Tag: inclusion

diversity and inclusion in libraries and collections

A cartoon in our archives showing Noreen Murray as a schoolgirl being reprimanded for making clones of herself in the laboratory (a reference to Noreen’s work cloning DNA)

Some interesting equality and diversity activities going on in our libraries and collections:

Equality and Diversity Images Internships

The Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections (CRC) has a student internship curating images from our collections that show gender, race and diversity with a view to having these images be used for promotion of the University courses, and as part of courses where they are relevant. The successful outcomes of this have been digitisation of materials, engaging blog posts which have narratives from the collections that raise the profile of resources and narratives in the collections to support work in the area.

Following on from this £10,000 was awarded from the Innovation Fund to engage student interns to look at images and narratives of equality, diversity and community to support Students Association campaigns and encourage student engagement. This will be undertaken in the first 6 months of 2019 and is supported by the Students Association executive.

Project: Revealing and Expanding Diversity in our Library Collections

In 2017-18 Library and University Collections teams worked with Students Association to organise two collection displays in the Main Library. A display in October 2017 celebrated Black History Month and in February 2018 a display celebrated LGBT+ History Month. A small number of additional books were purchased to contribute to the LGBT+ display and to increase the range of Library resources; the LGBT+ display also linked to a display in the Library’s CRC which highlighted first editions of books, signed letters, essays and other manuscripts related to W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood.

The Main Library Black History Month display in October 2018 included 41 new items purchased through the project budget, and the project budget also enabled the purchase of additional display units for the Main Library and the purchase of new display units for New College Library and ECA Library. Further displays in 2018-19 are planned to support the Students Association’s  four Liberation Campaigns (Black and Minority Ethnic – BME, Disabled Students, LGBT+ and Women). Students Association representatives and colleagues from across the University are involved in organising the displays, selecting resources for purchase and communicating the project to students. The displays have been popular with students, with display items being borrowed and students providing positive feedback to staff.

Women’s Collections Cataloguing

The Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections have had an intern for 8 weeks cataloguing the collection of a misrepresented female composer from the 19th century to raise her profile and make the collection available for dissertations and study. The Centre hopes to do more of this type of project – the archive projects team have prioritised how women are described in collections and are reviewing best practice for future cataloguing

Resource Lists

The Libraries and University Collections (L&UC) have also been working with the Student Association’s LiberatEd project to highlight the functionality available to students to suggest new readings for their course resource lists.

Feminist Art Collecting Strategy

In the past few years the Libraries and University Collections (L&UC) has adopted an equality strategy to balance the women artists represented in the University collections. They are actively working with the Principal to diversify the art seen in Old College. For example, of the works that have been collected since 2012, 54% are by female artists.  This has included noteworthy work by significant female artists as well as works that deal with gender representation and diversity concerns.

The Contemporary Art Research Collection

The Contemporary Art Research Collection, established in 2016, is the newest art collection at the University and is the most significant area of activity in the diversification of the collection. The Collection is linked to the research of colleagues in History of Art. Their research and teaching area concerns feminism within the structures of Globalisation. This collection actively redresses the gender imbalance as well as the prevailing geographic focus on Western Europe and therefore enable us to broach new territories in terms of space, media and practice. The works acquired thus far highlight the major concerns of our times and the issues that affect women in particular – for example sex workers rights, care work and housing.

Diversifying display

This gender and diversity bias in the Collection is perhaps highlighted most evidently within the Portrait Collection. The majority of portraits in the collection do not date from the contemporary period and therefore there is an overwhelming imbalance of representation – a recent estimate suggested that approximately 5% of artworks were by female artist or female sitter. This is no more obvious than in the display of works in historical parts of the University like Old College. On the request of the principal, over the last few months work has been carried out internally on how best to rehang Old College to better reflect both the history and diversity of the University community in our displays. This will be an ongoing, long term project.

Vote 100

A pop up exhibition opened in the Main University Library in November 2018, telling the story of how some of the University’s first female graduates pushed the agenda forward for equal enfranchisement in the UK. The exhibition focuses on when Chrystal Macmillan, Frances Simson and Frances Nairn took the fight to the House of Lords in November 1908. Chrystal Macmillan and Frances Simson became the first women to speak in the House of Lords. The exhibition was opened by Diva , Students Association Vice President for Education, who spoke about how inspiring the women were for students today, showing that students had fought for their rights and for equality.

As a result of this project L&UC are helping  RAG week reps with hosting Helen Pankhurst to come and speak in March 2019.

New Internship for Equality, Diversity and Gender in Archive Catalogues

This project will look at the University of Edinburgh’s archive catalogues to explore the description, language and surfacing of women, cultures, communities and diverse groups in these catalogues. Many of the catalogues have been inherited over centuries of collecting, meaning that women and minority groups are often misrepresented or simply missing altogether from the catalogues. This project will require the business school students to analyse our data and explore the issues and problems, coming up with ideas to make them more diverse and inclusive using qualitative and quantities methodologies.

PlayFair and win

UniversitiesHR award for Excellence in Equality and Diversity

I am delighted to say that the PlayFair Steps equality and diversity initiatives in Information Services Group at University of Edinburgh have been recognised as excellent by the judges at the recent Universities Human Resources awards.

Many organisations are now choosing to recognise Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) expertise as a significant area of  valuable knowledge which contributes to the business advantage and has a direct and significant positive impact on reputation.  After two years this work is now able to show positive impact  and report on metrics for improvement and use data driven decision-making for management practice. The work brings us ‘diversity advantage’. Diversity advantage can be seen as the positive consequences which accrue to a business through diversity and inclusivity practices in the workplace.

Increasingly EDI work  in organisations can be seen as having  a focus on:

  • improve the use of data in driving future developments
  • a greater priority on communications
  • more effective evaluation of policies and interventions
  • a focus on ‘what works’ underpinned by a robust and systematic use of the evidence.

My work in ISG EDI is seen through leadership in innovative practice to recruit staff, develop colleagues’ understanding of intersectionality and embed EDI into student employability programmes.  I proactively recognise and reward staff with EDI expertise in my own teams. As well as identifying key people within the organisation to lead events in specific areas there are now 3 university of Edinburgh PhD students working as interns in ISG with specific remit to bring their academic expertise in gender studies and inclusion to contribute to our work.  We have a Gender Equality Intern ( Dominique) and Digital Marketing and Recruitment intern ( Vicki) and an Equality Images Intern ( Francesca) These interns join my growing team (including our Wikimedian in Residence) to ensure that EDI in ISG is visible and celebrated. The three interns work on EDI plans and programmes, innovative digital marketing for recruitment and within the University archives and collections to find quality equality images which can be digitised and used to promote stories from our University history and to be used in presentations and publications. I have also agreed to sponsor a year’s sabbatical for another of our team ( Jo) to pursue a Masters by Research to properly surface the real story of The Edinburgh Seven.

The PlayFair Steps has been successful in that it allows staff to look at diversity and equality in various ways and from various points of view, all of which contribute to improving ISG. The work began as an initiative around gender equality and has expanded to recognise that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. I have developed a range of activities exploring how a person’s age, disability status, race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and parent status contribute towards their specific experiences in and perspectives of our workplace. Using the local expertise of our academic colleagues and students, I seek to move beyond anecdote and create a more inclusive workplace with support from senior management for both top-down and bottom-up change.

Our IT practice now benefits from a more nuanced understanding of the structural issues which lead to workplace improvement. It is not enough to just ‘add women and stir’. The PlayFair Steps programme (which draws its name for the idea of ‘fair play’ at work) focusses on ensuring that barriers and bias are addressed and a more inclusive workplace is experienced by all.  The PlayFair Steps is an initiative which improves our reputation and is of interest to central IT departments at other universities. The work is also being disseminated at relevant sector-wide conferences and recognised through being shortlisted by various national awards. Fingers crossed for more success and recognition of the value of this work in the future.