RMIT Pride Week 2021 – How the Library supports LGBTIQA+ inclusion

By Frank Ponte AALIA (CP) Academic/Research, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library, frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au 

Gender Spectrum collection image of 5 people representing the LGBQTI community

Photo in the Gender Spectrum Collection was taken by Zackary Drucker under CC-BY-NC-ND

In August this year, RMIT Library participated in University Pride week. A group of passionate individuals across the Library, and subsequently badged as the Library Pride Working Group, came together and tailored Library services exclusively for LGBTIQA+ students.
 
Due to lockdown, the group met online and used Teams to communicate and host weekly meetings, used planner boards in the O365 environment to track progress, and SharePoint to archive digital resources, documents and PowerPoint slides. This event was created and delivered within a four-week timeframe.

The service offering aligned with the Library’s sustainable and digital-first approach and included:
1. Introductory recording – outlining the week’s events 4:51 min
2. Live webinar – How the Library Supports LGBTIQA+ Inclusive Teaching. (Recording available internally only).
3. LGBTIQA+ Library Guide
4. Finding LGBTIQA+ resources in the Library’s digital collection and OER’s: 1:55min
5. Shared #RMITPride Spotify List
6. Online RMIT Pride Film Club – A selection of 5 online films in consultation with University Pride Committee with supporting online post-film group chats.  

The service offering was informed by the Ward-Gale model for LGBTQ-inclusivity in higher education. This model provided a clear best practice framework and cumulative approach to LGBTIQA+ inclusivity.  The model is defined by three pillars, moving from basic awareness to transformative practice:

  1. Pillar 1 – Language: This is how students will risk assess the safety of a situation. They will review the language people use and how they use it. It is also a simple way to make curriculum more inclusive. The inclusion of a statement in an online course shell about what constitutes abusive or discriminatory language is a great starting point.
  2. Pillar 2 – Role Models:  Heterosexual and LGBTIQA+ students value all staff being open about their sexuality. It gives them confidence that the institution respects LGBTIQA+ equality. For LGBTIQA+ students specifically, it establishes ‘safe’ people to talk to should they encounter problems.
  3. Pillar 3 – Curriculum Content: Ward and Gale found that failure to work with teaching materials that engage with diversity provides an environment where only some experience is valued. This is where open educational materials can assist. Because of the adaptable nature of these resources, it provides educators opportunities to be more inclusive in their curriculum design.
Ward-Gale Model for LGBTQ-inclusivity in Higher Education. Compares Language, role models and curriculum content against increasing awareness, additive approaches and transformative approaches.

Table 1: The Ward Gale Model for LGBTQ-Inclusivity in Higher Education by Dr. Nicola Gale: Source: Ward, N., Gale, N. (2016) LGBTQ-inclusivity in the Higher Education Curriculum: a best practice guide. Birmingham: University of Birmingham. Table reproduced with permission from the authors.

Learning and Future Focus:

  • The use of a best practice framework like Ward and Gale (2016) provided clear parameters to work within. The flexibilities that OER affords academic staff will be highlighted as ways to engage in LGBTIQA+ inclusion when developing curriculum content. Such as the inclusion of LGBTIQA+ images or selecting open textbooks.  
  • Due to the short timeframe in delivering the Library service offering, the working group relied on the goodwill of colleagues as volunteers. To be truly representative and reflect the diverse genders, sexes and sexualities’ of the institution, there needs to be a concerted effort to recruit a diversity of skills, perspectives, and voices.
  • RMIT University is proud to support the staff and students within our community who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning or asexual/agender (LGBTIQA+). An important aspect of why we deliver library services is to reflect belonging, inclusion and diversity. In this regard, the LGBTIQA+ student voice is a critical inclusion that will reflect the future library service offering.
  • In 2022, the Library’s physical spaces will be utilised to host events to foster student belonging and inclusion. A key part of engagement with the Library is to ensure that students are aware of the Library’s physical resources as well as its digital. To ensure there is a connection, the Library will use QR codes to seamlessly transition library users from their physical location to the digital.
  • An important aspect of belonging and acknowledging the past is by collecting, preserving and celebrating the institution’s history. RMIT Archives will be an important partner in the future to chronicle an accurate picture of the University’s LGBTIQA+ story.

In conclusion, the Library Pride working group showed passion, commitment, and managed to deliver a varied and successful program. This will be the underpinning of a successful Pride event in 2022.  


Delighting in diversity in the digital domain

By AJ Penrose, Multimedia Developer, Digital Learning, RMIT University Library. Contact: amanda.penrose@rmit.edu.au

The world might not actually be any more diverse than it’s always been, but goodness, doesn’t it seem that way?! Thanks to increased visibility, advocacy and celebration of our differences, diversity has become an important part of our digital lives.

retro housewife waves at husband and child from kitchen doorway

Fortunately, we’re becoming more aware that what we see around us shapes our expectations of society. We’re getting better at representing diversity (it’s been a while since I’ve seen a white, tie-wearing male kiss a housewife goodbye as he heads to the office… WandaVision excepted!) but we can do a lot more.

Image by ArtsyBee https://pixabay.com/illustrations/retro-housewife-family-greeting-1321068/

Here are some examples of inclusive practices that you can incorporate into your digital projects right now.

Inclusive language

Use non-gendered and non-Western names for the characters in your examples and activities. Online baby-name lists are a fabulous and readily available resource.

Include they/them pronouns along with she/her and he/his. You can do this when the gender of the person you’re referring to isn’t relevant, when you want the sentence to be inclusive of all genders, or if you want to represent a character as non-binary.

Representation

Describe or illustrate your characters using diverse:

  • physiological or mental functional capacities
  • genders, sexes and sexualities
  • cultures and traditions
  • ages  
  • socio-economic backgrounds
  • body shapes, skin colours, hair and clothing choices

The great news is, with a little effort and a bit of practice, we can create inclusive, safe and welcoming digital environments, which benefit everyone.

Here are just a couple of screenshots from animations I’ve created recently. See if you can identify the ways I’ve included representation from the list above.

Note that diversity itself isn’t the focus of any of these projects, it’s just there.

Why not review the project materials you’re working on right now and have a think about how you’re representing diversity? If you can do more, go ahead and make a change today!