Indiana University Libraries is challenging people to engage with 21 items from its collections that will deepen their awareness and understanding of racial equity and social justice. The challenge runs for the duration of the spring semester and encourages participants to explore works that highlight the contributions of underrepresented groups.
Participants should interact with at least one title from each of nine categories: novels, short stories, poems, plays, nonfiction, autobiographies, film, music and podcasts. Library staff have compiled lists of works for each category, which people can check out or access online. One goal is to have people engage with materials and subjects they might otherwise overlook.
“Sometimes people say they hate reading plays, or they don’t listen to podcasts,” said Catherine Minter, interim head of arts and humanities at IU Libraries. “What we wanted to do was push people out of their comfort zones and also highlight the diversity of the library’s holdings.”
The materials date back as far as 1848, and include the perspectives of people from a wide variety of groups and identities. People can also suggest additional titles be included in the challenge.
IU Libraries will also host a series of three virtual conversations to engage participants more with some of the materials. The first virtual conversation at 3 p.m. Feb. 17 is centered on the theme Histories and Lineages.
Nicholae Cline, librarian for gender studies, philosophy and media studies, said IU Libraries is engaged in ongoing conversations about how to support anti-racist work and broaden representation across its collections. They said librarians are uniquely positioned to help because of their roles as stewards of materials that offer unique perspectives.
“You can’t perfectly know the experience of someone else, but even just to get a basic viewpoint into someone else’s experience is really enlightening and really challenging, too,” Cline said. “I’m hoping participating in this challenge will help people realize we are in a world together, and we have responsibilities to build a world that’s better and representative of all of us.”
Challenge participants can log their progress and claim rewards after completing 11 and 21 achievements. Those who complete the challenge by May will receive a handmade journal created by members of the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Lab using “cut-offs” from repair and conservation projects. Each journal is unique and will include a custom bookplate celebrating completion of the challenge.