We value the importance of inclusivity and diversity both within our department and in how we engage with our communities. We aspire to be fully inclusive of all voices and perspectives.
- Library Liberating the Collections Steering Group
- Blueprints of Hope: Celebrating LGBTQ+ London exhibition in Octagon Gallery
The Library Liberating the Collections Steering Group (LLTC) was formed in 2020 as an umbrella group overseeing strands of related activity taking place across library sections and teams.
They work towards a greater understanding of our collections and aspire to be fully inclusive of all voices and perspectives.
The group’s action plan sets out objectives and key activities, serving as a framework to measure our collective progress in Library Services. Highlights include:
- An LLTC Statement of Intent agreed, outlining the purpose and priorities of the group.
- Acquisitions procedures reviewed, including guidance on procuring materials in support of the liberating collections objectives.
- A ‘Liberating the Curriculum’ page added to the ReadingLists@UCL guide to aid academic departments looking to review and diversify their lists.
- Book funds ring-fenced to support procurement of materials recommended by the UCL community during annual awareness campaigns including Black History Month, LGBTQ+ History Month and Women’s History Month.
Collection Description and Visibility
- Uncatalogued collections reviewed and a new system implemented to ensure materials which enrich our collections, in terms of diversity and inclusion, are routinely prioritised to improve their discoverability and profile.
- Successfully applied for external funding to catalogue the Moses Gaster archive.
- Metadata in the archive catalogue reviewed, to identify outdated terminology and act to address this by providing content warnings.
- Undertook discrete reclassification projects that improved arrangement of works from outside the British Isles, and corrected the filing of names of Chinese origin, in the English and literature collections. Further priority areas for reclassification identified.
- Developed new guidance on how to cite items from our archives, records and rare printed collections allowing outputs from researchers using our Special Collections to be more visible.
Communication and Engagement
- A new Black Studies Subject Guide was created by a group of Subject Liaison Librarians and launched to the UCL community.
- Created the ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Liberating our Library Collections’ public exhibition, featuring items by under-represented groups and voices discovered by a volunteer project in Special Collections.
- Ran an ‘editathon’ workshop for library staff, facilitated by a Digital Skills Wikimedian for the Connected Heritage Project, on how we can contribute to a more inclusive representation of voices and perspectives on Wikipedia and Wikimedia by adding citations and images from our collections.
Octagon Gallery exhibition ‘Blueprints of Hope: Celebrating LGBTQ+ London’ (1 March-18 August 2023) presented a snapshot of London’s vital queer cityscape, past and present.
The exhibition was curated by London-based collective Gedney Common, in collaboration with Museums & Cultural Programmes, in response to research by UCL Urban Lab which showed there had been a drop of 58% in London’s LGBTQ+ venues between 2006 and 2017.
Bringing the work of libraries, archives, community centres and activist groups, alongside pieces by contemporary artists including Louis Blue Newby, Jakob Rowlinson and Nina Wakeford, Gedney Common illuminated the role of London’s queer cityscape in providing a social and cultural lifeline for LGBTQ+ communities.
In his book Queer Premises: LGBTQ+ Venues Since the 1980s, Urban Lab’s Co-Director Ben Campkin argues that the term ‘queer infrastructure’ captures the diversity, dynamism, adaptation and extension of scenes across different periods, generations and geographical locations – a term to which this exhibition responded.
The exhibition was supported by a public programme featuring a live performance by exhibiting artist Nina Wakeford, who performed ‘Above this new tunnel the Market Tavern once stood. Grey concrete outside. Cherry red, dark, sexy, cruisy, inside.’ Featuring words and music, Nina Wakeford staged parts of her book ‘Our Pink Depot: The Gay Underground FLO-N202-236000000-TRK-MST-00002-SAY-HELLO-WAVE-GOODBYE-KEN-NIE-BPS’ (Book Works 2019) in the North Cloisters. The performance imagined a new Underground tube tunnel built below a demolished gay club as a new part of London queer infrastructure – a ‘pink depot’ – and was based on a project originally commissioned by Art on the Underground.
The programme also offered special editions of Badge Café Hangout with Ben Walters, providing a craft-based utopian space to put old books and mags to queer badgemaking use, and Queer Tours of London: A Mince Through Time, in which tour guide Dan de la Motte shone a light on London’s rich LGBTQ+ history through an interactive tour of Bloomsbury.
“I was struck by how joyful [the exhibition] was whilst tackling a serious subject”
“I think this exhibition is especially good for students/people new to London who are queer because it helps you not feel so alone/lost, and see the community that has existed before you.”
The above are quotes from two UCL focus groups on the exhibition, one made up of predominantly LGBTQ+ staff/students.