As the chair of the Research Caucus, I want to express my solidarity and love for our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) library community members. I can only imagine the pain, trauma, and exhaustion that you have been experiencing as you have seen the images of anti-Black violence perpetrated across the United States over the last week.
The horrifying and heartbreaking images that we have seen across the country reflect the systemic racial inequalities that have been a pervasive and persistent aspect of the United States since its founding and, indeed, preceding even that. As medical librarians, it’s critical that we recognize that libraries are not immune from the systemic inequities that permeate our society; rather, libraries often reflect and reinforce those inequitable values through our systems, spaces, collections, budgets, and the makeup of our staff.
For white members of our Research Caucus community who have found the images of police brutality shocking, I would urge you to spend some time listening to our BIPOC colleagues. While seeing this violence up close may be news to many of us, it is not news to our BIPOC colleagues. For members of our community who seek to criticize the ongoing protests against police violence rather than criticizing the over-aggressive policing that has led to protests, I would encourage you to read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written just over fifty-seven years ago. Dr. King’s words remain as convicting as ever.
For those of us seeking to learn more about how we can get involved in anti-racism work, I would encourage you to explore some of the resources highlighted in the following lists:
- “Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages,” a curated reading list developed by Nicole Cooke, the Augusta Baker Chair in Childhood Literacy at the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science
- “Anti-Racist Reading List from Ibram X. Kendi,” via the Chicago Public Library
- “Disrupting Whiteness in Libraries and Librarianship: A Reading List,” a curated list of library and information (LIS) scholarship via the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Libraries
However, listening and educating ourselves is not enough. Speaking out about systemic racism only during widespread anti-Black violence like we’ve seen over the last week is not enough, either. The Research Caucus’s role is to encourage MLA members to use research to answer the questions that matter.
As members of the Research Caucus, I encourage each of you to consider asking questions about systemic inequities in medical libraries. How do our systems and services reflect and reinforce systemic inequality, and what can we do to reform those systems to create more equitable libraries, institutions, and communities? These questions are challenging; asking them will require courage and will lead to discomfort. But if we want to live up to the spirit of “I Am MLA”—which MLA Past President Beverly Murphy, AHIP, FMLA, describes as “the collective understanding…that it is up to us, as members and as volunteers, to do what needs to be done for our association”—we must rise to meet that challenge.
Alexander J. Carroll, AHIP, Research Caucus Chair, 2020–2021