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ASU librarians create Black Lives Matter Library Guide

A laptop next to a stack of books

The library guide points learners in all directions: books, articles, films, podcasts, courses and talks about the history of systemic racism in America. Photo by iStock

November 20, 2020

For the United States, 2020 has been a year of racial reckoning.

The question of how to build a more equitable and diverse society is challenging our learning like never before — and many are taking up the challenge. 

For those needing some help on where to begin, the ASU Library’s Black Lives Matter Library Guide is such a place.

“We’ve had these collections and materials for years,” said Deborah Abston, a liaison librarian for the ASU Library's social science division. “Now is a good time to shine a light on them.”

Abston is among a circle of ASU librarians who came together, virtually, shortly after the killing of George Floyd and amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing Black Lives Matter movement, to create a library guide with the intention that it might serve as a jumping-off point for research and personal education about systemic racism in America. 

“We are doing our best to provide the information that people need, in whatever form that needs to be,” said Abston.

The library guide points learners in all directions — to books, articles, films, podcasts, reports, courses and talks about the history of racial injustice — on everything from Jim Crow and the practice of redlining to the Tulsa race massacre of 1921.

There are sections devoted to police violence data, resources for K–12 learners and information about ASU allies. 

“We wanted to highlight educational, historical and self-care resources for all ages, and to help people shape their teaching and instruction,” said Rene Tanner, associate liaison librarian for the ASU Library's humanities division. “We also wanted to make it relevant to what’s going on here at ASU and in the United States.”

Abston says that although some of the terminology may be changing, the materials that the library has been collecting for decades has not.

“If you do a search for ‘Tulsa and race,’ the books that pop up are ones we’ve owned for a long time,” said Abston. “What happened in Tulsa close to a hundred years ago has always been called a riot, but really it was more like a massacre. The important thing is that people are starting to talk about it.”

So far the library guide has received over 4,000 views. 

The ASU Library’s statement of support for the Black community is featured on the front page: “We stand with the Black community of ASU and Arizona, and we will continue to support individuals as they speak their truth and document their stories of resiliency and acts of racism against marginalized communities across the state. We see you, we hear you, and you matter.”

A living document, the guide is updated weekly — and suggestions on how to improve it are welcome. The librarians say they’d like to see the guide used more widely for instruction, research and personal discovery. 

“No one asked us to do this,” said Karen Grondin, a licensing and copyright librarian. “We decided ourselves that it needed to be done.”

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