Student groups, library services create Radical Inclusivity focused Critical Foundations Collection as part of Curry Library

Tower Room on 2nd floor PLC. Anticipated location of the Critical Foundations Collection. Photo by Christina Kirk.

If you are a student at William Jewell College, you have heard about, been involved in or at least gone to mandatory Radical Inclusivity training. In the recent years, Jewell has made an active effort to diversify their population of faculty, staff and, most importantly, students. There have been multiple efforts taken to further this, but the newest upcoming addition is a collection stocked full of books that explore many different multicultural themes. Library services and the Black Student Alliance (BSA) have partnered together to implement a brand new collection within the library, named the Critical Foundations Collection. 

The Hilltop Monitor interviewed Rebecca Hamlett, director of library services, and Tavarus Pennington, junior communications and English major and BSA president. There are many other students and staff in the works with this project, including, but not limited to, Claire Henry, sophomore digital media communications major; Rodney Smith, vice president for access and engagement; and Catherine Dema, senior physics and Oxbridge history of ideas major and engagement chair of Gender Issues & Feminism. When sitting down with The Hilltop Monitor, Hamlett was energized and excited to start the conversation about the Critical Foundations Collection.

Hamlett explained what inspired the inclusive collection, sharing that the library last semester had started thinking about ways to diversify their current books and add content that covered a wide range of topics. Soon after, Pennington reached out about a similar topic, ultimately leading to a successful partnership that reached across students and staff. Hamlett said that the main goal of this library is to bring diverse voices into the texts available at Jewell. 

Hamlett gave most of the credit to the students involved, saying this is almost exclusively their project. To get this collection started, library services and the group of students involved reached out to numerous donors, starting within advancement offices at Jewell. The donations collected for this library to be implemented totaled up to $25,000. The collection started with about 50 initial titles being ordered from library services to be put in Curry Hall. Now, through collaboration from the multicultural organizations on campus and generous donors, they are up to over 150 new titles delivered to campus with more in shipment and hopes to expand to eBook resources in the near future. 

“It’s endless in theory. We don’t want to restrict what diversity means,” Pennington said when asked about what titles will be included.

The books included cover a wide array of diversity-focused texts, including, but not nearly limited to, BIPOC, LGBTQ, feminism, religion and more. 

“We wanted everyone who possibly could contribute to it, to contribute to it,” Pennington said. 

The price of the titles ordered so far totals up to about $4,100, so a significant portion of the $25,000 funding remains to add more titles to the collection.

The library is hoping to add more to this in the near future with donations from alumni, the faculty and staff giving campaign and any donations they receive. The hope is high to grow this collection even further and keep the Critical Foundations Collection thriving. 

Ideally, this collection will be open this month and have a COVID-19 friendly launch party. They also hope to have book discussions, collaborations and to have authors come to campus to lecture and engage in many more conversations about inclusivity at Jewell. Essentially, the library and the students involved wholeheartedly agreed to take this further than just providing these books. 

The library and students are also committed to making the collection accessible and easy to find. The featured collection will be on the main floor of Curry Hall. The rest of the titles will be on the second floor of the PLC in the Tower Room, which will provide easy check-out. The library stressed that they understand that a topic like diversity is always changing, and they will be taking title recommendations for the collection at this link to accommodate for this fact. All recommendations are encouraged, and the library will endeavor to purchase all of the titles it can for the collection. 

You can also email Hamlett, Peter Johnson or library services with suggestions. Overall, this collection plans to to further the efforts Jewell is putting in to create a diverse and accessible campus. The Critical Foundations Collection will give students who fall into these underrepresented categories a place where they can be heard and seen, which was ultimately the inspiration behind the collection.

“[To me, Radical Inclusivity looks like] dropping all of the barriers, pushing all of the disparities that are created… all of that goes away,” Pennington said.

This collection is also intended to provide students who are outside of underrepresented communities opportunities to educate themselves and learn from multiple perspectives. These books and resources will further the concept of being the Critical Thinking College(™) and challenge the traditional means of higher education.

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