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Friday May 27th

IDEA Action Grant program funds seven new diversity, equity, inclusion projects

University Libraries' IDEA Action grant program provides funding to support inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility efforts.
Buy Photos University Libraries' IDEA Action grant program provides funding to support inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility efforts.

In March, University Libraries announced funding for seven projects through its internal inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility, or IDEA, Action Grant program.

This is the second round of IDEA projects funded through the program. The first round, announced in March 2021, funded eight projects.

The IDEA Action Grant program was set up to invest $250,000 over two years with the purpose of empowering University Libraries employees to "propose and implement inclusive and anti-racist practices in all areas of library operations," according to the recent announcement.

The program was formed after a call-to-action in the summer of 2020, Monica Figueroa, interim librarian for inclusive excellence, said.

“I don't think that any other academic library is doing this type of work and providing this type of financial support in the same way that we are at Carolina,” Figueroa said. “And so it really does elevate and deepen the commitment to reckoning, the commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, when there is actual dollar amounts behind projects.”

University Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks — who launched the program — wanted to find a way to empower library staff to propose projects that center and bring forward diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts within the organization, Figueroa said.

“We want everyone to feel like they can be successful, and that means providing access to the resources and the information that people need,” Figueroa said.

Westbrooks launched the grant program as part of University Libraries' Reckoning Initiative, a call to action to advance DEI and antiracism work within the library system.

The seven new projects supported by the grant program this year will advance social justice, anti-racist work and diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility work, Kristan Shawgo, chairperson of the IDEA Action committee, said.

One of the newly announced projects is the OverDrive ebook and audiobook expansion project which will implement more diverse voices in audiobooks by increasing the use of Latinx voices in recordings, as well as digitizing stories with characters from minority groups. The project will expand upon the AfroLatinx Authors & Stories collection.

Another project is the Front Page digitization project.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is working on digitizing newspapers that highlight stories about Black North Carolinians. Two newspapers that will become accessible through this initiative are the Star of Zion, one of the oldest black newspapers in North Carolina, and the Front Page, a Raleigh-Based LGBTQ newsletter.

“Both of these efforts were used to make these voices available, not only to UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, but they're available to everyone,” Shawgo said. “So this is helping us also serve our mission as a public institution and a library for the state.”

Funds from the grant program were also used to pay the community reviewers to provide feedback on the Black and Blue Tour website, University Archivist Nicholas Graham said.

Created in 2001, the Black and Blue Tour is a walking tour for participants to learn about the histories of slavery, racism, memorialization and activism in Chapel Hill and at the University.

Graham said the website was updated to include information about the first Black students at UNC as well as activism led by Black students.

“We didn’t want it to be something just for us," Graham said. “We wanted it to be meaningful, accessible and accurate according to the people that would read it, use it and according to some of the people who lived through this history.”

Graham said that the walking tour is substantially better with the input of the community.

Another major project is the conscious editing guide which, according to the University Libraries announcement, will be a guide on the practices the Conscious Editing Steering Committee have developed as they have remediated the finding aids for archival collections.

The guide is a significant project that will continue long after the grant, Judy Panitch, director of University Library Communications, said.

Some projects are still in the ideation phase, such as the IDEA Podcast which will highlight the program's work, Panitch said.

The podcast aims to highlight the various projects and programs to be shared with a wider audience.

"This program was a real opportunity for us to move away from simply learning, simply talking about the importance of this work to actually going into action for this work,” Shawgo said. 

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