Williams Libraries Diversity and Inclusion Activity 2022 and 2023

In January of 2022 we published a news item published on the Libraries’ website that listed the ways in which we as a library had sought to take action on issues of diversity and inclusion. We had been joined online for a library staff meeting by Dr Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, now the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion at Mount Holyoke College. Among the many things Dr. Sanders-McMurtry urged us to think about and act on, she told us to be visible, to be bold, and to participate in national movements, pointing to the National Day of Racial Healing as an event of which we, like many libraries, should be a part. So in the spirit of that 2022 item, here is an updated version of the news item for the rest of 2022 and 2023.

We are aware that what is listed here is not enough. We need to continue to do more. Each item here is necessarily brief. If you want to know more about any of the items listed here, please reach out to me or to your liaison librarian. We are also interested in ideas you have about how we, as your library, can tackle systemic racism in our librarianship, on campus, and in our society.


  • We have made modest progress in diversifying our staff but still have a long way to go. Hiring a diverse staff that reflects the diversity of campus is a top priority for us., We have a long way to go in this regard, but we rigorously review and rewrite our positions descriptions and job ads, actively recruit diverse applicants, and seek to limit bias in our searches.
  • The Lowe Fellowship, now in its sixth year, seeks to introduce special collections librarianship as a profession to Williams graduates from groups historically and currently under-represented in the profession. Several participants are either pursuing graduate education relating to cultural heritage or are working in the field.
  • Our Staff Development Committee continues to organize training and workshops for all library staff to develop an inclusive organizational culture and workplace, including:
    • Jan 2022 – Group Dynamics – facilitated by Dr. Eden-Renee Hayes (Davis Center). 
    • Oct 2022 – Navigating Difficult Conversations – small and large group sessions – facilitated by Dre Finley and Bilal Ansari (Davis Center)
  • 2023 was a year in which we spent a lot of time developing our next strategic plan. In preparation for that effort we conducted focus groups and interviews with the Minority Coalition Steering Committee and recent alumni active in alumni affinity networks concerning their experience of library services at Williams. This resulted in a summary report that went to all library staff and helped foreground these previously marginalized experiences in our planning process


  • Collection Liaison librarians committed to preserving existing diversity of voice and difference in our collections as they implemented budget cuts to our FY24 budget. 
  • Our university press book approval plan continues to focus on subjects that ensure diverse and marginalized voices are regularly added to our collections.
  • Special Collections has paid particular attention to collecting in the areas of global book history, oral history, and underrepresented networks. In the past year, amongst other purchases and donations, we are grateful to have acquired the Honda Family photographs and letters, a collection documenting the lives of a Japanese American family before, during, and after WWII; as well as an original pamphlet printing of Fredrick Douglass’ 1852 Oration, commonly known as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

Description and Discovery

  • Special Collections staff have undertaken reparative description of archival collections including materials that include offensive and harmful nomenclature, and discussed how to work with researchers who may need to engage with such materials.
  • Catalogers in Williams Libraries have  so far assigned new call numbers to 209 items, with plans to reclassify about 1,200 items that use N Cutter numbers, which have been in use since the mid 20th Century when the Library of Congress established cutters beginning with N to classify materials about African Americans.

Library spaces


  • Our Vendor Diversity Task Force continues to identify and advocate for specific recurring transactions that can be directed to a wider variety of businesses, with a focus on Black-owned businesses. In fiscal year 2022-2023, we ordered 116 books from a local Black-owned bookstore, for a total of $5352, excluding shipping. In the first 7 1/2 months of fiscal year 2023-2024, as of 15 February, we purchased 29 books, for a total of $1264, excluding shipping. to such businesses and the task force is looking to do more.
  • In our FY23 budget proposal we doubled our events and outreach budget with the increase being focused directly on events and outreach that increase the diversity and inclusiveness of our programming. In FY24, while absorbing a 15% cut in our operating and collections budget, we maintained this level of funding for events and outreach.

Some of these are small, some will only bear fruit in the future, and many should have been done a long time ago, but as Dr. Sanders-McMurtry also told us, nothing is too small in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are interested in your ideas about what we in your libraries can do to advance racial healing in our society and on our campus. Don’t hesitate to reach out.