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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris3 July 2020

UCL Library Committee

Library Committee met virtually on 25 June by Microsoft Teams. It was the probably the first time in the Committee’s long history that this distinguished body had not met physically in a committee room.

One of the items on the agenda was the termly Report from me as Pro-Vice Provost. The Report from the Pro-Vice-Provost  can be seen behind the link. I used the usual structure, reporting against the 6 KPIs of the current Library Strategy, but I fashioned the narrative to reflect the extraordinary events that we have all been experiencing.

The coronavirus crisis led to lockdown in UCL Library Services, with closure of library sites beginning on 17
March. With senior colleagues we quickly agreed a set of themes which would underpin our work:

1. Electronic-led resource provision to support research and education
2. Digitally-delivered teaching and skills support
3. Fully digital enquiry services, which require a proper enquiry management platform
4. Open Science as the model for the future
5. Optimization of learning spaces
6. Research collection strategy in a digital era

These values continue to underpin our work as we develop our service provision to embrace the principle of digital-first in both research and education. It is the move fully to embed digital delivery in our education offering which is exciting, supported by £1.38 million of new money to purchase e-textbooks and to upscale our work on ReadingLists@UCL.

I would like to use this opportunity further to underline the Library’s commitment to supporting colleagues in #BlackLivesMatter. I am, as many of you probably know, a Tudor historian who publishes on sixteenth-century England. I wish here to put on record my repugnance at the views on race expressed this week by another Tudor historian, Dr David Starkey. Starkey’s views are repugnant to me and are completely at variance with UCL’s position.

In Newsletter 12, published today, our colleague Amad Uddin has told us about his team’s experiences in re-opening the Student Centre. He says: ‘I feel proud that Library Services have been involved in the first pilot [in re-opening UCL spaces] as it’s crucial we get back to some sense of normality. We are pioneers, what we learn from this pilot, the good and bad, will help other buildings open in the near future as restrictions get eased.’

Stay well, stay safe and I hope we will all be able to meet again in UCL in the coming weeks.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

 

Supporting Black staff at UCL

Benjamin Meunier26 June 2020

In case you missed it in our daily comms, please find below some additional guidance and support so that we can all help further race equality at UCL.

Supporting Black staff at work

The UCL Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team have produced guidance to line managers on supporting their Black staff. This is also a resource for colleagues, and we commend it for all Library Services staff to read and take action based on the guidance to create an environment which is more supportive of our Black staff and students. 

Managers Guidance – Supporting Black staff at Work

There are many societal issues currently that may be impacting upon Black staff and their sense of wellbeing.  These issues are not new, Black staff deal with them all the time, every day of their lives.  However, there are a number of issues that have brought the presence of racism to the fore in recent weeks. The guidance references the work of sociologist Robin DiAngelo in her book “White Fragility”. To find out more, you could view this video of a reading of the book by the author, hosted by Seattle Central Library in 2018.

It is important at this time to check in with Black staff, ask how they are doing and offer them support. Having conversations about racism is everyone’s responsibility.  For those who are unfamiliar with doing this, the guide may be of some help. This guide is only part of a range of resources and measures to support our Black staff at this time.  It is not presented as a solution in its own right.

Free mental health therapy available for Black people in the UK

Black Minds Matter UK has announced they are providing Black people in the UK with free therapy with Black mental health professionals. Details are available at https://www.blackmindsmatteruk.com/

Black Lives Matter: UCL Library Services updates

Benjamin Meunier11 June 2020

In case you missed it in our daily comms, please find below some information on race equality at UCL, with a message from Jennifer Brown as Chair of the Library’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee, as well as some highlights on work which has been underway in Library Services to decolonise our collections and support UCL’s investigations into the university’s role in the history of eugenics. You can also find some training resources recommended by UCL EDI and Library SMT colleagues, to complement the resources which Andy Pow shared via liblist last Friday.

Race Equality at UCL

In the Provost’s View earlier in the week, the Provost reflected on the appalling killing of George Floyd and acknowledged the devastating and distressing impact this continues to have on our Black staff and students. The Provost also accepted that the statement UCL made last week was not specific enough about the impact on Black students and staff and apologised for the stress and hurt caused to Black students and staff.

As mentioned by the Provost, we need to go beyond expressions of solidarity and look at what further practical steps we can take to address racism close to home. UCL has taken practical action on structural racism at UCL under the current Provost. UCL Library Services is part of this action, with one of our six Key Performance Areas in the Library Strategy dedicated to Staffing, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and we will share more about the Library’s work in this area. We fully agree with the Provost that more must be done and that we must accept responsibility for more rapid progress.

UCL is seeking to consult with Black staff and students via a town hall style meeting in the near future, in order to listen more, learn, and decide what additional action we should be taking as a university. If you would like to register your interest in receiving details of this event, you can do so using this online form.

A message from Jennifer Brown, Chair of the Library Services Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee

I have reflected deeply upon the brutal murder of George Floyd and being told that BME people are more prone to dying from the Coronavirus coupled with the fact that there was insufficient investigation as to why this is the case.

To say that the past few weeks have been distressing is an understatement. For many it has been an eye opener but for others it is a reality that they have had to live most if not all of their lives. I have been engaging in lots of discussions externally around what is occurring and what needs to happen.

As a woman of African Caribbean heritage I have faced the experiences, the frustration, the hurt plus more that many are now feeling more liberated to speak about.

As the chair of the Library Service Equality Diversity and Inclusion committee  I am committed to tackling any practices which cause BME people to face inequality. Not just within Library Services but throughout the UCL community which I have already been doing.  This might mean that at times some uncomfortable and frank discussions might need to be had but this is a way forward to tackling some of the inequalities being faced.

I would like to cultivate a culture of solution so if you have any suggestions that you would like to be considered confidentially please feel free to email me jennifer.brown@ucl.ac.uk or the Library DEOLOs (b.whiten@ucl.ac.uk and g.manzotti@ucl.ac.uk). Anonymised  suggestions will be discussed at forthcoming EDI meetings and shared with the Library SMT for further consideration and action as appropriate.

The change required is not about tokenism, we all need to work together to cultivate more positive experiences and meaningful outcomes.

#Blacklivesmatter

Decolonising collections

Back in November a meeting of staff interested and engaged in themes around “decolonising” collections considered the scope for activities in Library Services. Colleagues shared examples of work already being undertaken  at this forum. To take this forward a Liberating the Collections Steering Group will oversee strands of activity across Library Services, aligned to UCL Library Services Strategy, UCL’s Liberating the Curriculum initiative, UCL’s wider EDI activity and with reference to best practice in the library sector. A more detailed blog post will be published next week.

Inquiry into the history of eugenics

In March, shortly before lockdown, the Peer Review dedicated an edition to the outcomes of the Inquiry into the history of eugenics at UCL. The independent Chair of the Inquiry, Professor Iyiola Solanke, outlined why she agreed to lead the Inquiry for UCL and how it relates to social justice. Maria Kiladi shared an article on what our archives tell us about the history of eugenics at UCL.

Many colleagues from Library Services directly supported the Inquiry, particularly Katy Makin and Colin Penman from Special Collections. The Inquiry itself forms part of the wider work which UCL is doing to further race equality.

The Inquiry report and recommendations, as well as videos of the Town Hall meetings, are available on the Inquiry webpages.

EDI training available

UCL Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are working in partnership with colleagues  from the Race Equality Steering Group on a number of institutional actions. In the meantime, Fiona McClement (Head of EDI) would encourage people who are looking to take action on a personal level to sign up to one or more of these webinars. Pearn Kandola tend to deliver really good, thoughtful  training and their new series of racism at work will be in the context of current times.

The EDI team does not believe there is a limit on numbers who can sign up but if you do have any problems, please let me know and EDI have offered to look to organise some sessions specifically for UCL.