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Published April 5, 2022


The urgency of information equity

Tracie D. Hall discusses libraries’ relationship to race, redlining and resistance at Bobinski Lecture

Tracie D. Hall spoke about the crisis of information discrimination currently existing in the United States at the annual Bobinski Lecture Series hosted by the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education’s Department of Information Science. 

Held on Zoom, the lecture allowed professionals across the information science sector to come together. “We try to identify speakers who have a topic to speak about that addresses diversity. Equity, diversity, justice and inclusion are always at the forefront of what our department is trying to do,” said Heidi Julien, professor in the Department of Information Science.

Hall, the executive director of the American Library Association, explained that “libraries can play a role that no other institution in the public realm can.”

The lecture, “Race, Redlining and Resistance: Libraries in the Making of the Next Civil Rights Movement,” was attended by students, faculty, staff and community members. During the lecture, she focused on libraries’ status as contested spaces from the early Civil Rights Movement through the present day, and why contemporary libraries are called upon now more than ever to fulfill the promise of information, social and economic enfranchisement to all.

She explored timely issues such as socioeconomic information resource gaps and information poverty, and highlighted the relationship between adult reading literacy, digital literacy and health access literacy.

“We are, of course, in a time of twin crises, especially during the first year of the pandemic and during the summer of racial reckoning,” she said. “We found that the communities that are most likely to experience limited information or digital access tended to be overwhelmingly poor BIPOC and also to be visited with disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infection and death.”

Hall also noted that the next crucial wave of library services has arrived. With this shift, libraries continue extending beyond the brick and mortar and unleashing their digital capacities. “Libraries are reaching new users, supporting existing users by expanding their digital literacy skills and finally closing the data access gap,” she said.  

The presentation concluded with Hall’s call to action for academic libraries: “I think of academic libraries as a bridge and the switching station. That’s what they must do … And it is important that we interrogate the microaggressions in academic spaces and nonprofit organizations.”

This lecture was supported by the George and Mary Bobinski Lecture Fund. “The Bobinski Lecture is the department’s highlight event of the year because it gives us the opportunity to bring in a notable, high-profile speaker to talk to us about contemporary and important issues facing the field of information science,” said Dan Albertson, professor and chair of the Department of Information Science.

Emeritus Professor and former Dean George S. Bobinski is a library historian and noted scholar. Mary Bobinski was a former director of the Amherst Public Libraries, and the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. The lecture was co-sponsored by the University at Buffalo Special Collections.

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