The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is among 56 colleges and universities to earn the inaugural Library Excellence in Access and Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.
The LEAD Award honors academic library programs and initiatives that encourage and support diversity, equity and inclusion in a range of areas. Those areas include content, programs, research, technology, accessibility, exhibitions and community outreach.
“We are an extraordinarily diverse university, so we want each of our students and faculty and staff – as well as our community – to see themselves in the library, in what we exhibit, in events we host, in what we collect. That’s a very important part of what a library is,” said Dr. Brian Doherty who leads UL Lafayette’s Edith Garland Dupré Library as dean of University Libraries.
“We’re also a socio-intellectual community, a gathering place, a hub for information, but also for the birth of new ideas and a social environment where people feel welcome and inclined to forge relationships – intellectual relationships, collaboration, interdisciplinary relationships,” he added.
The recognition underscores campus-wide efforts designed to foster access, opportunity and success for underrepresented groups. In October, those overarching efforts earned UL Lafayette a sixth straight Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity.
As with the HEED Award, LEAD recognition rests on the strength of initiatives outlined in the University’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence. The plan sets forth objectives in areas such as engagement across campus and in the community; recruiting and hiring a faculty from diverse backgrounds; and increasing enrollment and retention among underrepresented students.
Those efforts are led by the University’s Office for Campus Diversity. Kiwana McClung, who leads the office as the University’s chief diversity officer, said that the LEAD Award recognizes Dupré Library’s “longstanding status as a hub for content, programs, practices and resources that foster access, equity and acceptance.”
INSIGHT Into Diversity, the largest diversity magazine and website in higher education according to its website, agreed. In a press release announcing the 2024 LEAD Award recipients, Lenore Pearlstein, the magazine’s owner and publisher, stated: “We are proud to honor these college and university libraries as role models for other institutions of higher education.”
That assessment rests on the strength of many efforts, initiatives and library resources acknowledged by INSIGHT into Diversity magazine.
Among them, McClung explained, is the Ernest J. Gaines Center, which is housed in Dupré Library. Its extensive archives and resources attract scholars and researchers from around the world who study Gaines and his fiction. The University’s writer-in-residence emeritus, who died in 2019 at age 86, is considered among American literature’s most influential chroniclers of race, class and poverty. The center also hosts initiatives and programs that focus on Black culture and traditions, as well as issues such as gender, sexuality, identity, race and economic hierarchies.
INSIGHT Into Diversity’s also recognized the “Queering the Collection: Expanding and Archiving LGBTQ+ History in Southwest Louisiana.” The National Endowment for the Humanities funded the initiative. Dupré Library expanded its books, artifacts, manuscripts and oral histories that reflect Louisiana’s LGBTQ+ community. The expanded collection assists University scholars and the public in conducting research on LGBTQ+ history in the state.
McClung also cited recognition of library-hosted events coordinated by students, including the month-long “Accessibility and Universal Design” program. Through a series of exhibits and workshops, students with disabilities shared their stories and experiences to promote awareness.
The exhibit included oral histories, artifacts such as books written in Braille, and materials loaned from the University’s Office of Disability Services “that represent yet another of many examples of Dupré Library’s wide-ranging offerings and initiatives that support and accessibility and inclusion.”
“LEAD recognition, in turn, not only underscores the library’s longstanding leadership in those areas, but represents that the success of the University’s inclusive excellence model can be credited to contributions from many departments and areas and entities across campus,” McClung explained.
Photo caption: UL Lafayette is among 56 colleges and universities to earn the inaugural Library Excellence in Access and Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The LEAD Award recognizes Dupré Library’s longstanding status as a hub for content, programs, practices and resources that foster access, equity and acceptance. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette