Early Lessons from the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Collections Committee at Providence Public Library: Forming the Committee


By: Mireille Stürmann, Teen Librarian, Providence Public Library; Kate Aubin, Teen Educator, Providence Public Library; Jordan Goffin, Head Curator of Collections, Providence Public Library; Janaya Kizzie, Events Coordinator, Providence Public Library; Jade Lopez, Information Services Specialist, Providence Public Library; Clara Mendonca, Information Services Librarian, Providence Public Library; Beatrice Pulliam, Director of Technology & Information Services, Providence Public Library

In 2020, as part of a new strategic plan, Providence Public Library (PPL) made a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and a portion of the overall collections budget was earmarked for improving the Library’s overall collections. In September of 2020, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Collections Committee was formed to identify the best ways to use and distribute those funds. This task will run through May 2021, but the hope is that the committee’s work will continue even after the funds are spent, as this endeavor is still a work in progress with many end results to come.

This process is moving slowly due to the nature of group work and collecting community feedback, but that’s okay. This work should move a little slowly so that it is, in fact, intentional. As we move forward, we wanted to share some early lessons learned about the formation and considerations of the committee for discussion among the larger library community.

On forming a committee to set intentionality

The DEI Collections Committee at PPL was formed in order to set intentionality around the process of diversifying a broader collection, and to ensure that the work would have staying power within the overall collections procedures of the Library. The committee consists of five librarians, one formal educator, and one information specialist, from many departments: Information Services, Technology, Education, Events & Programming, and Special Collections. Half of the committee members volunteered, and half were recruited. Though it would have been easy to form a committee of content selectors, the committee was formed with an eye towards elevating new voices within the Library, and intentionally building a diversity of voices and experiences. Of the seven members, three are new to collection development or had not been prior selectors at the Library. The committee meets monthly for an hour-long meeting over Zoom or Google Meet, and committee members work on individual projects between meetings.

Image of lounge center in library

Deciding on the work of the committee

The committee was initially assembled with the goals of identifying best practices of DEI collection development and to decide how best to spend the DEI-specific collecting budget allocated for the fiscal year. In the committee’s initial meeting, each member shared their hopes and goals for the group’s work. The immediate decision to be made was how the DEI funds would be allocated and who would be responsible for spending. Would the committee direct the funds, or would all collection selectors receive a portion for their area?

In order to underscore that this work should already be underway in all existing budgets, and not just dependent on supplemental funding, we decided that the committee itself would select for specifically identified areas using the funds and that the committee would provide all library selectors with support and encouragement for diversifying their own collections within their existing budgets. The committee created a selecting resource list which was shared with the larger collections committee, and as collection audits proceed in the future, we will be able to offer directed support as well to specific selecting areas.

With the committee set and working towards its immediate goals, as we move through these individual tasks and efforts, it is immediately clear that there is a lot more in front of us than just deciding how to allocate a budget or identifying and ordering some materials by a deadline. In each step, we continue to keep an eye on both the immediate work at hand as well as the long-term responsibilities of the committee and what we might contribute to the Library and the outside community over the long term.

Read the follow-up blog post.