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What Can Libraries Learn From Campus DEI Goals?

Identifying opportunities, values, and community at NC State University
Published onMay 01, 2024
What Can Libraries Learn From Campus DEI Goals?


In 2021, NC State University, a public, land grant institution in the southeastern United States, released their 10-year strategic plan. The most notable shift in priorities, a goal that was wholly nonexistent in the previous 10-year plan, is goal number four: “champion a culture of equity, diversity, inclusion, belonging and well-being in all we do,” setting in stone a reaction to a global pandemic and national uprisings against racial injustice. A strategic plan captures a vision of the future; an investigation into this vision is necessary to determine how goal four is manifesting across the university. More specifically, to inform our work in the Libraries, many questions spring to mind:

  • What concrete steps are being taken by academic units to champion this culture?

  • How do Colleges and Departments interpret the overarching goals and make them meaningful for their disciplines?

  • What role does NC State Libraries potentially play in these goals?

Within the Libraries, we are collectively thinking about how to support and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) throughout our spaces, collections, and services. On the research services front, work is underway on a two-year strategic project to explore connections between campus DEI goals and equitable practices in collections and scholarly communication strategy. This project's first objective was conducting a content analysis from publicly available DEI information from Department and College level web pages at the University. The findings from the content analysis provided a surprising number of thoughts and questions to consider before moving forward with the next stages of the project. We’ll introduce our main findings from the content analysis and delve into some of these questions below.


We conducted a content analysis of all publicly available DEI statements from across 12 Colleges and all Departments at NC State. The goal of this analysis was to uncover how academic units are implementing the University’s goal of DEI and think about how the Libraries fit into the larger picture of supporting those priorities. The DEI information we included in our analysis took many forms: in some cases relevant information was on a completely separate DEI-themed web page of a College or Department website, in other cases it was a DEI mission statement on the College or Department homepage, and in a few cases it was captured within a strategic plan document that was linked from a College or Department website.

Out of 62 College and Department pages, we found that 37 (60%) had DEI statements or goals that were explicitly mentioned. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences had public DEI statements for every department, followed closely by the College of Sciences and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which were also well represented in our analysis. The majority of academic units across the disciplines were publicly addressing DEI in some form or fashion, which is interesting in its own right, especially considering the tension around these topics in the University of North Carolina System. The collection of the statements occurred between August 22nd and August 30th 2023. Each web page was downloaded as a PDF and analyzed using QDA Miner Lite, a free qualitative analysis software. Analysis was completed on September 1st. We do want to acknowledge that some of the content on the web pages included in our analysis might have changed between August 2023 and the date of this publication.

Four Main Themes

Four core themes emerged after performing a qualitative analysis using thematic coding: 1) Scholarship, Expression, Culture; 2) Career Resources and Development; 3) Recruitment and Retention; and 4) Collaboration. QDA Miner Lite provided a method to organize and group similar topics from the content, allowing us to categorize the core themes that emerged from the groupings. Though there are overlaps between these four categories, the broader themes we developed provide enough specificity to understand where the Libraries may fit in supporting our academic units DEI goals. 

Scholarship, Expression, Culture

Perhaps most directly relevant to the Libraries is the emphasis on diverse scholarship in the DEI statements. Virtually every department emphasizes that a diverse faculty leads to “real-world relevance” and innovation in teaching and research. Different academic units had various definitions of what diverse scholarship meant to their discipline. For example, engineering and science departments frequently understood diverse scholarship in terms of forwarding research innovation that address societal problems. Departments within humanities and social sciences focused on diverse research in terms of the research inquiry itself being more inclusive, like studying marginalized populations. Most units across the disciplines also recognized that researchers who represent diverse groups themselves approach projects from novel perspectives that better serve our society. These examples from academic units offer a variety of perspectives:

“... we define diversity broadly. We are committed to a global view of diversity as an important element in ensuring that our teaching remains connected to real-world problems, our research remains relevant and cutting-edge and our social composition includes a variety of voices, thoughts, ideas and opinions…” (from the College of Engineering)

“…Through our research and scholarship, our department also explores and informs connections between groups, across cultures and within the communities we serve…” (from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

…We will engage in scholarship that includes examining the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion practices on organizations…” (from the Poole College of Management)

“…We recognize that a diverse community generates diverse thought necessary to successfully create relevant and effective solutions to complex challenges…” (from the College of Veterinary Medicine)

“…Diversity opens the door for innovation as people from all backgrounds work together to solve today’s complex problems…” (from the College of Natural Resources)

The commitment to diverse scholarship poses important questions for libraries: can we support diverse scholarship in all the ways our campus describes? What kinds of diverse scholarship do we currently support? Where might we improve our collections and services to better serve diverse research and researchers? The answers to these questions could vary depending on institutional setting, but may broadly involve: diversifying collections, advocating for open or equitable publishing and dissemination options (particularly for culturally responsive research), supporting research or data management tools, and recognizing the work of diverse researchers. This may also include developing sustainable outreach approaches to diverse or underrepresented faculty so we remain aware of current and emerging needs.

Another important part of this theme is freedom of expression and culture. We found these values are regarded as core to the ethos of academic units. Almost every Department or College claims to be invested in the success of those presently and historically marginalized to create a culture of inclusivity. Some units describe the specific actions taken in this regard, such as providing diversity grants, mentoring opportunities, and DEI training programs, while others simply state these philosophies as core to their exsistence:

“…We strive to create a culture of belonging and inclusivity, where all individuals feel comfortable sharing their authentic self…” (from the College of Design)

“…We commit to deconstructing inequities and building a welcoming environment where everyone belongs…” (from the College of Textiles)

“…express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people…” (from the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences)

The overarching values of expression and culture embraced by academic units are also central to the mission of libraries. Recent debate within the field question if and how libraries truly serve as a beacon of expression. Whose voices are amplified and whose are omitted in our spaces, services, and collections? As campuses continue to explore these values, we expect libraries to take on an even bigger role in guiding these conversations.

Career Resources and Development

All academic units mentioned creating workshops, mentorship, funding, and other training opportunities to reach their DEI goals. Some departments accept and offer funding for DEI initiatives, such as the College of Engineering’s joint BiomDEIcal Engineering department:

“…If you would like to support our diversity program within the joint department, please consider contributing to our BiomDEIcal Engineering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund. Support from this fund will go directly to promoting inclusiveness within the department, including providing collaborative opportunities for students to integrate our diversity mission beyond the classroom…”

The Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences state they are committed to a variety of training opportunities:

“…We intend to enact changes, continuously and persistently, to ensure that a welcoming and inclusive environment becomes the permanent reality in MEAS.…pursue and make available training to address racism and implicit bias, end harassment, and implement bystander intervention…”

The Department of Biological Sciences uses storytelling to change the narrative:

“…Exploring the use of storytelling as a means to create community and to deconstruct the scientific stock stories we have learned…”

Libraries are well positioned to contribute to professional development activity on campus since we regularly create instruction, training, and learning opportunities that reach across the disciplines. For example, at our Libraries, we’ve partnered with the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity on DEI/DIY, to create a regularly curated list of resources to inform inquiry, introspection, and engagement. We should continue to leverage these types of experiences and consider better aligning our workshops and learning opportunities with DEI development goals on campus.

Many of our academic units have DEI committees whose members develop training for their departments. How could libraries partner with these committees to advance both departmental and library goals? Formalizing these connections and making them an intentional part of our work is one potential way that libraries could learn together with other units.

Recruitment and Retention

Hand in hand with the production of diverse scholarship is the aim to recruit and retain a diverse faculty. The nature of DEI statements we examined approached this topic in various ways: some are aspirational and goal-oriented, while other statements list tangible steps their departments are taking to recruit and retain diverse individuals. Some Colleges have created DEI hiring committees to forward recruitment efforts, while others focus on retention efforts by creating affinity groups and professional networks. Increasing representation of faculty was also mentioned in several statements as an explicit goal. For faculty candidates, this means that they can see our campus as a place to comfortably practice their work in spaces where diverse scholarship is welcomed and recognized:

“...Recruit and retain diverse ISE faculty/staff to expand ISE abilities while developing current talent to meet their personal and professional goals…” (from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering)

“...Recruit and retain faculty, staff, and students from underrepresented backgrounds and implement systems and structures to support them…” (from the College of Education)

“...Coaching each and every faculty hiring committee at the outset of their recruitment to ensure we reach out to diverse candidates….creating and implementing intentional ways to ensure that members of diverse backgrounds not only join our college, but become full members of our community…” (from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences)

Most units prioritized equitable salary, promotion opportunities, and other benefits as most important to the recruitment and retention of faculty. We acknowledge that libraries usually do not have influence over these factors. However, belonging and wellbeing are typically considered ‘secondary’ factors of recruitment and retention efforts, and this is where libraries could have an impact. As part of the campus community, we undoubtedly have a role in building a sense of belonging for faculty. For example, as a standard part of the recruitment process, tours of the Libraries are routinely given to faculty candidates. Are there ways for us to better appeal to candidates either during tours of the Libraries or by other means? Better showcasing how we support diverse research and researchers, either in our spaces or virtually, might be a way to signal to prospective faculty that the Libraries are supportive spaces where all scholarship will be valued.

After new faculty arrive on campus, libraries need to show sustained support. A recent report from the NC State Black Faculty Retention and Success Task Force emphasized the negative impacts of non-supportive environments. For example, academic units that prize one type scholarship over another creates a competitive atmosphere where underrepresented faculty can become isolated. Also noted is the idea of the ‘invisible service load’ where Black faculty take on more service work, such as mentoring diverse students and serving on DEI committees, than more privileged faculty. Since underrepresented faculty juggle both visible and invisible work loads, how can libraries be sensitive to these needs and imagine different ways of working together?


Many academic units believe that collaborations both on and off campus are intrinsic elements of their DEI efforts. On the research front, some campus departments seek to improve communication, workflow platforms, and infrastructure that would allow researchers to connect more easily with each other. Similar to other institutions, NC State is currently championing interdisciplinary programs to push research forward in new directions and address societal needs through collaborative thinking. By partnering with researchers with various expertise and perspectives, many academic units believe this will advance diverse research and knowledge in new ways.

Given that campus DEI goals are closely linked with collaborative practices, how can we reframe the library as a connector to campus and the community? At our institution, we currently act as a connector in some capacity through our public services staff and liaison librarians who work with specific academic departments, but opportunities abound to strengthen this work. Our Libraries hosts and develops the Citation Index, a collection of citations of publications and other works by NC State faculty, students, and staff. The team that develops the Citation Index has various experiments in the pipeline, including an email subscriptions feature that allows NC State affiliates to receive daily updates of recent publications for specific departments on campus. Continuing to experiment with meaningful ways to connect faculty should be a priority for academic libraries. This may involve creative outreach to link faculty to each other, or it might be an opportunity for libraries to advise on open collaborative practices such as the creation of project documentation so that work is preserved and reproducible.

On the wellness front, we also found that some units, like the College of Veterinary Medicine, promote campus collaborations with centers like our LGBTQ Pride Center to address belonging and wellbeing:

“…The Project SAFE Ally program is a three-hour workshop that NC State College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) undergraduates, graduate students, staff, faculty and alumni participate in to understand and address the needs of GLBT students. The CVM contributes over 25 allies to this initiative…”

Departments from across campus also believe community collaborations are vital to their work:

Biomedical Engineering strives to develop community collaborations to extend their engagement aims to local populations:

“…It is only through this foundation that translation of ideas and discoveries from the department into the community can occur, and that knowledge of medical needs and concerns can flow from the community to inform research within the department…”

The College of Sciences has a series of K-12 programs to engage with underserved populations, like the Catalyst program:

“…Catalyst is a high school program designed to create STEM opportunities for students with disabilities. Students learn STEM content and skills through hands-on labs and research; participate in STEM field trips, mentoring opportunities and paid internships…”

Outside of campus, libraries may consider new ways to be a connector to communities, particularly when it comes to cultural institutions, K-12 schools, and non-profit organizations who want to partner with academic institutions to forward culturally responsive research. For example, librarians might consider working with local organizations whose missions align with the research interests of faculty.

Next Steps

The DEI content analysis was the first phase of our two-year project. After completing the analysis in the fall of 2023, we discussed the findings with our Libraries’ colleagues to determine what themes most resonated with them. During the spring of 2024, we started to conduct interviews with early career, underrepresented faculty from across the disciplines to discuss the most pertinent themes of the content analysis and how the Libraries might align with and support their research goals. The final stage of the project is to examine the intersecting points of the interview findings with equitable practices in scholarly communication to develop a set of actionable recommendations for our Libraries.

Just like many who work for public institutions across the United States, we are doing the work of this project in uncertain and challenging times. Despite these challenges, many of our colleagues from both in and outside the Libraries believe that advancing the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work is critical for the future of our field and central to creating vibrant research communities.

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