UAlbany Libraries Receive Insight into Diversity Magazine’s Inaugural Library Excellence in Access and Diversity Award
By Bethany Bump
ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 15, 2024) — The University Libraries at the University at Albany has received the inaugural 2024 Library Excellence in Access and Diversity (LEAD) Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education.
The first-ever LEAD Award honors academic libraries’ programs and initiatives that encourage and support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across their campus. These include research, technology, accessibility, exhibitions and community outreach. UAlbany will be featured, along with 55 other recipients, in the March 2024 issue of Insight Into Diversity magazine.
“I am proud of our team’s efforts to foster an inclusive environment that supports all students, faculty and staff,” said Carey Hatch, interim dean of the University Libraries. “At the University at Albany Libraries, we strive to create welcoming spaces and collections that celebrate diversity and provide equitable access to information. It is an honor to be recognized with Insight into Diversity’s first Library Excellence in Access and Diversity Award.”
Insight Into Diversity magazine selected the University Libraries at UAlbany for the award because of its established record of infusing DEI principles into academics, research, service and community engagement initiatives.
"I am honored that the University at Albany has been recognized as a recipient for the Insight Into Diversity LEAD Award,” said Samuel Caldwell, chief diversity officer and associate vice president of diversity and inclusion at UAlbany. “An award for library excellence in access and diversity is a reflection of our commitment to our Strategic Plan, and to fostering an inclusive environment which includes equitable access to knowledge, information and resources. This work allows us to advance learning and research opportunities for the University at Albany community."
A call for nominations for the award was announced in October 2023. Candidates had to submit an application explaining how they assess DEI progress within their libraries; support diverse library collections, practices and events; ensure access to resources and information in both physical and virtual spaces; recruit, retain and advance a diverse library staff; and support underrepresented authors, researchers and faculty in DEI research.
Approximately 10 years ago, a University-wide accessibility committee made extensive changes to the delivery of library services. Using a universal design lens, the committee ensured that library services would be designed with accessibility at the core, rather than as an exception or specialized offering.
This can be seen in both the physical and virtual spaces hosted by the University Libraries, which includes the main library and Science Library on the Uptown Campus and the Dewey Graduate Library on the Downtown Campus. In addition to accessible bathrooms, reference collections were placed on low shelves for access by wheelchair users and publications were made available in formats such as Braille, spoken word, accessible PDF and large print. Alt text was also embedded throughout the website for those who use screen readers and all online events and recordings include closed captioning.
The University Libraries also work to maintain diverse library collections and resources. Academic Success librarians are tasked with collecting materials written by authors from traditionally underrepresented populations, such as those who are queer, female, disabled, transnational, Indigenous, or otherwise racially, ethnically and culturally diverse.
These materials are often showcased through library programming, partnerships and events. In 2023, for example, the University Libraries partnered with the University Art Museum to develop the Libros/Arte exhibit, which featured over 80 handmade books published by small Latin American and Caribbean presses, and hosted free workshops for community members to create their own books. It also hosted a Banned Books Readout, where community members were invited to read passages from common banned books, and a drag queen story time event designed to promote discussions around queer identity-themed banned books.
Efforts continue to recruit and retain a diverse library staff, with workshops for those conducting searches to understand how to mitigate bias during hiring, and professional development opportunities provided to staff at no cost.
“We know that many academic libraries are not always recognized for their dedication to diversity, inclusion and access,” said Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of Insight Into Diversity magazine. “We are proud to honor these college and university libraries as role models for other institutions of higher education.”
For more information about the 2024 Library Excellence in Access and Diversity (LEAD) Award, visit insightintodiversity.com.