UW Libraries Blog

May 12, 2020

Recommended Reads for Equity – Evolving the Collection for Remote Engagement

Caitlin Stewart and Sydney Krueger - Master of Library and Information Science 2020 iSchool Graduates

As students in the iSchool’s Library and Information Science program, we have been working at UW Libraries during our tenure here. Our capstone project is focused on the UW Libraries Recommended Reads for Equity collection, an initiative that was launched in 2018 with the support from a UW Diversity and Inclusion Seed Grant and the UW Libraries. 

Recommended Reads for Equity is a collection of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI)-focused books curated by members of the University of Washington community and housed in Odegaard Library; however many books have recently been made available online here. The collection provides a platform to share the diverse voices of the University of Washington community — to reflect ideas and personal reflections about EDI through literature and one’s personal connection to it. Contributors come from all backgrounds including undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty, alumni and everyone affiliated with the UW across its three campuses and global community. 

One of the most unique aspects of the collection are the personal recommendations that accompany each book. Together, the collection and recommendations reflect the diverse values and experiences of our University of Washington community, helping to define what equity, diversity, and inclusion mean through books that communicate those values in ways that resonate with one’s own experiences: 

book cover“I read [Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates] to better understand issues of equity in America and why and how institutional racism still persists. Though this book did help me better understand racism in America, it also offered an unintended but cherished lesson… I never understood my father’s fear completely or his broken way of parenting as well as I have in reading (this book).”




“[So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo] is written by an incredible local activist. Her book is framed in an approachable way, and is welcoming for folks who are new, but open, to talking about race. I personally found it helpful for framing my own conversations with other people who might not be as deeply interested involved in social justice. It’s honest and direct and really, really great.”

-Gabriella D.


 Sonya Renee Taylor

Sonya Renee Taylor

 “One area of diversity that we often overlook is size/weight/body, and how we are overtly instructed from a young age what kind of bodies are “normative,” lovable, and worthy of inclusion. [Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body is not an Apology] takes the concept of radical body love and directly links it to the struggles of various intersecting identities and sites of oppression. She’s doing incredible work in this area.”            -Lauren C. 


Anyone can contribute to the collection. If you would like to add your voice to this collection, recommend a book here. 

Highlighting University of Washington members’ collective and individual voices is a primary goal of the collection and our capstone project. In this work, we have explored new ways to bring the community into the collection, while growing and sharing the collection across the three UW campuses. Since its inception, the collection has grown to well over 100 books that span the gamut of genres. 

Since the Libraries physical collections have been inaccessible to users during the COVID-19 campus closure, we have adapted the collection in order to increase use and engagement: 

  1. We are hosting an online exhibit of video book recommendations created by students and UW Libraries staff, offering short book descriptions along with personal reflections. The recommendations get to the heart of a book’s messaging, and allow for easy sharing and community dialogue. 
  2. We have enhanced the Recommended Reads for Equity’s webpage to highlight which books in the collection are available electronically.
  3. We are purchasing electronic copies of books already in the collection to expand availability online and continuing to purchase new books that are not already held by UW libraries. The inclusion of more online materials will make the collection more readily accessible to UW Tacoma users, UW Bothell users, and online students in the long-term.

This collection compliments other EDI-based reading and collection work happening across our UW campus community such as UW Bothell’s Community Reads program and UW Tacoma’s REAL Lit[erature] Book Club, both of which are continuing as remote/online programs.

We feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to help engage the community in discussion around equity, diversity, and inclusion through this collection. Through this work, we hope to bring purposeful, community-wide dialogue and internal professional reflection on equity, diversity, and inclusion into our network, our jobs, and the library community. We believe that our work on this project better equips us to support and implement EDI-focused projects in our future careers. We hope to use our relevant skills and techniques in collection development, outreach, student services, and assessment to continue to support equity, diversity, and inclusion in our future roles.

Next year, new UW Libraries graduate assistants will become curators of the Recommended Reads for Equity collection, continuing to engage the UW community in sharing their voices and perspectives, reflecting what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to them. The collection is meant to be flexible, to continue to evolve and change as our community changes, and new voices, new books, and new community members add to and shape the collection. 

For questions and more information on the Recommended Reads for Equity project contact Emilie Vrbancic.