Anti-Racist Action in Libraries - Call for papers.

The events of 2020 demonstrated the convergence of interrelated crises-the crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and disparate outcomes in the criminal justice system for communities of color. These events have highlighted what marginalized groups have long understood about racial disparities exposed by the coronavirus: that minoritized populations are disproportionately and negatively impacted by inequities that are imbedded in every system that we have in the United States.  These inequities are the root cause of barriers to access to life, liberty, and happiness for so many in the United States.  

Across the country - individuals, institutions and organizations are responding to the legacy of slavery and systemic racism.

We have been following news about academic libraries that are centering inclusiveness, diversity, equity, and accessibility with great interest. Evidence affirms that libraries are well suited to offer exemplary practices in anti-racist actions. This special issue of Reference Services Review (RSR) will explore the question: "How can anti-racist action in libraries begin to dismantle existing power structures and lead to equitable access to participation and opportunities in libraries for marginalized groups?"

RSR seeks articles for Volume 50 Issue 1 – a special issue on organizational practices and actions that may serve as models for dismantling racism. We are interested in a broad range of anti-racism initiatives and seek specially to feature marginalized non-white voices to hold up the promise of a suitably diverse and vibrant profession.

We welcome different types of papers, including the following:

Autoethnographies by racially and ethnically diverse librarians, including professional experiences, perspectives, and values
Autoethnographies by current and past recipients of diversity recruitment programs, such as the ALA Spectrum Scholarship Program or other diversity fellowships, including professional experiences, perspectives, and values

Empirical studies, quantitative studies, qualitative studies
Broad studies of multiple programs/initiatives that have proven successful or unsuccessful and why

Longitudinal studies
Studies that explore the design, implementation, and impact of outreach, information literacy instruction, and/or information, reference, and research services to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) library users

Viewpoint or conceptual paper
Reflections on key terms and core concepts, i.e., the public discourse on anti-racism and its impact on, and intersection with, academic libraries
Reflections on the transition from diversity training to anti-racist action training
Reflections on disrupting whiteness in libraries and librarianship

Case study
Studies that explore the transition from diversity training to anti-racist action training
Studies that focus on practices toward dismantling white power structures in library hierarchies, management, and staffing in public-facing services, programs, and areas
Studies that focus on advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism through curation and collection
Studies that focus on the work that library/archive associations and/or library consortia are doing in this space
Studies that focus on mission in motion, and specifically on the work library staff are doing in support of greater racial equity in Jesuit colleges and universities and other mission-driven institutions

Literature review
Annotation and/or critique of the literature on practices for diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in discovery systems
Annotation and/or critique of the literature on collections-focused actions in promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism including deaccessioning, contextualizing, or transforming divisive and archaic collections and collection descriptions
Annotation and/or critique of racial equity tools – library-hosted Web-based "kits" that offer tools, research, tips, curricula, and ideas for patrons who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities, and the culture at large
Overview or examination of ongoing anti-racism practices within professional development opportunities
Overview and critique of selected anti-racism resource guides

Abstracts and Topic Proposals

Along with your topic proposal, please indicate how your background is contributing to a diversity of perspectives on this topic. If your paper authors are not able to demonstrate diversity, we suggest including writing partners who will bring a diverse perspective to your contribution.

Topic proposals should be submitted via the web form at


Previous Special Issues

Examples of previous special issues can be found in RSR issues:

Academic Libraries and the Costs of Higher Education (48/3, 2020)
Academic Libraries and the 45th President (48/1, 2020)
Library Services to People with Disabilities (46/3, 2018)
Emergent Literacies in Academic Libraries (46/2, 2018)
Transfer Students and Students in Transition (45/2 and 45/3, 2017)
Health Information Literacy (44/2, 2016)
Entrepreneurship (43/3, 2015)

Anticipated Publication Schedule

The issue will be published online in January 2022 and in paper February 2022 (50.1). The anticipated publication schedule for Volume 50, Issue 1 is:

April 18: Abstract due.
May 2: Abstract acceptance notification.
July 1: Manuscript due.
August 18: Manuscript revisions notification.
September 9: Revision 1 due.
September 23: Revisions notification.
October 7: Revision 2 due.
October 28: Final revisions (copy-editing) due.
February 3: Online publication.

To view the author guidelines for this journal, please visit the journal's page. 

Co-Guest Editors

Reference Services Review is pleased to introduce two colleagues - Jim Hahn and Mark A. Puente as Co-Guest Editors for this special issue. While their career trajectories, areas of specialization, and scholarship are very different, they share interest in leading this new special issue of the journal. Jim is a long-standing member of the Editorial Advisory Board, and currently a member of the Editorial Team, and Mark operates at the forefront of our profession in this space.  Jim and Mark will play a vital role in curating high-quality contributions on the topics described above and driving the editorial review process for special issue publications. As Co-Guest Editors, they are uniquely positioned to help to advance the state of knowledge with a special collection of articles.

Jim Hahn
Head of Metadata Research
Penn Libraries
University of Pennsylvania
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Mark A. Puente
Associate Dean for Organizational Development, Inclusion, and Diversity
Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies
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