A Pledge to Our Students and Community
A pledge from the staff of the William R. Jenkins Architecture, Design, and Art Library to our students and our community
Concrete steps toward equity and social justice in William R. Jenkins Library staffing, collections, services, outreach, and operations
Our library employs one librarian, 3-7 student workers, 1 part-time and two full-time assistants who specialize in art and design information resources. We actively recruit our professional staff from the alumni of the academic departments we support, which has typically resulted in an ethnically and racially diverse department. (Three-fourths of our current professional staff are UH alumni.) We recognize that we need to recruit from many parts of our campus population, as well as our city’s art and design community, so that our students benefit from many cultural perspectives and circles of knowledge. We will strategically promote our job openings to ensure a diverse pool of applicants for our open positions.
- We will continue to promote open student worker positions to the students of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design and the Katherine G. McGovern College of the Arts. We will also promote job postings directly to student organizations for people of color and groups traditionally under-represented in higher education.
- We will promote our professional job postings directly to arts organizations for people of color and groups traditionally under-represented in higher education, as well as community organizations dedicated to connecting under-represented groups to employment opportunities, in order to ensure a diverse pool of applicants for these positions.
The librarian wrote an analysis of the general collection in 2008, which noted a lack of diversity in the collection and developed a plan to increase resources in under-represented subject and geographic areas, in order to create a more balanced set of resources. As a result, the librarian began purchasing comparatively more materials on those identified subjects. In 2019 the librarian also developed a plan for the Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room collection. The Franzheim Room is the rare books room located within the William R. Jenkins Architecture, Design, and Art. The plan recognized the lack of racial inclusion in the rare books collection and acknowledged that the collection does not sufficiently reflect the major research interests of our academic departments. The general collection of the Architecture, Design, and Art Library is roughly 100,000 volumes and the Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room collection is approximately 1,000 volumes. Given those numbers, as well as the collection budget and the expense of rare books, it is not possible to quickly create a balanced collection. While the number of titles in those much-needed subjects has increased over the past dozen years, the effect has not been significant. The library staff is cognizant of the fact that, for most of our patrons, the library collection is the most fundamental representation of the University of Houston Libraries. It is the physical manifestation of the library’s mission, more so than any other service or staff member. In order to increase progress at a faster pace, therefore, we pledge to implement the following measures.
- We pledge to spend endowments designated for the library’s general collection on works by and about people of color, as well as activist art and design during Fiscal Years 2020-2022 in order to create a more representative collection. This will also help us align with the curricula, goals, and faculty interests in the College of the Arts, as well as the College of Architecture and Design.
- We will pursue the goals of the Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room Collection Plan (2019), which include increasing the number of books by and on people of color in the rare book collection.
- During fiscal years 2020-2022 new purchases for the Franzheim Room will be books by or about people of color or about the visual culture of under-represented regions. By increasing the holdings in these subjects we will not only support the faculty interests and curricula of our academic units, but will also more closely meet the needs of our many students who select thesis and other research topics for which the collection offers few resources.
The Architecture, Design, and Art Library’s services and programming include traditional library services, such as research assistance, technology support, and resource procurement. It also offers services related to its foci on art and design. The facility features exhibitions of student artwork. The staff curates digital and in-house exhibits. They host talks on architectural publishing. They organize pop-up libraries in fine arts centers around campus. The staff pledges to ensure equitable service and representation to the populations we serve.
- We will launch an annual assessment of the inclusivity and equity of our programs and services. Our good intentions are not enough. At the end of each academic year we must publicly assess the balance of ethnic and cultural perspectives of our exhibits, artists, speakers, and programs.
According to the Houston Arts Alliance’s Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 national economic impact study, Houston’s arts and culture industry generates $1.12 billion in annual economic activity in the greater Houston region—supporting 25,817 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $119.3 million in local and state government revenues. The Architecture, Design, and Art Library has opportunities to partner with arts organizations in Houston in order to leverage support for both art and design research on campus as well as artistic expression in the City of Houston. That community support should include all segments of Houston’s population of artists. Houston is and has been home to a thriving community of visual and performing artists who claim ancestry from Africa, Asia, indigenous America, and Latin America. It is our privilege, as the largest public art library in the region, to work with, to celebrate, and to assist that community.
- We will reach out to community art organizations committed to social justice and equality to learn how we can support and partner with them.
- We will explore opportunities to facilitate dialogue with academic units and community partners on how information resources support social justice, as well as racial, ethnicity, gender, and identity-based equality.
- We will leverage our social media presence by creating spotlights for diverse members of our artistic community, including members of our academic departments and student bodies, to show their work and give them a space to talk about their educational influences, the books and resources they recommend, and talk about the importance of art and design research in their endeavors.
Being held accountable
As stated earlier, our good intentions are not enough. As members of a service profession, as educators, and as State of Texas employees, we owe it to our patrons and to our community to account for our actions. We plan, therefore, to distribute an annual report on our progress at the end of each academic year. We will also undergo annual training and self-education. It is our good fortune to work for a library system that provides training and is served by a Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, which provides a monthly reading and discussion group. The University of Houston is also home to a Center for Diversity and Inclusion, a Women and Gender Resource Center, an LGBTQ Resource Center, and a Center for Students with DisABILITIES, all of which offer robust training opportunities.
- Every summer semester we will undertake an assessment of our collection development, services, outreach, training, staffing, and operations. We will note the diversity of student artists, staff, and exhibits annually to ensure we are presenting multiple perspectives.
- Our report will include a list of training and other educational efforts undertaken by the library staff.