Message from the University Librarian
DEIA at Yale Library
Since my arrival in July 2020, I have committed to putting equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility at the heart of all we do at Yale Library. Our goal is essential and ongoing—and it will never be finished. I am heartened and humbled by the energy and creativity of my colleagues across the library bring to this shared effort.
Over the past 300 years, Yale Library has accumulated and preserved collections that represent a vast diversity of the human experience. Our collections power teaching and learning, inspire research, galvanize new knowledge, and support scholarship worldwide. The engagement of students with our staff, services, and collections is part of the transformative impact of a Yale education.
Yet, as an institution of great privilege, we must acknowledge that we are part of a system that has benefited from and perpetuated societal inequity and injustice. Among the many individuals and groups helping us grapple with this reality is the Advisory Committee on Library Staff Diversity and Inclusion. Its members play a critical role in ensuring that our community is respectful and nurturing for all, that our spaces are welcoming, and that our services and programs fully meet the needs of our library users.
Our work is anchored by a renewed Collection Development Philosophy, structured to ensure that, as we continue to manage our collections, we are fully considering systemic inequities and bias and underrepresented views and experiences. We are also benefiting from the ongoing work of the Reparative Archival Description Working Group in spotlighting the impact of harmful archival language and helping us make the language in our finding aids, catalog records, and metadata more inclusive and respectful, and weeding racist, sexist, colonialist, homophobic and other offensive or hurtful terms.
Another catalyst is the recent reorganization of Yale Library special collections under the leadership of Michelle Light, associate university librarian for special collections and director of Beinecke Library. We are committed to making our collections as discoverable and accessible as possible to research communities at Yale and beyond, and particularly to communities whose heritage may be represented in the collections.
These are just a few of many examples; one of our challenges is bringing together many disparate initiatives into a more unified and cohesive whole. All our work is uplifted by Risë Nelson, Yale Library’s inaugural director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Our new DEIA website is one of Risë’s first projects. We hope you will explore it and share your questions, comments, and suggestions. Like the critical goals it supports, the website is complex and content-rich—and very much a work in progress.
Barbara Rockenbach, Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian
Image: Martin Luther King III visits “Kings at Yale” exhibition in Sterling Memorial Library, January 2023. Pictured, left to right: Barbara Rockenbach, Martin Luther King III, Vice Provost Susan Gibbons