In Autumn 2018, the University of Washington Tacoma Library and the University of Washington Tacoma Center of Equity and Inclusion launched the pilot program of Real Lit[erature]: Reading for Social Justice, a book club in an academic setting with a focus on young adult fiction.
Real Lit[erature] is envisioned as a thematic reading and discussion program that engages the campus community through literature-based outreach.
The goals of Real Lit were to create a greater awareness and discussion of the experiences that are being had by our students, staff, and community members. By interacting with narratives that reflect different experiences, it has provided opportunities to dialogue with peers about shared and disparate experiences. Additional benefits include creating community by reducing isolation, and enhancing campus education through peer-based discussion groups.
After a successful pilot, Real Lit[erature] will now be offered quarterly.
The lessons learned from the pilot are myriad, and we wanted to share with our academic librarian colleagues some of the key takeaways. From collaboration to marketing, from book selection to frameworks for anti-oppressive facilitation, we believe our experience and strategies offer a strong foundation for a toolkit.
Why a toolkit?
There are two primary reasons for creating such a toolkit:
- To promote this sort of programming within academic libraries by highlighting benefits and outcomes; and
- To support open access resources within the library community as a way to underscore the importance of resource availability.
Promotion of this sort of programming
We believe that this sort of programming offers multiple benefits to academic campuses:
- Building campus community by increasing empathy
- Creating closer connections to students, faculty, and staff over literature, which in turn may facilitate future library interactions
- Increase campus visibility through programming
- Highlight library services and programming, instead of library resources
We firmly believe in the importance of open access publishing, which we define as a research output that is distributed free of cost and available readily online. In addition, we have added a creative commons license to promote reuse.
Why? Restricting access to academic research through paywalls and subscriptions to journals poses an unnecessary fiscal burden on smaller institutions; this, in turn favors wealthier institutions. By promoting open access, we are advocating for greater equality in access to information.