The SFU Library stands against anti-Black racism -- progress update from the Dean

Black Lives Matter

Resisting anti-Black racism 

The SFU Library stands with all those who are resisting anti-Black racism and police brutality.

The killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in the United States is indicative of the white supremacy that perpetuates anti-Black racism and violence globally, including in Canada. The police violence in response to protests against anti-Black violence is further indication of the entrenchment and power of these forces in our society.

Anti-Black racism in Canadian institutions

When we experience a racial flashpoint in the USA, it is the first reaction of many Canadians to say, “we are so lucky that we live here instead of there.” There is a national narrative that we are untouched, or at least less touched, by anti-Black racism and white supremacy. We reject this narrative.

The SFU Library acknowledges the pervasive influence that anti-Black racism and white supremacy continue to have in our country and all of its institutions, including our own. We recognize that many have long imagined libraries as places of refuge for all - positioning the institution as “free, accessible, and neutral.” That narrative is also false: libraries are institutions that hold power and privilege born from white supremacy culture.

The SFU Library's commitments

The SFU Library has an obligation to dismantle white supremacy and resist anti-Black racism. In keeping with the SFU Library Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, we commit to the following actions:

  • Revising the SFU Library Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion to specifically name the violence of anti-Black racism and white supremacy.
  • Reviewing and revising Library policies and procedures to ensure they do not marginalize and exclude members of our community. 
  • Reinforcing efforts to collect works that challenge anti-Black racism and support the work of dismantling white supremacy. 
  • Confronting simplistic narratives of “freedom of expression” and “intellectual freedom” when they are used to promote hate and violence at SFU. 
  • Ensuring effective training for library employees in identifying and challenging white supremacy and in meaningful allyship.
  • Continuing to learn about our complicity in anti-Black racism and white supremacy.

Black Lives Matter.

Progress update from Gwen Bird, Dean of Libraries

May 2021 update on SFU Library's commitments

I am pleased to provide an update on the library’s progress on our commitments, as of May 2021. As I wrote in October, the difficult conversations that surfaced last year highlighted the fact that we need to provide foundational education for all library employees.  We are working with The Commons Consulting on this initiative, and the program is underway.  We have offered an opening panel and introductory educational programming, and are conducting a needs assessment survey to inform the remainder of the program.  Our trainers have met for preliminary discussions or workshops with library managers and with the library’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group.  As a group, all library administrators attended an intensive workshop from the Racial Equity Institute, focusing on anti-Black racism, and we continually work to incorporate what we learned into our management of the library.

On the collections front, the Collections Management office has compiled a list of titles missing from our collection that challenge anti-Black racism and white supremacy, as well as more titles by Black authors. In the coming months this will be the subject of a discussion with all subject selectors to solicit additional sources, and discuss ongoing collection development to deliberately and routinely include more writing by Black scholars and authors, as well as other BIPOC authors. 

The library’s EDI Working Group is undertaking a review of the library’s internal- and external-facing policies, and will provide recommendations for ways we can improve the language in these policies to ensure they do not marginalize or exclude members of our community. 

We are committed to continuing to resist anti-Black racism, and to address white supremacy culture and its effects in the library’s policies, collections, and operations. 

October 2020 update on SFU Library's commitments

Further to the June 4 statement above on anti-Black racism and the commitments outlined in that statement, I am writing to provide an update on our progress. Library managers and members of the Library EDI Working Group have had a series of conversations about the best way to move forward on these commitments. These have been challenging conversations, and have brought to light the need for a common vocabulary and additional skills for leading discussion in a way that does not inflict further harm on BIPOC members of our group, especially Black employees.

We have committed to a comprehensive employee anti-racism education program in 2021 with required elements for all library employees and leadership training on anti-racism for managers and leaders. We are currently in the process of arranging this education program.  We have committed to centering anti-racism in the process of renewing the Library’s strategic plan in 2021. This will include a grassroots process that will allow us to hear from students, faculty and staff, particularly including Black members of our community.

In September, the SFU Library Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion was revised to explicitly acknowledge the influence of white supremacy and racism and their impacts on our institution, and to commit the Library's EDI Working Group to working within an anti-racist framework. Work is also underway to review our policies as described in the commitments. We maintain the commitment to identify and fill gaps in our collections by Black authors, and add more works that challenge anti-Black racism and white supremacy. We look forward to continuing progress on these commitments and I will provide another update in early 2021.

Contact for further information
Gwen Bird, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries: