Decentering Policies


In this Engaging in Practice session the presenter will
share the consultative process they and their colleagues engaged in to produce
a reciprocal set of community standards that commit library personnel and
library users to creating “an inclusive, affirming, and welcoming space.” The
presenter works at a private university best described as a predominantly white
institution (PWI) with significant and growing Latino/a/x, Black, and Native
American student populations. Even as demographics change and with a diverse
library staff, White institutional presence (WIP) persists in policies and
practices with the possible effect of negatively shaping social, academic, and
professional experiences (Gusa, 2010). Rather than focus on a code of conduct
or set of policies that look like a laundry list of “don’ts” that reflect a
White, middle-class worldview, we decided to focus our policy-making on
creating equitable, safe, and anti-oppressive spaces for library users and

In public-facing services, power relations between library
workers and library users are complex and shifting. With this in mind we
engaged the entire library staff in several rounds of defining expectations for
student and employee behavior, consulted with other academic support units and
with student groups. Through consultation we negotiated language and agreed on
processes to compose a set of shared principles and practices for working in
the collaborative and alone-together spaces of the library. This “living
document” remains a work in progress, as are the library personnel striving to
meet the aspirations of our new policy. Barnard Library’s “Community
Agreements” served as our starting point, an example of inclusive standards
with a goal of anti-oppressive behaviors and actions.

The presenter will ask attendees to participate in small
group activities and large group discussion to facilitate consideration of
multiple perspectives in developing community standards, including decentering
normative understandings of language and processes.

Gusa, D. L. (2010). White institutional presence: The impact
of whiteness on campus climate. Harvard Educational Review 80(4): 464-489).

Shana Higgins, Library Instruction & Access Services Coordinator, University of Redlands
Fri 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Engaging in Practice