Radical re-imagination: centering a BIPOC library workforce in an asset-based autoethnography

Janis J. Shearer, Ben B. Chiewphasa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Academic BIPOC librarians oftentime struggle to envision themselves and navigate in White-dominant spaces due to deficit thinking. To better understand how DEIA efforts can bolster structural change in academic libraries, the two BIPOC authors opted to lean on an asset-based exercise–imagining a positive work environment made possible through a library staffed entirely by BIPOC individuals. Design/methodology/approach: Through collaborative autoethnography, the two authors interviewed one another and centered their unstructured conversations around one question: “What does an academic library composed entirely of a BIPOC workforce look like?” Three emergent themes were agreed upon and finalized by the two authors. Findings: The authors' imagined library is able to foster a supportive community and also function efficiently thanks to its shared purpose grounded in DEIA. Despite relying on an asset-based framework, the authors found themselves having to reckon with trials and tribulations currently faced by BIPOC librarians. Effectively envisioning the “ideal” library environment is not possible without also engaging with librarianship's legacy of racial injustices. Originality/value: Recognizing that confronting systems of oppression naturally invokes trauma, this paper encourages librarians to challenge deficit thinking and instead rely on asset-based models to candidly imagine an anti-racist academic library. The authors acknowledge that BIPOC voices and experiences add tremendous value to the library workplace. At the heart of this paper is the belief that reparations for past racial injustices should not only fix past wrongdoings, but also contribute to positive workplace cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-126
Number of pages14
JournalReference Services Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2 2022


  • Academic libraries
  • Asset-based community development
  • Autoethnography
  • Deficit thinking
  • Diversity
  • Diversity recruitment programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences


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