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Wednesday, March 27 • 1:30pm - 2:50pm
Social Justice Frameworks and Special Collections in Practice

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This session explores how three academic libraries have approached issues of equity and inclusion in their Special Collections and what steps they have taken to ensure representation in digital curation, collection assessment, and recruitment processes. Presenters will expound upon three approaches: inclusion of marginalized artists into the library's public domain visual resources platform ("Does Copyright Prevent Diversity?: Examining Representation in the Public Domain"); utilizing other collections to demonstrate the lack of African American representation in institutional records ("Ghosts in the Archive: Seeking Evidence Beyond the Frame of Institutional History "); and the creation of a fellowship program to address issues of marginalization within the context of collection building and workforce recruitment ("Raising Consciousness & Empowering Undergraduates: Creating Meaningful Outreach Through Special Collections Mentoring").

The Visual Resources Center at the University of Delaware analyzes the intersection of digital collections online, copyright law and the public domain, and how to better incorporate more marginalized artists into everyday use of images in library and visual resources materials. With several major institutions making vast sections of their online collections available for download and restriction-free use, we have more images at our fingertips than ever before, but whose artwork is represented in these collections of public domain artworks?

As a second example, Special Collections at the Johns Hopkins University has created an outreach program targeting undergraduate students, with the initial focus on introductory events meant to raise awareness about the library's collections. As the outreach program grew in popularity, it became apparent that there was an opportunity to use the department's raised profile to encourage students who may feel that they do not belong in the "rarefied" world of rare books and manuscripts to meaningfully engage with primary sources. Thus, Special Collections Freshman Fellows was born to engage students in critical librarianship and encourage them to take active steps in addressing issues of marginalization via scholarly discourse, such as selecting materials for acquisitions by authors or social movements that were in the past deemed outside of the collection scope.

In supporting Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) students who explore institutional history and special collections, the library has found that their research must often extend beyond MICA’s collection boundaries in order to include the narratives of people of color.The presenter will draw on intern-led exhibits as well as a body of research and artwork created by a student whose subject/s were part of MICA history, but barely or not at all represented in the college’s Archives. It was only by going out to other resources in the area that the students were able to build a better picture of the people they wished to document, and, in the process, created an information resource that will add great value to the college’s collections.

Learning Objectives
  • Provide strategies for integrating social justice frameworks in collection development, outreach, and mentoring in libraries
  • Facilitate effective dialogue on social justice issues in visual literacy
  • Provide strategies for engaging in Special Collections critical librarianship


Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez

NDSR Art Resident, Maryland Institute College of Art, Decker Library

avatar for Katherine Cowan

Katherine Cowan

Special Collections Librarian, Maryland Institute College of Art
Baltimore-born. Enjoys meditation, parenting, painting, and patternsBFA MICA ('81 painting); MFA Clemson ('95 painting); MLS Maryland ('99); Studied Anthropology post-bac (JHU 1982-83) and graduate (UT Austin 1984-85, abt)

Heidi Herr

Librarian for English, Philosophy, & the Writing Seminars, The Johns Hopkins University
(she/her/hers) Student Engagement Librarian for Special Collections

Wednesday March 27, 2019 1:30pm - 2:50pm MDT
Grand America Hotel: Envoy (1st Floor) 555 Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT, 84111