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Austin Peay State University’s Woodward Library develops diversity, equity and inclusion statement

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – If you watch a lot of old movies or TV shows set inside libraries, you might come away thinking of them as cold, quiet and sterile places. Some clichés go so far as to depict these institutions as temples, accessible only to a select few.

Austin Peay State University’s Woodward Library. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University’s Woodward Library. (APSU)

Inside the bright, open interior of the Austin Peay State University (APSU) Woodward Library, where students can drink coffee and gather on couches and plush chairs, the University’s library staff is working to dismantle this misperception.

“I think libraries are really welcoming spaces, and they’re supposed to collect diverse ideas and provide access to information,” Ellen Brown, APSU assistant professor of library administration, said.

Earlier this year, Brown and her colleagues noticed that sister institutions around the country – the American Library Association, the Morris Library-Southern Illinois University and the California State University Monterey Bay – had created diversity, equity and inclusion statements, explicitly welcoming everyone into these spaces. The statements were in part a reaction to the social unrest sweeping the country, following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

The Woodward Library has always worked to be an open, welcoming space, but with social movements highlighting systemic racism around the country, the faculty and staff realized they also needed to explicitly say everyone was welcome. In the fall of 2020, the library set up a four-member subcommittee to draft the department’s first diversity statement.

Two Austin Peay State University students study in the library before the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. (APSU)
Two Austin Peay State University students study in the library before the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. (APSU)

“When you look at our guiding principles, all of these are things that I think all of us believe, we just didn’t say it anywhere,” Scott Shumate, committee member and IT analyst for the library’s digital services, said. “That’s not enough. It needed to be put somewhere.”

The committee looked at what other libraries were doing, along with APSU’s colleges. This year, Austin Peay’s College of Arts and Letters and its College of STEM released separate action plans to counteract and challenge systemic racism. The Eriksson College of Education is currently working on its own strategic diversity plan.



On December 8th, the Woodward Library became the most recent APSU area to release such a statement. The statement calls for “creating a welcoming environment that is conducive to exploration, learning, and research for all users,” and “providing access to content that represents diverse voices and viewpoints.”

“We want to make sure that we foster diverse collections,” Brown said. “That includes identifying actions we can take to create change and break down barriers that hinder equitable access to our physical and digital collections.”

What’s on the Woodward Library diversity statement?

According to the newly released statement, the library will:

  • enhance the experience of all Library users by maintaining inclusive, safe, and welcoming library spaces.
  • provide content, collections, resources, services, programs, events, and exhibits that support diversity, equity, and a sense of belonging.
  • maintain strong relationships with APSU’s diverse communities — including but not limited to cultural and identity groups (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+), first-generation students, low-income students, post-traditional students, military-affiliated students, and international students — and the programs that support them.
  • work in concert with APSU’s Office of Equity, Access, & Inclusion to facilitate professional development training and support for all Library employees in understanding and developing cultural competencies.
  • work with APSU’s Offices of Human Resources and Equity, Access, & Inclusion to utilize hiring practices that will allow our Library employees to reflect the diverse communities we serve.

To read the entire statement, visit https://library.apsu.edu/about/. For information on the library, visit library.apsu.edu.


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