A review of ‘Liberate My Library’. Diversifying collections in a challenging year.

As we approach the end of the year we thought it would be a good time to look back at a new service we launched back in February. Wow talking about February seems like a lifetime ago now doesn’t it? So much has happened in 10 months and although not everything has been what we would have liked there have been things to celebrate. Our ‘Liberate My Library’ scheme we think is one of them.

What is Liberate My Library?

The idea behind the scheme was to diversify our library’s collections. That is a big challenge we know but we are building on a good foundation. We know we have so many wonderful items across the sites but we also knew we could do more to better represent the University and local community that we are part of.

We reached out to staff across all the library sites, Durham Students Union (DSU) and other University Libraries such as the University of Huddersfield who had already started work on a similar scheme. We wanted to see where our focus should be.

handwritten text on paper
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

By reaching out to as many people as possible we got a good idea of what we needed to do. Working with DSU helped us a lot especially with the name (this came from the DSU) and they also helped us realise there were 4 key areas we needed to focus on.

  1. BAME
  2. LGBT+
  3. Gender & Identity
  4. Disability.

The aim was to increase representation of these groups in our collection; having more books by authors from these groups as well as increasing the range of views represented across different subjects. We knew it wouldn’t be an instant change but we needed to start somewhere.

How does the scheme work ?

The main way to request a title through the service is by completing the online form on the webpage and selecting ‘liberate my library’ as reason for the request. (Note: Under current circumstances, there is a limit of 10 books per user for the academic year, with the service running alongside the MORE Books scheme).

We did also have some wonderful rainbow postcards as well but since March this has been paused: we do hope to start again soon.

What has the response been

We had a fantastic start in February with 101 requests. This followed through into the beginning of March but the introduction of lockdown and restrictions on ordering print books and accessing the collection impacted on titles arriving and understandably priorities for staff and students changed. We still receive request every month and average 20 a month.

Equality Diversity and Inclusion has been a big topic this year and in June with the Black Lives Matter Protests we saw an increase in requests about Black History and the Black Lives Matter Movement. As Hermione in Harry Potter says “When in Doubt go to the Library” and that is what you did. We all wanted to learn more about the movement and Black History and turning to books such as ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ by Renni Eddo-Lodge and Black & British: A Forgotten History’ by David Olusoga helped us learn more.

Reading List

As librarians we love a list, especially a reading list, so with all the requests we have received we have produced a Liberate My Library reading list on Talis . So whether you are reading for leisure or personal study, or you are an academic wanting ideas for titles to diversify your reading on the module you are teaching this list can help suggest titles. All the titles listed have come from students and staff across the University and in the local community and will continue to do so.

So what next?

The service is continuing and in the coming year we hope to build on the start we have had and that it will support the University’s work on ‘Decolonising the Curriculum’ .

We have had a great response for titles relating to BAME, Gender & Identity and LGBT+ but we continue to welcome any additional recommendations; books about or by authors with a disability are particularly welcome.

We look for ward to seeing and reading your requests.

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