There are many ways to engage administration, faculty, and staff in topics around diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), and inclusive pedagogy, both structured and unstructured. One such strategy is the concept of the Little Library. Little Libraries have sprung up all across the country in the last couple of years and we decided to try this method. This approach is a soft strategy for engagement, outside of a structured setting, that provides an opportunity for the university community to read at their leisure and to take a deeper dive about the facets of DEI, race, culturally relevant pedagogy, and other topics that interest them without any pressure. The resources in the Little Library are easy to obtain and the libraries are located in highly trafficked areas.
The libraries were a truly collaborative effort. The actual structures were provided by a faculty member’s relative and they were designed and painted by art and graphic design students from Madonna University. Dean Katy Snyder led the ribbon cutting ceremony which was held on February 20, 2019. Provost Pamela Zarkowski cut the ribbons on all three of our libraries in conjunction with the artists.
The range of topics in the libraries are intentionally broad and include both academic and non-academic offerings. Some of the categories of books are:Race; LGBTQ+; Social Justice; Civil Rights; White privilege; Ableism; Microaggressions; Histories of Asians, Latinx, Indigenous peoples, and Pacific Islanders; Gender bias, Medical ethics; and Theoretical perspectives such as critical race theory, culturally relevant teaching pedagogy, and pedagogy of the oppressed (Friere). There are also novels which give great insight into various communities and achievements of people of color such as “The Hate You Give”, Hidden Colors”, “My Beloved World” by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer and others.
Our student collaborators from Madonna University did a great job and they told me they really enjoyed working on the project as well because it was meaningful to them. Collaborations like this speak to the shared mission of social justice embedded within both universities.
It is our hope that content in the little libraries will stimulate conversations and understanding of why embracing diversity of persons and thought is key to our future.
For more information about this concept, contact Dr. Jahzara Mayes Otoo at firstname.lastname@example.org, University of Detroit Mercy.