The Virginia Tech community now has access to more resources focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion as a member of a statewide partnership led by VIVA, the academic library consortium of Virginia.

Thanks to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Fund for Excellence and Innovation and state funding by the General Assembly, VIVA has purchased three African American and Indigenous peoples primary source collections and a collection of ebooks covering a broad range of diverse topics, and started a subscription to a video collection of African American oral histories.

The resources now available are: African Americans and Reconstruction, 1865 - 1883; African Americans and Jim Crow, 1883 - 1922; Indigenous Peoples of North America; The History Makers Digital Archive; and The Diversity Bundle Ebooks collection from Gale.

Since VIVA’s creation in 1994, University Libraries at Virginia Tech has benefited from VIVA’s role in purchasing and licensing shared collections across the state.

“VIVA has been a key ally in providing information resources to colleges and universities across the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Edward Lener, University Libraries’ associate director for collection management. “All 39 public institutions of higher education are included, from the smallest community college to the largest research university, so everyone benefits when VIVA adds a new resource. Decision making is collaborative and all member institutions are encouraged to participate.”

University Libraries’ Collections Strategist Nitra Eastby said this collection will offer faculty and students additional tools to investigate and think critically about the history of North America and the United States.

“To see VIVA prioritizing the acquisition of this content is encouraging. Our history books have been traditionally written by those in power, diminishing the voices of people who were silenced and oppressed in the pursuit of that power,” said Eastby. “The expansion of access to primary source collections from Black and indigenous peoples of North America will improve the ability of our students and faculty to both investigate these stories from multiple perspectives and to continue to challenge the predominant narratives surrounding the history of North America and the United States. 

“It is not possible to achieve a truly inclusive environment if only one story is adequately represented in the materials available, so these resources will help move us towards a collection that is more reflective of the community that we serve and of the future that we strive for at Virginia Tech,” said Eastby.

Lener said the collections offer firsthand accounts of these slices of history in order to offer a rich representation of past events from those who helped shape them.

“Some of the newly added materials are retrospective in nature, including primary source materials and oral histories on important topics from our past,” said Lener. “A deeper understanding of our shared history will help all of us in creating a better path forward.”

The newly available Diversity Bundle Ebooks collection from Gale is a group of 57 titles with publication dates of 2017 to the present. This collection provides information and research across a broad range of diversity, equity, and inclusion topics that are applied across many fields including business, health science, and education.

“These ebooks can help students and faculty explore contemporary issues in this space,” added Lener. “Together, the new collections represent an important step forward in improving understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion on our campuses.”

Lener emphasized that while these new resources represent a good start, much more in this area will be coming in the months and years ahead.

Faculty members stand around a short, long wooden shelf full of books.
Team members Kirsten Dean, Nitra Eastby, Roberto Silva, and Anthony Wright de Hernandez at the popular reading collection. Photo by Trevor Finney.

Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion across collections

Last year, Collection Strategist Nitra Eastby established a five-person team to explore assessing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the University Libraries’ collections. Team members Ana Corral, Kirsten Dean, Roberto Silva, and Anthony Wright de Hernandez represented a variety of departments and roles within the University Libraries. The team attended an online course, “Equity in Action: Building Diverse Collections,” that outlined essential concepts in cultivating and promoting inclusive and equitable collections, and learned the basics of conducting a diversity audit.

A concrete outcome of the team’s work is a collection consultation model, which Eastby is piloting with Inga Haugen, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences liaison, in Fall 2021. At the 2020 and 2021 vendor visit events, vendors were asked to include a presentation or statement about diversity, equity, and inclusion in their collections and company. The University Libraries will continue this practice to emphasize its importance. The Library added many new collections with a diversity, equity, and inclusion focus, including Gale Archives of Sexuality and Gender part 4, Global Hip Hop Studies, and additional Black historical newspapers in addition to the collections through VIVA.

By Ann Brown