Your Name and Title: Thura Mack, Coordinator for Community Services and Diversity Programs

Library, School, or Organization Name: University of Tennessee Libraries

Co-Presenter Name(s): Michelle Brannen, Peter Fernandez, Molly Royse

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: Knoxville, TN, USA (est)

Language in Which You Will Present: English

Target Audience(s):  Libraries and institutions interested in organizational change, particularly related to issues of race relations and diversity awareness

Short Session Description (one line): The presenters will share how an organizational book read facilitated a shared experience of reflection and communication about issues of critical importance, and reflect on how the cultural and educational outcomes can be used to promote organizational change.

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):

A Radical Educational Model: How an Organizational Read Can Provide a Transformative Cultural Experience

The UT Libraries’ organizational book read of Robin Diangelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism facilitated a shared experience of reflection and communication about issues of critical importance and some sensitive and highly charged topics.  The book read was guided by five interrelated goals which were designed to foster inner change, communication, and reflection within the Libraries so that library users could be better served:

  1. Utilize the book topic to create stronger work relationships and work performance.
  2. Provide an opportunity for library employees to reflect on identity issues related to the book topic.
  3. Evaluate the program’s response to the issues raised.
  4. Gain experience in the practice of respectful communication with internal and external dialogue/behavior among all participants.
  5. Explore how knowledge gained may enhance work performance.

The presenters will share how the organizational read program was developed to be a catalyst for change for UT Libraries.  The support of library and campus leaders, as well as other key partners, was enlisted to build legitimacy for the program and encourage widespread engagement.  Techniques such as the collaborative development of ground rules, a web presence, pre-meeting surveys, and a mix of large and small group discussions were used to engage participants, and make the process accessible to as wide a variety of personality types as possible.  Throughout the program, spaces were fostered to allow for honest conversation and self-reflection. 

The results of a post-program survey tool show that, in large part, the goals of the Libraries’ organizational read were accomplished.  In addition, insight has been gained in regard to how the cultural and educational outcomes of the program can be used to promote future organizational change.  The session will conclude with reflections about how this program can be replicated to meet the need for substantive conversations about race/diversity in an increasingly online environment that many organizations are facing today.

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