Response to CILIP

This is a response sent to CILIP via the CILIP BAME network, regarding the publication of an article about Dominic Cummings in the Information Professional magazine, the subsequent statement about the article, and the communications of CILIP with the library sector regarding these issues.

(I hope you can understand that this is a personal and emotional response and I have tried to represent the interests of my BAME colleagues who have spoken out and/or been in touch privately.)


I would like to provide a response covering several areas; the original article, the statement in response, the communications by CILIP and representatives, and (in a meta way!) this method of response. Please could my response be taken into consideration in its entirety and not form part of the CILIP BAME network statement?

Overall I would like to express my intense displeasure with how this has been handled even prior to the publication of the article. Of the upmost relevance and concern is the continued suffering of BAME information professionals who have been dealing with this for over two weeks with no recognition of what they and I have been experiencing, and I sincerely hope this will be addressed as a matter of urgency. Throughout this experience I have felt that you (Nick, Meg and CILIP) have either not engaged or engaged in a dismissive fashion, as though I have been blowing this out of proportion and it’s ‘just an article.’ However, as you are not BAME you cannot understand the impact this and the subsequent uproar has had on us, and I hope you are now able to appreciate that your personal experience of the world is not what matters here. 

The original article

The email below from the CILIP BAME network (and I am not sure if this has come from CILIP HQ or the network itself) suggests that there is a belief that the offence to the article stems from Dominic Cummings’ association with Andrew Sabisky and the implication of his support of eugenics, which was in the media after this article was published. The fact that you could have easily used this as an excuse to retract the article originally but chose not to, is yet another concern. However, it is the ongoing work of Dominic Cummings and the government that he represents that has caused the offence, not only his link to eugenics; we have an overtly and confidently racist Prime Minister (and again, the toll of this on your BAME colleagues should surely be on your radar) and Cummings is closely related to this, on top of actual policies that have a detrimental effect on people’s lives. Even if you do not experience this yourself, you have a direct responsibility to be aware of this, to understand it, and act with a sense of human decency and according to your self-proclaimed ethical principles. Where is your support for human rights and equality in the platform given here? 

Personally, I would like an apology from the editor or person responsible for making this decision, and a public retraction of the article. I would also appreciate some work being done with the editorial team and all of CILIP staff to understand what racism is, and what white privilege/fragility is. I would urge CILIP to review their editorial process and ensure that it can stand up to their ethical framework in the future, as it is hurtful and confusing to see an article giving a platform to a person who continues to actively and disproportionately harm BAME and other oppressed people. I cannot know for sure, but I assume that you do not have any BAME editors? The labour of this should not fall for them but we can see clearly how an echo chamber has formed, and the importance of diversity in ensuring different views are challenged.

The statement in response

I do not want to dwell too much on a comparison with the statement published in support of LGBTQ colleagues, and the statement regarding this article, except to say that your speed of response and the person delivering the response matters as much as the tone and content. This was yet another blow to the library BAME community, to see our allies so clearly supported by a statement written by Nick compared to such a dismissive one written by someone who is listed as the web manager. I find it an interesting reflection that in the case of the Scottish Poetry Library you were able to respond calmly and strongly against an external issue, whereas you are obviously struggling to deal similarly with an internal one.

I appreciate that you would want to write a statement rather than respond to individual tweets, but your statement did not address any of the issues around the emotional impact of the article, nor did it answer my many questions that I posted directly to you online. As a future tactic, I would again urge you to reconsider and to treat those who provide feedback and criticism with respect by directly responding to them rather than a blanket statement.

Honestly, I cannot bring myself to discuss the statement itself in great detail (even though it is so brief!) as I find its tone to be condescending and rude, and not worth my energy. The implication is that we have not read the article (where is the respect for professional colleagues) and that if we have, we have misunderstood. No consideration was given specifically to the impact on BAME people and was so clearly written from a white perspective. You also did not tweet it from your main account, which again lessens its impact and made it difficult for others to engage.


This is the area that has hurt me the most, and I have experienced a great deal of upset, self-doubt and emotional labour in dealing with you as individuals and as an organisation. I do not know if it is a policy that you have (and I did email to ask about your policy) or whether I have been blocked/muted online, but my attempts to engage with you have been met with a brick wall. Why do you find it so difficult to hear us complain and feedback about things that disproportionately affect us? I cannot express to you how little I care about damaging CILIP or causing you public embarrassment – I want to dismantle structural racism and support my BAME colleagues, and yes this has meant challenging and criticising you but I would not expend my energy if I did not think it was necessary. As an action, I strongly recommend that you make your social media policy public as quickly as you can and demonstrate your adherence to it.

I have been treated differently, and whilst another person can send in an email via your ‘contact us’ form or tweet at you, and receive a response, I do not receive the same treatment. This is certainly an example of structural racism – not the racist act of a person and their beliefs, but a system set up to perpetuate inequalities that negatively impact BAME people. How else can you account for your actions? I hope you can treat me with some element of courtesy and respect to see that I am working for a cause and not some rabid internet troll; any disagreement we have is a professional one and I would hope that you treat it as such in the future. It is also relevant to note how BAME people, especially women, must act with calmness and facts when expressing criticism and challenging racism, compared to how white people are allowed to act. I suggest you watch this recent clip and reflect on your own white fragility. 

You also made a comment on the phone about how those complaining were a ‘vocal minority,’ which is a deeply concerning statement. It suggests that you ignore criticism from individuals and cater only to what I am assuming is a silent majority, the group that you think must therefore agree with you? As there is a known issue with the lack of diversity in the library sector, it troubles me greatly that you would expect to listen to only a majority voice. Furthermore, this changes the discourse and makes you into the victim rather than the perpetrator – this is classic racist behaviour and a tactic I have experienced a number of times. I appreciate that this was probably a throwaway comment and I do not want to pile blame onto an individual, but again the repercussions of this onto myself and others have been heavily felt. It has affected my perception of myself as a reasonable and needed activist voice, and I feel as though I have been gaslighted to see myself as the problem. Again, a public apology would be welcome here and an acknowledgement of how you will treat all critical voices going forward.

On a personal note… 

I do have a wider issue with the way you publicly display your commitment to ethics, equality, diversity etc. but in individual cases and in private you do not act according to your own values. This performative behaviour is disappointing, actively harms anti-racism work, and it sets the tone for how others behave in the sector. Specifically, it is the speeches you have made referencing myself and DILON, and the information on your website expressing commitment to these values right down to the books you have read (and who out of you has read them?). This has caused me ongoing harm and yourselves ongoing benefits; I am asked regularly about the work we are supposedly doing together, the speech is quoted to me and sent to me, used against me when I express criticism and I can only see how you would benefit by associating yourselves with the work we have been doing without actually needing to take any action. Nick, you especially owe me an apology for this. I did tweet you about it and then tweet again a week later asking for a response.

Method of response

As well as reiterate the comments about your communication above, I am concerned about how we are being asked to send in feedback to you and that this combined statement will be discussed by the SLT. This came via email to members of the network and allies only, and was not publicised online. Furthermore, I was told in a separate email that other comments were being taken into consideration, although it’s unclear whether this is emails and tweets I have sent to you asking for information. This was also not made public, and I have had to expend personal energy in ensuring a full response is gathered, even sending individuals the email who did not get a copy of the original. If you want to change the goalposts against one specific group of people (e.g. the tweets and emails about the SPL were handled in a different way) then you need to make it clear and hopefully explain why, otherwise you have made BAME people do extra work to ensure their voice is heard. As explained above, this is structural racism.

I appreciate that this is a lengthy statement and that I am asking you to read and respond to it in its entirety, but this is important to us as a sector and to me personally. The labour I am expending on a daily basis on dealing with racism in my life and working on change to support other BAME library and HE professionals is unsustainable and CILIP needs to shoulder some of this responsibility. This is why your performative equality and diversity work is so hurtful, and we need you to address this scandal, reflect and then move into a better space. I look forward to your responses and apologies, and learning about how we will be able to work together in the future.

Best wishes,

Jen (in a personal capacity and representing DILON)


If we’re talking inclusivity, then include me

Speaking up within the work environment about issues around diversity and inclusivity is not something I’m comfortable doing. I don’t often speak at work about my experiences as a woman of colour. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that in my professional life I have more often than not avoided speaking about these issues, mostly because of a number negative experiences within different workplaces after which I decided that for my own mental wellbeing I did not want to encounter the often ignorant and sometimes downright racist remarks and behaviours I’ve come across.

In the past year, I’ve noticed an increase in the talks surrounding diversity and inclusivity within the library profession. But what’s often missing from these discussions is the voices of those who are actually affected by these issues. I’ve heard too many people talking about finding solutions but let me ask you this: how can you solve these issues if you don’t fully understand what the issues are in the first place? Before we can even start thinking about solutions, it’s important to recognise what the problem is. And that starts with listening. Listening to those who are affected and listening to the issues they’ve faced. This means letting them a have platform, a safe space within which they can honestly recount their experiences. These conversations can’t take place if there aren’t inclusionary environments within the profession for them.

I’ve worked in a number of places, both in and out of the library sector where I’ve had to put up with colleagues display behaviours that perpetuate the structural racism that is embedded so deeply across society. I’ve worked in places where all my white colleagues have referred to me in the third person on multiple occasions while I’ve been sat right next to them. To sit in professional meetings and be spoken about but not spoken with is not only rude but also isolating, demeaning and exclusionary. I’ve worked in an office where colleagues openly questioned and belittled the fact that another colleague of colour was having to take time off due to mental health issues related to work. These were members of staff who were in senior positions to me. A few years ago, I worked with a colleague (who again was in a senior position to me) with whom I made the mistake of mentioning that I was raised vegetarian because of my parent’s religious beliefs. After this she constantly asked if she could talk about beef and pork in front of me despite me continuously repeating that it didn’t bother me. This same colleague was amazed that my diet consisted mainly of Indian food and again she never failed to vocalise this whenever given the opportunity. When trying to explain to colleagues how frustrating this was, I was told I was “making too much of a thing of it”.

These are just some of the exclusionary behaviours I’ve experienced within the workplace. And the most frustrating thing about this is that these types of behaviour are often perceived as minor actions by people who don’t experience them. To the point where they don’t even notice this type of behaviour when it’s happening right in front of them. These are not environments within which you can safely share your experiences as a professional of colour. People trivialise it and even say that I’m being too sensitive. But when you’ve had people shout racist abuse at you in the street, telling you to go back to your country, calling you vile names and telling you be grateful for colonisation, the yes, race does become a sensitive issue!

When I’ve tried to highlight or even call out such behaviour, people get extremely uncomfortable and defensive. It seems like some people are happy to advocate for diversity until confronted with real situations that are arising right in front of them. There is still a huge amount of denial within the profession as to what constitutes as exclusionary practices and behaviours and about the subtleties of racist behaviour within the professional context.

We keep talking about how we want to make the workplace and profession more inclusive but how can we do this without understanding what excludes people in the first place? I’ve sat at various events and workshops where I’ve been talked over and ignored by white colleagues and peers. White colleagues and peers have literally turned their backs to me as they’ve shouted out about all the wonderful things they are doing for diversity. I’m tired of listening to white people talk at me about race issues and then expecting me to pat them on the back for speaking up on my behalf. Right now it feels like I’m sat on the fringes of the tables where these discussions are happening and in order to get a place at the table, I’m going to have to find a way to physically force myself a space. Often with these discussions, it feels as though only the loudest and most confident speakers stand a chance of being listened to. But if you’re only listening to the loudest voices, then that’s not inclusive.

Diversity and inclusivity are big issue within the profession. And I don’t have the answers as to how we can go about resolving these. But I do know that positive action starts with listening to those affected in order to begin understanding the problem before anything else.

Heena Karavadra: Academic Librarian at the University of Leicester. 

Twitter: @heenakaravadra 

Free zine making workshop in London for BAME staff in the library and information profession.

What better way to get our voice heard in a 97% white profession than by doing something creative like making a zine?

I pitched the idea to Stuart Hall Library and they have very kindly agreed to host a zine-making workshop in the library space.

zines 2017

Stuart Hall is a fantastic library, with collection on contemporary visual arts with a non-Western focus to draw inspiration from, including a zine collection.

Date:     Saturday 11th August 2018

Time:     12-2.45pm

Location: 1 Rivington Place, London EC2A 3BA

Places limited to 10 so please book ahead by emailing:

This is my first time running a zine workshop, and my experiences are limited, but I am excited for a chance for us to tell our story in our own words, pictures, drawings, collage, and meet with other BAME staff.

Here are some notes from Stuart Hall Library about the set up:

  • We can use pencil and collage  (no pens or ink stamps as per their normal library rules)
  • We can make use of their scissors, A4 and A3 paper
  • We can make use of the photocopiers
  • We can use some old INIVA leaflets that they have
  • We can bring our own materials to use (cut up as collage)

I am hoping attendees might have access to some materials that may be able to take with us (glue sticks, old magazines and duplicates to make it work), alternatively bring some pre-assembled work to the session.

Ideally, by the end of the session we would have a collaborative zine that we can scan and create a digital copy of, or we could each individually work on our own zine. It is my first time, so we will see what happens!

yey more zines

About the organiser

Ka-Ming has worked in libraries since 2010, in public libraries, membership libraries and currently in a university library. She was involved in #uklibchat for over six years.  A regular bi-monthly event that she runs is #libdimsum, a chance for people to meet up, talk shop if they want, and eat delicious food.  Sign up to the mailing list to be the first to hear about the events.

All images courtesy of Stuart Hall Library.

Of Inequality Regimes, White Privilege and Structural Racism – The Musings of a Corporate Monkey


Recent disparate (yet interconnected) occurrences and activities in and around me prompted me to reflect upon the current state of play in the corporate (and wider) arena.  My findings, I don’t believe to particularly novel nor revolutionary but they nonetheless mark a point of personal realisation of everyday reality which hitherto (for me) was substantively theoretical.  This article seeks to convey my thoughts and findings in the context of recognised research and theory in the hope that it might help others in a similar situation.

It is worth noting that a lot of my arguments here revolve around works on Critical Race Theory (see Rollock and Gillborn, 2011), White Privilege (see Chavrimootoo and Dawson, 2017) and Inequality Regimes (see Acker, 2006).  I could never hope to do any of these topics justice in a piece such as this, but would direct the reader to the stated references for an introduction to these subject matters. Before proceeding further, I believe it is important to define key words and intended interpretations in the context of this item as I believe this is crucial to understanding what it is that I seek to communicate.  I will do this below, followed by the main thrust of my arguments, a brief conclusion and my list of references.

Key Definitions and Interpretations

Black” – The word Black is used primarily in the context of race within this literature in reference to individuals who are not White.  It is important to clarify here that “race” and “ethnicity” are NOT the same thing (see Conley, 2003; James, 2016).

Race” – The most important thing to understand about race in this context is that race is a non-negotiable categorisation that is assigned to someone by others; it is unitary, i.e., an individual can belong to only one race.

Ethnicity” – Ethnicity is a complex identity dimension, inextricably linked to other identity dimensions such as race, religion and culture.  Individuals can belong to multiple different transient, even simultaneous ethnicities; it is a characteristic that is self-negotiated and self-identified by individuals.  An understanding of these characteristics of ethnicity suffices for the purpose of this item.

Inequality Regimes” – Acker (2006) defines inequality regimes in the context of organisations as:

“…loosely interrelated practices, processes, actions, and meanings that result in and maintain class, gender, and racial inequalities within particular organizations.”

(Acker, 2006:p.4)

This definition extends seamlessly applying to all communities, up to and including the world community.

White Privilege” – This is the reality that White people by sheer virtue of their “Whiteness” are beneficiaries of advantages (privileges) unavailable to Black people and for which Black people have to work, i.e., earn (see McIntosh, 1988).


The Dynamics of White Privilege, Inequality Regimes and Structural Racism

White Privilege

White privilege is not a novel construct, but has been a tool wielded for centuries by the privileged White to preserve a position of advantage over all else.  A key tool of White privilege is the denial or disregard of key characteristics of non-whites so as to preserve White advantage.  So, during the days of slavery for example, Black people were denied the key characteristic of humanity not only to justify slavery but more importantly, to preserve White privilege.  “White psychosis” (see Andrews, 2016) made it “undeniably evident” that slavery was to the benefit of the barbaric, uncivilised heathen.  With the abolition of slavery, new characteristics have been (and are being) denied/disregarded to the same end – preservation of White privilege (see Harris, 1993); this is brought about through the machinations of inequality regimes.

Inequality Regimes

Today, all societal structures – public and private sector organisations, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), charitable organisations etc. are all founded upon the central construct of inequality regimes (see Acker, 2006).  With the single aim of preserving White privilege, inequality regimes control who are able to engage with the regime, they control influence, power and rewards within (and outside) the regime so as to ensure that only individuals who demonstrate loyalty to the cause of preserving White privilege benefit from interaction with the regime.

Now, the rules designed for the preservation of White privilege (carefully constructed over centuries) translate directly into corporate policies, regulations and “rules of behaviour”.  These rules are used to control and effect certain organisational dimensions necessary for the maintenance of White privilege.  Two notable control mechanisms are:  1) Inequality is legitimised – Participants (and outsiders) are made to accept that certain inequalities are acceptable.  Some inequalities are more easily legitimised than others; so it’s acceptable for some individuals to be paid more than others, it is acceptable for some individuals to have more power and influence than others etc. but (only recently) race and gender inequality for example are not as easily legitimised and viewed “acceptable”.  2) Control and compliance – In order to be allowed to participate with the regime at its very lowest level, individuals are required to demonstrate a willingness to conform to the rules of the inequality regime (enforced through the recruitment infrastructure and strategies).  However, to further benefit from promotion into a leadership/management positions participants must demonstrate not just compliance with the rules, but a willingness to defend and enforce the rules preserving White privilege.  The further up the organisational hierarchy one desires to climb, the higher the level of commitment to the cause of reserving White privilege that is required to be demonstrated.

Structural Racism

As mentioned above the preservation of White privilege (which is the sole purpose of inequality regimes, of which organisations are a subset) hinges upon the denial of key characteristic(s) to non-whites, i.e. Black people (to the advantage of the privileged White); corporate rules and regulations are today employed to this end.  As mentioned above, strict control is exercised by inequality regimes to 1) enforce and encourage systems, structures and mechanisms promoting the preservation of White privilege and 2) exclude anything unconducive to the preservation of White privilege.  This is embodied in corporate rules and regulations defining appropriate ways of conduct.  What these rules are is a less interesting question than why they exist and what they seek to include and exclude.  We’ve already demonstrated (above) that they exist for the preservation of White privilege.  Now, what do corporate rules and regulations include and exclude?  In terms of its impact upon Black people, the single most important ingredient of corporate regulations and behavioural rules is race.  This is not surprising seeing the purpose of these rules (preservation of White privilege).  Upon an almost cursory examination, the most glaring, most impactful omission from organisational regulations and behavioural rules is anything to do with Back identity, most notably ethnicity and religion.

As mentioned above, ethnicity is a very complex, yet crucial dimension to Black identity, closely interrelated with religion and culture.  For some ethnicities such as Sikh and Rohingya, ethnicity is in fact defined by religion.  Despite their many differences, I have not been able to identify many religions in which qualities such as love for fellow human beings are not actively encouraged.  It is important to note here that whilst ethnicity and religion are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (see, 2010), and most organisations are keen to demonstrate compliance in these areas, organisations actively disregard these crucial dimensions of Black identity when it comes to “appropriate corporate behaviour”.  So for example, it is not deemed “appropriate” to make mention of religion, or tenets of religion such as love in dealing with colleagues. In so doing, corporations while adhering to legislation disregard specific, targeted, strategic dimensions of Black identity, not only to the disadvantage of Black individuals but (more importantly) preserving White privilege.

Furthermore, the disregarding of ethnicity and religion from the rules of “appropriate corporate behaviour” serves to exclude Black people from benefiting from aspects of wealth, power and influence within organisational regimes by eliminating them from promotion.  Recall from above that in order to move up the corporate hierarchy, individuals are required (not only to demonstrate compliance with, but furthermore) to demonstrate a willingness to defend and enforce the rules preserving White privilege.  In this scenario, Black people are expected to demonstrate disregard not only for their own ethnicity and religion (since these are explicitly forbidden in corporate behavioural rules), but also to defend and enforce these rules when interacting with colleagues and prospective colleagues.  So Black people are explicitly excluded from participating fully in inequality regimes as a result of the calculated strategy to disregard specific dimensions of Black identity such as ethnicity and religion.  This, by definition is structural racism.  This structural racism is once again justified (by the privileged White) with the argument that structural racism is necessary as anything but structural racism would result in a breakdown of organisational structure and discipline, ultimately resulting in chaos and is therefore necessary for the good of all (see Andrews, 2016).

Conclusion – Current State of Play and Looking Forward

That there is a dearth of Black people in senior leadership positions not just in Higher Education but across wider British society is a widely documented and accepted fact (see McGregor-Smith, 2017).  After my reflections outlined above, rather than bemoaning this statistic, I believe this is cause for consolation.  Disparate strategies and training courses (e.g. University of Manchester, 2015; StellarHE, 2018) have so far failed to have a significant impact upon this poor statistic.  In the light of my findings above, I believe this is also cause for celebration.  My reasons for this (arguably paradoxical) reaction regarding the lack of senior Black leadership is (in my opinion) indicative of the fact that: 1) Black people are (consciously or sub-consciously) unwilling to disregard their ethnicity and religion for professional advancement. 2) Black people are unwilling to disregard the ethnicity of Black colleagues to further their own career advancement 3) Black people are unwilling to promote, defend and enforce rules and regulations (covertly, but very deliberately and strategically) constructed to preserve and further White privilege. 4) It supports my position that Black people are not “broken”; the solution to the dearth of senior Black leaders does not lie in “training” or “re-educating” or “re-habilitating” Black people to progress in corporate inequality regimes – i.e., training them how to disregard their Black identity (ethnicity and religion).

Proposed Solutions

I submit that pursuant to my arguments above, the root cause for the dearth of senior Black leadership across British public and private sectors is the existence of the structurally racist rules currently used to govern British regimes with the (tacit?) aim of preserving White privilege (to the disadvantage of all else).  Are these rules broken?  Clearly not; they are functioning very effectively doing exactly what they were intended to do – preserve White privilege (and exclude anything and anyone not committed to this cause).  How is the problem remedied?  1) Simply put; if organisations are serious about addressing race (and other) inequality, (necessarily) the first step needs to be a change of corporate regulations and behavioural rules to acknowledge all aspects of Black identity, starting with ethnicity and religion.  2) Any leadership training targeted at Black individuals necessarily need to be re-oriented to explicitly acknowledge and accommodate dimensions of Black identity.  3) Policies and strategies should then be constructed in the context of these new regulations and rules promoting Black advancement. I believe that once organisations are “primed” with the first influx of Black leaders, this will be self-sustaining as the initial hurdle of a lack of understanding of Black identity by White recruiters will be overcome with the existence of Black leaders capable of understanding Black identity (The implication here that privileged White individuals are incapable of understanding Black identity is not unintentional and is a widely supported position (see e.g. Chavrimootoo and Dawson, 2017; McIntosh, 1988)).

With inequality regimes permeating all aspects of society, I don’t believe anyone has the option to not engage with these regimes if they wish to survive.  We might have some say as to how much we wish to engage (e.g. remain at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy only conforming to the structurally racist rules or choose to “play the game” trying to either “outwit” the privileged White “oppressors” or to capitulate and do whatever is required for personal gain).  For the professional struggling to advance in current corporate environment, I believe that an understanding of the basic fact that the rules governing corporate behaviour are (deliberately) structurally racist will be invaluable in understanding the professional landscape in which they work and help them decide how best to strategise – either to fight for the elimination of structural racism or to seek to skilfully navigate their environment (with insight into the structurally racist landscape in which they have to survive).  The latter option, I would suggest is a short-sighted, ego-centric view which will leave future generations in a worse position than we are currently in.  It is widely accepted that race equality benefits all, not just the Black population (see McKinsey, 2015); I would therefore seek to rally us all – regardless of race or ethnicity – Rise up and fight! Together we must destroy the scourge of endemic, legitimised structural racism!

Berrisford Edwards

A Software Engineer by trade, Berrisford has over 15 years experience working within the private and HE sectors. He is an experienced Project Manager, with over 15 years experience in Event Management. Since 2014, Berrisford has immersed himself in the work of advancing equality (generally) and race equality (more specifically) in HE and wider British society. He has an MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics for which he examined ethnicity nondisclosure in HE. However, his passion centres on the practical implementation of (recommended) interventions aimed at addressing racial inequality. Berrisford currently works at the Main Library at the University of Manchester and is co-chair of the University BAME Staff network. He is actively involved with various groups inside (e.g. Library ED&I Working Group, General Assembly) and outside the University (e.g. GMP Black Police Association and GM BME Network) as well as (joint) community projects such as the Black Lawyers Matter; also serving on advisory panels (e.g. Runnymede Trust); all with the central aim of advancing race equality – which he claims to be his “calling in life”. Contact Berrisford here.


Acker, J. (2006). Inequality regimes: Gender, class, and race in organizations. Gender & society, 20(4), pp.441-464. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6th Oct. 2017].

Andrews, K. (2016). The psychosis of whiteness: The celluloid hallucinations of amazing Grace and Belle. Journal of Black Studies47(5), pp.435-453.

Chavrimootoo, D; Dawson, R (2017). Learning and Unlearning Whiteness [Online] London, Equality Challenge Unit. Available at: [Accessed 29th Sep. 2017].

Conley, D. (2003). RACE – The Power of an Illusion . Ask the Experts | PBS. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Sep. 2017].

Harris, C.I., 1993. Whiteness as property. Harvard law review, pp.1707-1791.

James, M. (2016). Race. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017]. (2010). Equality Act 2010. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 16th Sep. 2017].

McGregor-Smith, R. (2017). Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith Review – GOV.UK. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 17th Sep. 2017].

McIntosh, P. (1988). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack.

McKinsey (2015). ‘Why Diversity Matters’. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 17th Sep. 2017].

Rollock, N. and Gillborn, D. (2011). Critical race theory (CRT). British Educational Research Association online resource. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6th Oct 2017].

StellarHE (2018). Home – STELLAR HE. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Mar. 2018].

University of Manchester (2015). Manchester 2020 The University of Manchester’s Strategic Plan [Online] Manchester, University of Manchester. Available at: [Accessed 13th Nov. 2016].


So you want to be an ally?

Everyone has been in this position at some point in their lives.  You know you want to do something, but yet not sure how to go about it.

We at DILON have been getting quite a few people and organisations contacting us asking this question (or questions in a similar vein) recently.  So I decided to address this in a very structured librarian way: with a list.  Please be aware that I am not an expert, this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it the *best* list available, but it should be a helpful starting point for you to do more research on being an effective ally.

I have referred to mostly online non-academic resources to promote the ease that one can research this topic.  As with most things, I am deeply indebted to all those who have broached this topic before me, and I have included them in the bibliography at the end.

I have used the term ‘People of Colour’ or ‘POC’ in this post as per this qualification by Loretta Ross about the Origin of the phrase “Women of Color”.


  1. Listen

Listening is one of the most important things you can do.  It validates the importance of the other person’s experiences.  Become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Take an active listening approach by asking questions to clarify things you don’t understand and be open to the response.  The active in ‘active listening’ does not mean launching into ‘that time it happened to you’.  “Being a good ally often means not being included in the conversation, because the conversation isn’t about you.” This conversation is about the other person.  However, remember to be respectful of what a person is not comfortable discussing.


  1. Don’t ask – do

Stop asking what you can do – start researching what you can do.  By asking people of colour how to be a better ally then you are implying that someone else should do all the emotional labour for you.  This work isn’t our responsibility; it’s yours.  Do not go into a discussion about privilege passively expecting someone else to make all of the recommendations for you.  This process is an active one, not a passive one and this approach demonstrates your commitment to the process.  Go into it with some ideas, use it as an opportunity to collaborate, research and learn something.  Take this as an opportunity to deconstruct your own unconscious biases – we all have them.


  1. Amplify

Mention the excellent work done by voices who do not have your privilege and repeat it.  This term originated as an echoing strategy within the workplace where if ideas from a marginalised group weren’t acknowledged, another person would repeat it and give their colleague credit for suggesting it.  This term has expanded to include both online (i.e. retweets and Facebook sharing) and real-world situations.  Amplifying the opinions and ideas of other people is a way to participate without taking up space.


  1. Speak Up

It is exhausting being the only person who says something.  The burden of representation means that there is an expectation that the only person of colour in the room will take up the mantle to re-dress all racist wrongs.  This situation is where you can step in.  If you spot discrimination at work or hear derogatory comments, say something, or talk to HR.  If you work in a large organisation, there will be processes in place to deal with situations like this.  This strategy is about creating a safe environment for everyone.


  1. It’s a verb, not a noun

Being an ally is an active not passive role.  The number of POC friends you have doesn’t make you an ally, nor does it make you more knowledgeable on the topic (better known as ‘whitesplaining’).  See #1 on this list.  You also do not get credit for past acts of solidarity (also known as ‘virtue signalling’) without regard for current behaviour.  What makes an ally is the active role you take, now, in the present, and in the future.  Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture that although there have been significant achievements, discrimination still exists in our society.  This means there is no end date to being an ally.  Here are some suggestions of things you can do: Look at your own internal biases (again, we all have them).  Look externally at ways to change oppressive systems.  Donate.  Volunteer.  Show support for groups that address these issues.  Amplify.


  1. Mistakes

You will make mistakes.  Let me repeat that.  You will make mistakes.  And you will continue to make mistakes.  No one gets it right the first time.  Your mistakes do not define you, but how you handle them does.  Be graceful, courteous and apologise (and mean it).  Accept feedback that your actions are doing more harm than good.  Do not get defensive and try to explain that ‘You are a nice person’ or ‘I am an ally, so it’s ok’.  You may be a nice person or an ally, but your privilege has blinded you to who is actually the victim.


Here’s a brilliant guide on how to handle mistakes of privilege:


“In reality, most of us naturally know the right way to react when we step on someone’s toes, and we can use that to help us learn how to react when we commit microaggressions.


Center the impacted: “Are you okay?”

Listen to their response and learn.

Apologize for the impact, even though you didn’t intend it: “I’m sorry!”

Stop the instance: move your foot

Stop the pattern: be careful where you step in the future. (When it comes to oppression, we want to actually change the “footwear” to get rid of privilege and oppression (sneakers for all!), but metaphors can only stretch so far!)”


  1. Represent

This section is for organisations.  Representation matters.  Why?  It shows the organisation’s commitment to a diverse workforce and demonstrates that diversity isn’t just a tick box exercise.  It also reflects an understanding of the benefits of a diverse workplace.  Please don’t keep asking the one POC in the organisation to be in the brochure.  Hire more people from different backgrounds.  The responses that ‘they don’t apply’ or ‘we can’t find any’ are excuses.  Look at your hiring practices, are there ‘bias interrupters’ during the hiring process to combat unconscious bias?  Does your organisation use blind hiring?  Are you advertising in the right place?  This type of change won’t be natural and takes effort, but is necessary to create opportunities for everyone, not just the privileged few.




Natalia Gordon

Information Services Librarian, Leeds Beckett University



Adesina, Z. and Marocico, O. (2017). Is it easier to get a job if you’re Adam or Mohamed? [online] BBC News. Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2018]

Black, A.N. @ashleyn1cole (2018). Next time someone tells you they want to have a more diverse writers room but they can’t find any women and POC, tell them Beyonce found TEN black women who play violin. [Twitter]. 15 April [Online]. Available at:  [22 May 2018]

Chignell, B. (2018). Five reasons why diversity and inclusion at work matters. [online] CIPHR. Available at: [Accessed 11 Jun. 2018].

Eilperin, J. (2016). How a White House women’s office strategy went viral. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 21 May 2018]

Feldmann, J. (2018). The Benefits and Shortcomings of Blind Hiring in the Recruitment Process. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 May 2018]

Garcia-Vargas, A. (2014). Managing Privilege. [online] Avaliable at: [Accessed 21 May 2018]

Lamont, A. (n.d.). Guide to Allyship. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 21 May 2018].

McKenzie, M. (2013). No More “Allies”. [online] Charter for Compassion. Available at:  [Accessed 20 May 2018]

Nigatu, H. and Clayton, T. (2015). How To Be A Better Ally: An Open Letter To White Folks. [online] Buzzfeed News. Available at: [Accessed 20 May 2018)

Ross, L. (2011). The Origin of the phrase “Women of Color”. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 20 May 2018]

Teaching Tolerance. (2018). Test Yourself for Hidden Bias. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 11 Jun. 2018].

Utt, J. (2013). So You Call Yourself and Ally: 10 Things All ‘Allies’ Need to Know. [online] Everyday Feminism. Available at: [Accessed 19 May 2018]

Williams, J.C. (2014). Hacking Tech’s Diversity Problem. [online]. Harvard Business Review. Available at: [Accessed 22 May 2018]

What’s my beef?

I was manning our library Twitter account whilst the 2018 LILAC conference was happening and saw this thread It took me by surprise how strongly it resonated with me. The discussion about the importance, yet lack of, diversity at library conferences definitely rang true. I remember attending the UKSG Forum whilst a LIS student a couple of years ago where I needed to meet up with another student. I was worried we wouldn’t find each other but luckily we were the only two non-white faces in the room, so that made things simpler, if a bit depressing.

Moreover, as a mixed-race woman, the feelings people shared on the thread about sitting uncomfortably within the BME label also resonated with me. That sense of being the white-side of diverse yet still experiencing the otherness symbolised, for me, by the endless question: ‘Yeah, but where are you really from?’ – I want to check my privilege but actually I don’t feel that privileged. I’ve worked in a couple of university libraries in Leeds, which is obviously a diverse city. Despite them being large employers with good, well paying jobs there are painfully few non-white people. I even left a job in one of them because of bad treatment and only realised afterwards that the only other people being treated like this were also the three other non-white people. I honestly don’t know if that was pure coincidence but it’s certainly not going to help encourage diversity is it?

I think many LIS managers do genuinely want to encourage diversity but don’t really know how. Putting in a bland statement at the very end of a job advert like: “We welcome applications from all individuals and particularly from black and minority ethnic candidates…” is not good enough. It’s an afterthought, a box ticking exercise. I’m supremely optimistic that we as a sector can change things, although not naïve of the challenge ahead!


Raise the visibility of librarianship (and call it something else)

Librarians are the ultimate problem-solvers so I reckon (together) we can tackle the lack of diversity in libraries and find solutions. Already, one month in, DILON has made really positive progress with conference organisers and this should embolden us to speak up and speak out. Here’s one idea I’ve had –

In my anecdotal experience, most library workers just fall into library work. They’re students, artists or musicians and libraries are simply a pleasant way to earn a stable income amongst like-minded people. I spent a significant amount of my childhood in the local library. I studied English and creative writing at university and yet it never crossed my mind to become a Librarian. I just fell into it whilst studying again later on, but now it feels like the most obvious thing for me to be. Perhaps this is because librarians still suffer from the stereotypes of being stern old women stacking dusty shelves. (In fact, after writing this paragraph, I came across DILON creator Jen’s career history echoing the same points). But we know those stereotypes aren’t true! If we (I’m using the royal We here) went into schools and spoke to kids about all the great things about librarianship (and maybe call ourselves something more modern like Information Professionals), I reckon in time we would end up with a more diverse workforce.

This might also start to address the elephant in the (book) room – Class. DILON isn’t about class per se but it certainly intersects.  It’s all very well for middle-class kids to fall into library work whilst at university or shortly after but let’s make it an interesting and visible option for other kids too. A stumbling block could be the insistence on CILIP accredited qualifications in order to get a professional job (yes, I know, all sorts of debates here). However, it might help if people found librarianship as a career option before doing something else, particularly if they’re not from a privileged background. AND if kids know they’ll need to do a degree at some point to be a librarian, it might affect what they do at school and college. Basically, lets raise the profile of the profession so that children of all colours and backgrounds see it as a career option, like being a lawyer or a nurse. Then they’ll have the opportunity to take the necessary steps towards achieving this interesting and rewarding career. And everyone will benefit from a more diverse workforce.

Amy Campbell

Information Services Librarian, Leeds Beckett University


DILON visits CILIP Yorkshire and Humberside

We had our first official event yesterday (21st May 2018) when we attended a committee meeting of the CILIP regional member network for Yorkshire and Humberside, where we introduced DILON and had an interesting discussion about diversity in the profession…


  • Each regional member network has an Equality and Inclusion Officer (the YH Officer could not attend this meeting) and the committee wondered if there could be more support for this role with some targets set and advice from central CILIP HQ.


  • We did notice that we were the only non-white faces in the room and this was acknowledged round the table as an issue with recruitment to the committee. At the recent CILIP Member Network Forum, regional groups were told they will soon have access to some data about their members and this should aid them in recruiting more diversely, not just in terms of race but also sector, region and across other minority groups.


  • We spoke about the reception we have had from central CILIP and our disappointment in their lack of action in recent years.


  • Some recent CILIP initiatives were mentioned such as the Diversity Review of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals – you can complete a survey about this here. Although we are pleased to see this (yay diverse books 😊) these types of actions perhaps make CILIP seem like they are dedicated to improving diversity but no true action is taken to make structural changes to the workforce. Bit of a quick win IMHO…


  • The oft-mentioned new BAME Special Interest Group was mentioned and it was clarified that CILIP members no longer need to pay to join these groups, so no BAME people would be unfairly penalised for joining. Phew!


  • We asked committee members to not just consider diversity as part of their CILIP role, but also in their workplaces and urged them to raise it as an issue where appropriate. Some great discussions came out of this, with someone mentioning a library visit to their university Faith Centre and our general agreement that where there is diversity, those people are often found in lower graded roles.


  • Finally, we raised the issue of being an ally and that even though we are part of DILON, we are not experts. Rather, it is the responsibility of everyone to push for a more inclusive workforce and before asking us what can be done, librarians should ask themselves.


The committee were incredibly welcoming and keen to listen to us, and we look forward to working with them in the future. A big special thank you to David for inviting us for to Owen for contacting us about events. Thanks CILIP YH!


Here at DILON we are happy to speak at meetings and events if we are able (but please remember we are not able to magically improve diversity in your area 🤷‍♀️) – please email Jen at


Jen Bayjoo @epicbayj