A message from Tulane University Libraries

The entire staff of Tulane University Libraries join in mourning the loss of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the countless other Black people whose lives have been ended by violent expressions of ignorance and prejudice, especially at the hands of law enforcement officers.  We affirm without reservation that the lives of our Black colleagues, as well as of our Black students, faculty, and other community members, matter.

Libraries have long presented themselves as places of refuge, sources of wisdom, centers of learning, and arbiters of what is true and reliable.  At times, we have filled these roles admirably.  In too many other instances, we have failed entirely.  For better or worse, libraries have reflected the societies that created them.  But they have not necessarily reflected the people who built those societies and made them function—the very people who most needed libraries to fill our aspirational roles.  We cannot erase the past, of course, but we can commit ourselves to building a better future—and a better library—by being honest about what we are and what we need to be.

This will not be simple.  We will err.  We will understand that doing what is right is not always obvious or easy.  But even a flawed effort is better than no effort at all.  As President Fitts said in his message to the Tulane community Monday, “we have made important strides over the last few years, but we must intensify our efforts to create a campus community where all are truly supported, included and protected. Working ‘not for one's self, but for one's own’ is our motto; it's what it means to be a Tulanian.” This can be no less true of the Tulane Libraries that it is of Tulane University as a whole.

Libraries are, in essence, keepers of stories.  Many of those stories are told in texts.  Others are told in data, in images, or in music.  Too often, they have been hidden in the blank spaces in collections and services, in the silences and omissions.  Our ongoing work must be to make those hidden stories visible, audible, and legible.  There will be many paths to that goal.

For those of us who are white, the journey must begin with the recognition of our own received privilege and how it works to marginalize those who lack it.  It means listening, supporting, and uplifting.  It will require humility and grace. It will mean making space for others, especially those who are African-American, to grow and thrive.  It will require strengthening and amplifying their voices.  For all of us, it will require respect and understanding.  Justice, compassion, and the fulfillment of our true potential demand that these stories be heard, told, and preserved so that those who come after us can say that we did all we could to be what we truly are.

Dean David Banush
Tulane University Libraries