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Internal grants help University Libraries staffers put the values of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility to work.

Eight staff projects are the first to receive funding through the University Libraries’ new IDEA Action grant program. The grants enable employees to develop and implement projects that advance inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.

Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks launched the program in 2020 as part of the University Libraries’ Reckoning Initiative.

“Trainings and reading groups are important,” says Westbrooks, “but the only way to truly make change is to invest in it and support the people doing the work.”

The first projects in the IDEA Action portfolio are as follows. Additional projects will be announced this year.

Machine learning

The On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance project team will purchase software to improve the project website. On the Books ( uses machine learning to identify Jim Crow laws passed in North Carolina between 1866 and 1967. The website will then provide easy searchable access for researchers to the full body of laws ratified during this time to facilitate additional research.

3D maps

The North Carolina Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library will create a 3D map of North Carolina based on an 1854 map by William Dewey Cooke. Cooke helped found and lead what is now the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. The 3D rendering will make it possible for blind and low-sighted individuals to experience this historical document.

Conscious editing

The steering committee for the University Libraries’ Conscious Editing initiative will hire a copy editor for its Guide to Conscious Editing. Through the initiative, librarians and archivists are reconsidering the ways they describe materials in order to provide a more accurate and inclusive view of collections.

Black and Blue Tour

The University Archives at Wilson Library will sponsor stakeholder reviews of the website for the Black and Blue Tour. The campus tour and website introduce Black history at Carolina. The intent is to significantly expand and update the current tour website and to center the actions, words and experiences of the University’s Black students and staff.

Inclusive transcriptions

Library staff will work with a consultant to learn about creating equitable and inclusive transcriptions to oral history recordings, specifically oral histories of Black interviewees. The training will help staff create realistic and equitable guidelines for increasing access through transcription without censoring the authentic voices and narratives of the speakers.

N.C. newspapers

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center will expand its extensive collection of online newspapers created by and for Black North Carolinians. The Center will add scans of year 1951 issues of The Carolina Times and early issues (1876-1925) of The Star of Zion. These issues will join 32 other African American newspapers on, creating the largest open-access collection of North Carolina Black newspapers.

User interviews

Wilson Library staff will also conduct user interviews to help guide the work of ethical description and conscious editing. These discussions will allow staff to revise and improve descriptive practices in ways that advance equity and justice.

Language representation

Wilson Library staff will commission translations for two exhibitions into the languages of communities they represent. “Ancient and Living Maya in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Archaeological Discovery, Literary Voice, and Political Struggle” will add Spanish and Yucatec Maya versions. A permanent display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, “Eng and Chang Bunker: The Original Siamese Twins,” will receive Chinese and Thai translations.

Story by Judy Panitch

This story originally appeared in the spring/summer 2021 issue of Windows, the magazine of the Friends of the Library at the University Libraries.

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