Message from the Dean of University Libraries
We have spent the past week thinking about the murder of George Floyd and the devastating impact this has had on those who knew and loved him — and on those of us who did not know him. We are shocked, angered and sickened by the images of another unarmed black man being killed by a police officer. Many of us have spent hours watching peaceful protests calling for justice, not just for George Floyd, but for all who have experienced abuse, mistreatment, disenfranchisement and even death as a result of the systemic racism that exists in this country.
It is a challenge to know what to say at this moment. For some of you reading this message, these events translate into lived experiences, and for that I am deeply sorry. My hope is that each of us finds within ourselves a call to action, a call to understand our own personal and institutional roles in ending racism, based on the understanding that racism hurts all of us.
I stood at the base of the Lincoln Memorial when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared “I have a dream,” and I watched the emotional outbursts manifested in protests and devastating riots in my hometown of Washington, DC, when he was assassinated. This week has renewed the urgency for us join together to fulfill the vision he shared with us. We must work together to stop the violence against African-Americans, indigenous populations, and other people of color — to live up to the promise of liberty and justice for all and to make sure that in America everyone is judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Some of you are familiar with Dr. King’s 1964 sermon at Wesleyan University, where he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It is times like this when it is difficult to believe that justice will prevail, but Dr. King was not naïve. I believe his words are true, and while they offer both comfort and hope, they do not relieve us of the responsibility to act to accelerate the pace to justice.
The call to stand up and serve our community resonates with us. Libraries are critical to societal change, and as employees, we can effect that change, in part, through our work together. The Smathers Libraries have committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplace. We have committed to making our libraries safe, welcoming and supportive places. We have committed to engaging underrepresented, under-served populations, and to curating and disseminating their knowledge. These are ambitious and challenging objectives, but I am confident that we can, and we must, make real progress in all of these commitments – and all of the Libraries’ other strategic objectives. They expand our critical contributions to the creation of knowledge and understanding, and establishment of a more just society. These efforts will enrich our lives and those of many others.
Judy Russell, Dean of University Libraries, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida