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UK Libraries has received the 2024 Library Excellence in Access and Diversity (LEAD) Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. The LEAD Award honors academic libraries’ programs and initiatives that encourage and support diversity, equity, and inclusion across their campus. 

“Libraries, at their core, are about equity and leveling the playing field for all our users. At UK Libraries we strive to create a culture of belonging, ensuring people feel supported and can thrive. Our expert faculty and staff advance this work through their daily interactions with students and faculty, by providing access to welcoming spaces, through inclusive description that unlocks access to resources, and by facilitating access to information resources that provide a wealth of perspectives and voices,” said Doug Way, Dean of Libraries. “While this work is never finished, I am so pleased that the efforts of our faculty and staff have been recognized with this LEAD Award.”

Guided by the deeply held principle that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential for cultivating a community of belonging, UK Libraries is committed to building collections, enhancing services, and providing spaces that reflect and support individuals with diverse perspectives and abilities.

UK Libraries' spaces are open without hesitation to all members of our academic and local community. Campus libraries serve as community centerpoints and gathering places that are inviting, warm, open, and flexible, and that can fulfill needs for both quiet privacy and communal connection that may be difficult for our users to meet at home. UK Libraries strives to continually increase access to materials and services across our physical and digital spaces and partners with UK’s Disability Resource Center to provide library users of all abilities with accessibility services and assistive technology.

Recognizing that affordability is also a leading barrier in equitable access to higher education, UK Libraries supports scholarships and affordable course content services that help reduce students’ financial burden and increase access to higher education for all. A key component in our affordability initiatives is our Open Educational Resources (OER) Grant Program. Since its launch in 2016, the OER Grant Program has impacted thousands of students, leveraging just over $100,000 in grant funds into over $1.5 million in student savings.

UK Libraries’ instructional sessions are modeled on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, which promotes flexible learning environments, intuitive information formats, and equitable instruction design. UDL allows our instruction librarians to accommodate individual learning differences in order to meet the needs and abilities of all learners – one of many ways we support teaching across the university.

Dedicated to preserving the richly textured history and culture of the Commonwealth, UK Libraries' archivists and librarians curate collections that document the histories and experiences of marginalized and underrepresented groups and share the stories of people across all identities and walks of life. Both digitally and in print, users can find resources and collections that catalog the lives of BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, and working-class communities, including the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, oral history collections covering Appalachia, diversity, gender, and the queer experience, and other materials in our Kentucky & Regional collections.

These topics and materials are often highlighted through free and publicly accessible library events and exhibits. Over the last five years, UK Libraries has welcomed acclaimed authors and scholars Jill Lepore, Eric Klinenberg, Safiya Noble, Mara Liasson, and Ruha Benjamin among others, to discuss issues as wide ranging as the racial bias inherent in the design of search algorithms to the vital role libraries play in preserving the social infrastructure essential for fighting inequality and bolstering civic life.

“We know that many academic libraries are not always recognized for their dedication to diversity, inclusion, and access” said Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of Insight Into Diversity magazine. “We are proud to honor these college and university libraries as role models for other institutions of higher education.”

A call for nominations for this award was announced in October 2023. UK Libraries will be featured along with 55 other recipients in the March 2024 issue of Insight Into Diversity magazine.

For more information about the 2024 LEAD Award, visit Insight Into Diversity.