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In Pursuit of Antiracist Social Justice: Denaturalizing Whiteness in the Academic Library

From: Library Trends
Volume 64, Number 2, Fall 2015
pp. 246-284 | 10.1353/lib.2015.0048

Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines racism and the culture of Whiteness in academic libraries in three major areas of public services: space, staffing, and reference service delivery. The authors perform a critical discourse analysis, drawing on critical race theory, critical geography, critical education, and social psychology to examine foundational library scholarship and professional standards. Academic libraries, as products and representations of their parent institutions, are situated within the well-documented systemic and institutional racism of higher education in the United States. This is reflected in the monocultural geography and spaces of academic libraries. It is seen in the organizational culture and hiring practices of libraries, which are overwhelmingly staffed by White workers, while serving an increasingly diverse student body. Finally, it is reflected in the traditional tenets of reference service delivery, including approachability, responsiveness, and objectivity. The authors argue that racism is embedded in academic libraries through a culture of Whiteness. Consistent with social justice traditions in librarianship, they offer tools and suggestions to realign the profession with antiracist values and practices that will enable libraries to better serve their communities.