Office of the Vice Provost for Digital Initiatives and Dean of University Libraries
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Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson

Betsy Wilson

Contact Information

Office of the Vice Provost and Dean
University of Washington Libraries
482 Allen Library
Box 352900
Seattle, WA 98195-2900 USA

Phone:  206-543-1763
Fax:  206-685-8727
Office hours:

  • Academic quarter:  Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Interim:  Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

June 5, 2020

Responding to the Call: UW Libraries Response to George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and Systemic Change

Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson, vice provost for digital initiatives and dean of University Libraries

 

Dear UW Community:

Thank you to our UW leadership across all three campuses, President Ana Mari Cauce and Laura Cañate, UW MBA ’18, for your powerful words. We recognize the clarity of this moment and share a commitment to anti-racist work across the UW Libraries.

Speaking on behalf of UW Libraries to all individuals and communities of color— including our UW employees, users and partners—we mourn with you and support the calls throughout our region and across the nation for justice, accountability and equality. We care about you. We see you. Black Lives Matter.

The brutal killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tacoma resident Manuel Ellis and the many other victims of racist violence who suffered before them, reveal the long, persistent history of racism in our country and within our local communities. The protests in response call us to urgently recognize and change the broken system that has enabled and sustained racist violence and oppression. It is a call that we heed, while at the same time working to live through and manage a global pandemic and economic crisis that continues to challenge all facets of our lives, disproportionately impacting communities of color.

As I reflect on this unprecedented time in our history, I recognize my own privilege and advantage as a white woman and a leader for the UW Libraries. Libraries have a central role to play in building a more equitable society, and yet we bear the responsibility to investigate and dismantle our policies, practices and cultures that perpetuate the inequities. We have a long way to go.

Libraries are inherently designed for and dedicated to the public good. They are built on the promise of knowledge, community and openness, but this promise is broken by the pervasiveness of racism and systemic bias that exist within our communities and specifically within libraries themselves—obvious, unconscious and indifferent.  We acknowledge that the legacy of embedded racism and brutality is not isolated to places or periods of time. It is right here. It is right now. As institutions who have long been working to take steps to address these issues—we must challenge ourselves to do more. Our worthy and well-intentioned goals and strategic plans are guideposts, not end-games; it’s time to revisit and understand where and how we can do better.

As UW Libraries, we actively support the University in sustaining diversity, creating inclusive experiences for the UW community, and confronting institutional bias and structural racism. It is one of our core values. This moment in time asks us—both as individuals and as institutions, to do more. The Libraries can provide resources for learning and self-education; however, we acknowledge that a list of resources is not the answer, it is one potential tool out of many to support our collective work to self-educate. How we invest our time moving forward—our actions—will define the change we see in the future.

To our UW community, I pledge to work alongside our employees, formal and informal committees and groups, and campus leadership to revisit and rethink how equity, diversity and inclusion truly show up at UW Libraries. This work is already deeply embedded in our mission and values; it is not new, but it requires a renewed focus and calibration. It requires a seismic shift in the way we work, to examine our current plans, policies and procedures through the lens of equity and anti-racism. Our Libraries leadership team is fully committed to this promise and we intend to share our progress publicly.

I extend an open invitation to my fellow libraries staff and leaders to share your work, to engage and collaborate as we respond to the call for urgency and action—to fulfill the promise of knowledge, community and openness that our public and academic Libraries are built on.  May we each do the hard work to find the pathway to true change, a path guided by caring, compassion and love for each other.

Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson
Vice Provost and Dean of University Libraries
University of Washington