CREDE and Belk librarians showcase academic library and cultural center partnerships at NCLA Conference

More than 30 conference attendees learned of Elon’s efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion through academic library and cultural center partnerships.

How do you build inclusive academic partnerships across an academic library and cultural center?

At this month’s North Carolina Library Association statewide conference, faculty and staff across Elon’s Belk Library and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education (CREDE) joined to present their collaborative work in engaging students across multiple identities with academic libraries. “Together, we created a model that we have adapted with students connected with the CREDE as well as other groups of students across campus,” said Patrick Rudd, assistant librarian and coordinator of library instruction and outreach services.

More than 30 librarians, faculty, and educators attended their NCLA session entitled, “The Spaces Between: Critical Partnerships between an Academic Library and Cultural Center to foster Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” highlighting Elon University’s core values of strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusiveness as important work for all departments across campus.

“It is critically important to work across departments to advance diversity, inclusion and equity efforts,” said Tyrone Jean, assistant dean of students and director of the CREDE. “Our partners in the library have taken the university commitment to diversity and global engagement and partnered with the CREDE to create strong relationships and create more inclusive environments.”

Key partnerships within the presentation included genealogy and zine workshops, pop-up exhibits, and a needs assessment about library space usage for underrepresented identities. Additional campus initiatives such as Elon’s Committee on History and Memory and participation in the Universities Studying Slavery consortium are providing opportunities for academic libraries, cultural centers, and universities at large to acknowledge past histories and enhance current campus climate while building capacity for serving students in the future.

“Colleagues in the library serve as critical partners in creating curriculum regarding diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Brandon Bell, assistant director of the CREDE, in talking about the collaboration as a critical university partnership. “Within the frame of history and memory, these partnerships help elucidate equity and social justice in vivid ways.”

Focus groups added depth to what students from diverse identities were experiencing as barriers related to engaging with libraries. “Working with CREDE on our focus groups for the library was really helpful, and conference attendees were appreciative to hear about our collaborative work,” said Jennifer Smith, metadata specialist within Belk Library.

One final innovative twist involves Elon’s archival efforts. University Archivist and Assistant Librarian Libby Coyner said such an important collaborative partnership is powerful. “Working with the CREDE helps make my work possible. The way they build community and create spaces for conversations means that I can bring archives into their programming as a way of supporting their work, but also giving visibility to archives,” Coyner said. “As much as I’d like people to visit us in the archives, I also understand the need to meet people where they are. They help us all to learn how to unpack these histories and legacies together.”

Collaborations will continue this Spring with a joint Pop-Up Museum Exhibit in honor of Black History Month.  All are welcome to swing by and view this exhibit that combines the work of the identity centers with the work of the library and archives, on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 from 4 to 6 p.m. in Moseley 215.