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Equity Action Plan

The text below was approved by a vote of the Council on October 31, 2020. This vote also approved an update to our Mission and Values statements and the changes are now live.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    •Principles of Equity and Inclusion in Bibliography
    •The Society’s Goals
  2. Action Points
  3. The Materiality of this Text: Its Production, Revision, & Use
  4. Timeline, Public Reporting, and Progress Evaluation

Introduction

Material texts created by/for and studied by under-represented groups deserve better representation within all forms of bibliographical scholarship. Bibliographers who identify as (in alphabetical order) BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color), LGBTQ+, non-Christian, women, and others (hereafter referred to as “under-represented groups”[1]) deserve a professional community that values their work and provides meaningful, equitable opportunities for advancement in various ways.

The Equity Action plan is intended to address some long-term issues of inequality within our Society and other learned societies in the United States and internationally, and also issues of diversity and inclusion within the practice of bibliography. Issues of inequality have resulted in members of under-represented groups having had fewer opportunities for advancement and support. The scholarship they produce and bibliographical studies of their textual cultures have been overlooked, unpublished or actively discouraged.

The BSA conducts its business on the traditional and ancestral lands and waters of the Lenape People in Lenapehoking, known by settlers as New York City. The Society gathers people together at events across the North and South American continents on the traditional and ancestral lands and waters of Indigenous peoples who were forcibly removed from their lands. The BSA acknowledges the exclusion and erasures of Indigenous peoples in the places where we work and gather.

This plan is intended to provide transparent documentation of actions that the Bibliographical Society of America (BSA) will take to rectify harm done and to achieve defined goals related to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Society and its sphere of influence.

Principles of Equity and Inclusion in Bibliography

The Bibliographical Society of America recognizes that:

  • Textual artifacts, their production, and their study are global and intercultural.
  • Texts take various forms beyond ink on paper or parchment.
  • Various analytical methods and theoretical frameworks can come to bear on the study of the production and circulation of material texts in any society.
  • Collections of primary materials that form the basis of bibliographical research have often been developed according to practices that are no longer considered ethical and, in some instances, no longer legal; and many have been broken up and dispersed. Ethical and respectful practices in acquiring primary materials from creators, display and handling of artifacts, and striving to keep collections together, are essential to the integrity of scholarship based on them.
  • Ethical practices by individual collectors, curators, dealers, and auction houses are vital to scholarship, which depends on the fullest possible knowledge of the provenance and historical context of the material texts they study.
  • Bibliographers come from a broad range of cultural, racial/ethnic, gender-based, religious, professional, socio-economic, and other backgrounds and bring a broad range of experiential knowledge to their work. At the same time, personal identities do not necessarily overlap with or relate to professional research interests.
  • The Society recognizes that interlocking and interdependent knowledge producers and distinct forms of knowledge production enrich the bibliographical community. We welcome all who are interested in varied forms of bibliography, including, but not limited to academics (including administrators, tenured, un-tenured, and adjunct faculty), archivists, book artists and artisans of the book, booksellers, collectors, conservators, curators, independent scholars, institutional administrators, librarians, museum professionals, paraprofessionals, and students. The products of their bibliographical inquiries take a variety of forms. These include (but are not limited to; listed in alphabetical order): archival finding aids; artworks; bookseller and auction catalogs; catalog records; curricula and syllabi; digital and analog tools; digital humanities projects; lectures, presentations, and other forms of orally transmitted knowledge; and published books and articles.

The Society’s Goals

The BSA aspires to contribute to the development of equitable models of scholarly production in bibliography that set a broader and more inclusive course for the future of the field. New models of scholarly production and actions taken to realize them will:

  • Center the richness of material texts in their globally and historically diverse forms;
  • Recognize and honor the historic bibliographical contributions by members of under-represented groups;
  • Support and empower individuals from under-represented groups to use the Society’s resources to achieve outcomes that advance their careers, and/or center marginalized textual cultures and material texts; and
  • Support and empower individuals from under-represented groups in making contributions, when they choose to do so, toward the Society’s efforts in building equity within the field. This includes welcoming them into the Society in leadership roles on the Council, Committees, Working Groups and among the Officers.

Action Points

The Society shall take the following actions toward achieving the goals stated above.

The Society will empower under-represented group members to broaden the content coverage of The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America’s (PBSA) by encouraging and supporting members of under-represented groups to contribute scholarship and reviews and to secure significant representation on the Advisory Board. With the guidance of the Executive Committee, the Editor of PBSA, BSA Executive Director, and the Publication Committee will develop, document, implement, and monitor an action plan to broaden the content of the journal and increase contributions from individuals of under-represented groups, incorporating the points listed below. This action plan shall be made publicly accessible as an appendix to this one and developed with specific goals for measuring and determining success.

  • Action Point 1: The development and adoption of policies and procedures aimed at regularizing and supporting the participation of self-identified members of under-represented groups on the PBSA Advisory Board. The Editor of PBSA and the Publication Committee shall establish and document procedures by which vacant positions on the board are filled, the qualifications for appointments to the PBSA Advisory Board, and length of the term served. The procedure should state that if two candidates with comparable professional qualifications are simultaneously under consideration for an appointment to the Advisory board, a candidate’s potential to offer different perspectives to those already serving will be considered and valued. On the whole, the Advisory Board should offer a plurality of voices, perspectives, and experiences. Members from any one gender or race/ethnicity, or any one institutional/vocational affiliation  should not comprise more than 50% + 1 of the members of the PBSA Advisory Board.
  • Action point 2: Broadening the coverage of books reviewed to include works that represent a wider array of textual artifacts from diverse authors in English and in other languages.
  • Action point 3: Explore possibilities for expanding the journal to include content in languages other than English and/or material in translation.

The Society will work for a sustained increase in the diversity of BSA Council, Committees, and Working Groups.

  • Action Point 1: The President and the Executive Director will develop guiding values for diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Nominating Committee with respect to the Council nomination process, and these values will be made publicly available.
  • Action Point 2: Improve communications to members regarding the role that they play in electing diverse members to the Council. Communications should cover the BSA’s “Work, Wisdom, & Wealth” requirements for Council participation and indicate that the Society appreciates varying individual resources, and values all three contributions from Council members.
  • Action Point 3: The Policy and Procedures Manual Working Group will lead efforts to devise equitable and transparent procedures by which appointments to all BSA committees and working groups will be made. Procedure documentation should include the criteria and/or qualifications for participation on each committee, information about the volunteer requirements for each committee (time commitment required, descriptions of the types of work done by committee members), and information about term length and renewal opportunities. While Committee or Working Group Chairs may from time to time appoint specific individuals to committees, the Society will also issue calls for volunteers to members on a bi-annual basis. These procedures, when completed, will be posted to the Society’s website.

The Council will draft a land acknowledgment for the BSA website and determine the best placement(s) for it thereon.

The Society will leverage the Prizes it awards to encourage submissions of high-quality scholarship from diverse authors working in a variety of fields related to bibliographical research.

The Society will leverage its Fellowship program to bring more diversity to bibliographical scholarship and support the participation of individuals from under-represented groups.

  • Action point 1: Continue to strengthen its Fellowship Program by adding new fellowships designed to encourage the study of under-represented bibliographical topics and by under-represented bibliographers.
  • Action point 2: Prioritize awards for competitive proposals to individuals from under-represented groups.
  • Action point 3: The Fellowship committee will assist in establishing professional, working relationships between fellows and the relevant staff at institutions that they plan to visit during their fellowship period. This includes making efforts to connect BSA Fellows with resources available to research fellows at the institution(s) they will be visiting.
  • Action point 4: The Fellowship committee will devise language to include in the Fellowship award letter to indicate that the Society’s consultant ombudsperson (per the Professional Conduct policy) will be available to fellows for confidential discussion of harassment, discrimination, or other matters of concern experienced within libraries during their fellowship period. While the Society cannot play a role in mediating or resolving complaints, the consultant ombudsperson should be made available as an impartial, neutral listener.
  • Action Point 5: The Fellowship Committee will improve outreach with Fellows during their Fellowship period to improve their engagement with the Society and connect them with the bibliographical community around the BSA.

The Society will continue to expand BSA events in terms of representation, coverage, and access. In-person and virtual events should cover a wide range of subjects, feature presenters from under-represented groups, and take place in geographically dispersed, physically accessible locations or with virtual equivalents (closed-captioning, etc.). Priority will be given to proposals that demonstrate a commitment to these values.

  • Action point 1: Maintain a list of outlets for sharing calls for proposals to ensure that opportunities are publicized to a wide range of relevant organizations and interested individuals.
  • Action point 2: Events Committee should solicit or otherwise encourage proposals from specific individuals to encourage engagement with a broad range of institutions. Specifically, the Society should seek to organize and sponsor events centering collections from institutions spread across geographic regions, and in North and South America in particular. In addition to geographic heterogeneity in BSA events, the Society should seek to center institutions with a range of collecting strengths and use its programs to build awareness of collections without longstanding reputations and established recognition in the field. The Society should also seek to better recognize traditional and indigenous textual materials held within creators’ communities, and any special circumstances working with those materials.
  • Action point 3: Evaluate and expand BSA’s ability to improve physical access to in-person and virtual events by encouraging co-sponsoring organizations to offer and communicate about accommodations for individuals with a variety of requirements for access.
  • Action Point 4: Proposals for events support will be required to document their event’s commitment to diversity in selecting presenters.

The Society will maintain and evaluate a list of places where calls for applications/proposals/submissions, program announcements, and other communications are shared to ensure wide coverage to varied audiences.

The Society will continue to develop collaborative partnerships with cognate organizations that represent any and all time periods, geographic regions, and methodologies in the study of material texts. Establishing partnerships must also include plans to sustain and build upon those relationships and for adapting existing programs within the Society for meaningful inclusion of new partners.

The Council shall reconsider and publicly acknowledge the Society’s role in advocating for a more equitable working world for all bibliographers. This reconsideration must address the role that the Society currently plays in modeling or promoting equity within the field, and propose future models that would better leverage its power within it for the benefit of members.

 

The Society recognizes that this initiative must be undertaken with focused efforts toward meaningful change. Creating equity within the Society will only be achieved through committed attention to the needs and ongoing work of marginalized constituencies both within the Society and in parallel institutional and non-institutional spaces.

The Materiality of This Text: Its Production, Revision, & Use

A text published on a website is not static, and as such this webpage expresses the evolving nature of the text of this Action Plan.  BSA members – especially those who identify with the under-represented groups defined above – are encouraged to submit comments offering nuanced perspectives on their needs and past experiences, suggest more meaningful and effective actions toward the goals stated above, and identify areas of inequity that the Society should address. All members may submit comments about this document via the link to a Google Form after logging into memberplanet.com/bsa. All submissions will be anonymous. Anyone wishing to receive a response to their submission must provide their name and email address.

All comments will be recorded and subsequently considered by the Executive Committee. Minor revisions may be approved by the Executive Committee; major revisions may be implemented following a discussion and vote by the Council after a preliminary review by the Executive Committee.

All approved revisions to this document will be published on the Society’s website, and previous versions will be preserved as PDF files in the Society’s archives.

The Society will annually revisit, review, revise, and expand this document and evaluate its progress to ensure that the Society’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is meaningful and sustained. As we work toward realizing these individual points with community participation, this living document and ancillary feedback mechanisms will model mutual support and an iterative process that reflects the Society’s goals for itself, its membership, and its broader academic context.

The Executive Director, Officers, and the Council of the BSA and Committee and Working Group chairs will be required to review and summarize their progress toward achieving each of these action points in their written reports to Council at each Council meeting, and also verbally or in writing at the request of the BSA President or Executive Director between meetings. The BSA will also add action items to this list, with the approval of the Council, as needed, in response to member feedback or otherwise.

This document was primarily written by (in alphabetical order) Jose Guerrero, Erin McGuirl, and Kyle Triplett as an ad hoc team of volunteers within the Membership Working Group during the summer of 2020. Officers and the Membership Working Group Chair shared their comments throughout the drafting process. After a final review by the Executive Committee in September 2020, the document was reviewed by five external readers, both members and non-members, from under-represented groups. Their suggested revisions were reviewed and incorporated by Guerrero, McGuirl, and Triplett and the final document was submitted to Council for approval at the October 31, 2020 Council meeting.

Timeline, Public Reporting, and Progress Evaluation

The Society will immediately set to work on all of the action points set forth above, and aims to address them all by 2026. The five-year timeline, while slower than we would prefer, is designed to be realistic and achievable in light of BSA’s limited full-time staff and reliance on volunteers who have other personal and professional priorities and obligations.

The Executive Committee will appoint a small monitoring task force to track the Society’s progress on the Action Points listed above. It will be their responsibility to follow up with the Executive Committee and Council as needed and coordinate progress reporting with the President (to Council) and Executive Director (to the membership and general public).

The Society will update the membership and public regularly on our progress toward achieving these goals in the following ways.

  1. The Society will update the membership and our public by means of our electronic newsletter (published monthly) when we have made significant progress on or completed any one or multiple action plan points.
  2. The Society Info pages in PBSA will contain quarterly summaries of our progress on these initiatives in print and PDF formats.
  3. The Society’s annual report, available digitally and in print, will devote a section that reports on Equity Action Plan progress and accomplishments.
  4. The annual report, referenced above, will be published in PBSA, either in complete or abbreviated form, depending upon space constraints.

[1] BSA recognizes that “under-represented groups” may not be the best form of reference for those listed here. It is notably problematic in the way that it defines these groups in relation to their representation within the organization. However, “under-represented groups” seems to us to be the least problematic of several options considered and so BSA has decided to use it throughout this document. We can replace “under-represented groups” with a better form of reference in the future per the procedures outlined in Section 3 of this document.