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Western Libraries Responds

Posted on: April 11, 2018

Topic(s): Updates, Events, Feature Stories

WWU holds event to replace vandalized books

This article is written by Mary Gallagher and is courtesy of the Office of Communications and Marketing at Western. It originally appeared in Western Today on April 10, 2018 and can be viewed here.

Members of the Western community who have responded to the destruction and vandalism of books in Western’s Jewish Studies Collection have replaced the books and grown the collection, illustrating the community’s resolve against acts of antisemitism and other forms of hate, bigotry and violence, said speakers at a Western Libraries event Tuesday morning.

“Whether campus is your home, or you live in Bellingham or beyond, we are all one community,” said President Sabah Randhawa. “We are united in opposition against these acts of antisemitic vandalism, and against all such acts of hatred and bigotry. This kind of cowardly action perfectly illustrates the nature of hate and bigotry, because it flourishes in darkness and withers when exposed to the light of reason and intellectual scrutiny.”

More than 250 students, faculty, staff and community members crowded into the Wilson Library Reading Room for the event, which was a response to acts of destruction and vandalism of books in Western’s Jewish Studies collection.

“The deliberate destruction of library books, along with hateful slurs written in them, constitutes a reprehensible, criminal act that will not be tolerated,” said Dean of Libraries Mark Greenberg. Tuesday's show of solidarity, along with replacing the books and adding to the collection, show that as a community, “we vigorously oppose acts of bigotry and hate against the Jewish community and against all minoritized and marginalized groups,” Greenberg said.

The destruction of the books was appalling and upsetting, Randhawa said, in part because “this particular activity occurred in our library, the heart of our institution – of any academic institution – and involved the destruction of the very objects of knowledge itself.”

As outlined in last year’s report from Western’s Taskforce on Preventing and Responding to Antisemitism, Randhawa said, all forms of racism, bias and hate are interconnected and must be fought on a united front.

“Democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained,” he said. “One of the central mandates of education is to examine what it means to be a responsible citizen and to ensure that human values are appreciated, nurtured and protected. Silence and indifference to the suffering of others, or to the infringements of civil rights in any society, can perpetuate these problems.”

German Professor Sandra Alfers, director of the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, said that as someone who grew up in post-war West Germany, the destruction of books “conjures up particularly disturbing ghosts from the past.”

“Thanks to the support of many, our shelves in Wilson Library do not remain empty, and so we have replaced books that were destroyed and added traditional and new formats in written, oral and visual form to enhance our collection,” Alfers said. “More than 120 items have been added thus far, some of them not held by any other library in the state.”

But more work needs to be done, Alfers said. Hate crimes and violence against minority groups are on the rise in the U.S. as islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-immigrant sentiment and Holocaust distortion and denial are becoming more common around the globe.

“Reports can be shelved and forgotten,” Alfers said. “So, commit yourself to being engaged, to actively thoughtfully, and respectfully be building bridges, not walls, and creating much-needed change. To seek knowledge and to apply it. Therein lies your – our – responsibility as we stand up in unity to antisemitism, hate and bigotry.”


Read more: Western Libraries Responds


Western Libraries Responds to Antisemitism, Book Vandalism

Posted on: April 3, 2018

Topic(s): Updates, Events

New Additions to Library Collections & Invitation to April 10 Event

Since mid-March, the Western Washington University community has been grappling with the discovery of vandalized (and in some cases, destroyed) books within the Libraries’ Jewish Studies collection. While libraries are havens for expression and intellectual freedom, the targeted destruction of Jewish Studies materials because of their subject matter crosses the line from free speech into hateful conduct.  University Police are actively seeking to identify the individual(s) involved in these crimes and to deter further incidents.

In response to these antisemitic acts, the Libraries has replaced the damaged items and added new books to the collection. The University will hold an event at 10 a.m., Tuesday, April 10 to showcase the collection and to come together in a public display of solidarity and support for the rights of readers to access information. This public event will take place in the Wilson Library Reading Room and precedes Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, which begins at sunset on April 11.

Western Libraries is proud to restore the vandalized content and to continue efforts to acquire new resources supporting Jewish Studies. These efforts reflect the Libraries’ ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and its mission to ensure that historically marginalized voices are well represented within our collections.

To that end, and prior to these antisemitic incidents, the Libraries has been actively acquiring content related to Jewish and Holocaust Studies in order to support both The Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity,  and Jewish Studies coursework at Western. Recent acquisitions include print books, e-books, digital primary source archives, children’s books, and special collections materials. Also of particular note is a donation from what was formerly the Northwest Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Ethnocide Education, and is now The Ray Wolpow Institue. These materials are discoverable through the Libraries’ OneSearch interface. Users can also browse the virtual Holocaust and Genocide Studies collection, a selection of materials that has been curated over the last several years.

To support the Libraries’ efforts to build and maintain diverse and inclusive collections, please consider donating funds (specify “for Jewish Studies materials”—or another subject area, if desired—in the additional gift instructions) and/or suggesting a specific title for purchase.


Read more: Western Libraries Responds to Antisemitism, Book Vandalism


New SensusAccess Service Now Available

Posted on: April 3, 2018

Topic(s): Updates, Resources

Partnership Results in New Service for Students with Disabilities

Beginning spring 2018, Western Washington University students, staff, and faculty will have a new service available to them. SensusAccess is a conversion service that makes documents searchable and accessible for individuals who use text-to-speech technology. This service allows users to convert inaccessible documents, such as course readings or assignments, into accessible versions at any time. You can learn more about and begin using this service by going here: https://access.wwu.edu/sensus.

In order to access documents used in everyday life, such as syllabi or admissions paperwork, individuals with specific kinds of disabilities may need to employ text-to-speech technology to read the document. However, the document first needs to be formatted to ensure that the assistive technology can read and deliver a coherent report of its contents to the person with a disability.

Historically, all requests for document conversion for accessibility purposes had to go through Western’s disAbility Resources for Students. But now with SensusAccess, students, staff, and faculty can create accessible versions of their documents as needed. Typical conversion rates vary due to a variety of factors but the usual turnaround time is less than 24 hours -- and the service is free for Western users! SensusAccess is intended as a self-service solution and complements existing accessibility services at Western.

Everyone at Western is encouraged to use this service when creating or reformatting educational or informational documents. Here are a few examples of how SensusAccess can be used:

●     Faculty and Instructors: When you assign course readings that are formatted as scanned articles or PDFs, you can create an accessible version using SensusAccess. You can also learn more about PDF accessibility principles here:  https://wp.wwu.edu/webtech/accessible-pdf/ and available training here: https://access.wwu.edu/.

●     Staff: When you create informational documents, or if you need to convert an existing document into an accessible version, you can e-mail the newly accessible document to the student or colleague upon the completed conversion.

●     Students: If you ever need an accessible version of your course materials, you may use the SensusAccess service.

Prospective users should know that SensusAccess is perfect for documents under thirty pages or so. However, if there are print-impaired individuals who require the conversion of large texts into accessible versions, these individuals should contact the disAbility Resources for Students office for assistance and support [insert hyperlink: http://www.wwu.edu/drs/contact.shtml]

SensusAccess services at Western are made possible through an innovative partnership between Western Libraries, Web Communication Technologies (WebTech), and the disAbility Resources for Students office. SensusAccess is one example of several University-wide efforts dedicated to improving accessibility at Western in order to co-create an inclusive educational environment by providing a new tool to address a common problem.  For more information, please see:  Western Digital Accessibility.


Read more: New SensusAccess Service Now Available


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