastorias is a community-engaged project that seeks to document the effects of gentrification and urban renewal on Latino communities in East Boston. The Dole Innovation Grant provided initial funding for recording equipment for community training and interviewing in the field.
Part Seven: Curriculum: Diversity Courses Offered at SLIS
The following courses are either experimental courses related to the topics of diversity and inclusion or are part of the curriculum. Efforts are underway to cover these topics in the required courses.
- LIS 422: Literacy & Services to Underserved Populations: Issues & Responses
This course provides an overview of the social, economic, and political impact of adult functional illiteracy in the United States; it discusses the issue at both the federal and state level with implications for library involvement at the community level. Emphasis will be placed on the analysis of the literacy needs of a community and at the development and implementation of programs to meet that need. It will introduce advocacy, training, budgeting, staff recruitment, student assessment and instruction, publicity and program evaluation of both traditional and innovative library-based literacy/ESOL programs; it will suggest approaches to serve traditionally underrepresented communities by exploring how to improve equity of access to those populations.
- LIS 410: Information Services for Diverse Users
Given the increasing diversity of information users in the United States, information professionals need to learn more about specific groups in order provide appropriate services. This course examines the special needs and potential contributions of groups that are traditionally underrepresented in information settings. Through readings, discussion, and guest lectures, students will explore diversity issues that impact information services and develop skills for planning, implementing, and evaluating programs for addressing these issues. Specific diversity issues include race and ethnicity; gender and sexual orientation; social class; national origin; physical, psychological, and learning ability; and age. Students will gain experience in addressing diversity issues in two interrelated projects. The first project will involve writing a paper on a particular group and its needs in terms of collection development, programming, or accessibility issues, etc. For the second project, students will build on the first paper in a service learning project with an information center of their choice. Examples of service learning projects include constructing a detailed program or service activity for a specific group; compiling an annotated bibliography of best current materials and digital sources for a specific group; implementing a mentoring program for a specific group; evaluating diversity programs which are already in place; or writing a staff training proposal. This course is offered on an annual basis.
- Two Special Topics courses were offered to address current events: Radical Librarianship, taught by Assistant Professor Laura Saunders, and Race and Racism, taught by Associate Professor Lisa Hussey.
Dr. Em Claire Knowles, Assistant Dean for Students and Alumni Affairs