By Sheri Edwards, Associate University Librarian and Open Educational Resources Coordinator
It’s international Open Access Week, and this year’s theme is “Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge,” which ponders whether and how sharing knowledge is capturing and prioritizing all voices and particularly those in underrepresented groups; in other words, “open,” but for whom? While open access publications are equally (and freely) accessible to everyone, equality isn’t quite the same as equity, and, in fact, the two terms differ in important ways.
Equality means treating everyone the same, with everyone having access to the same opportunities. Equity, on the other hand, refers to fairness and social justice; in other words, treating people fairly while recognizing that needs may differ among individuals, and that the voices of some individuals might be under-represented. In educational environments, for example, equality means providing every student access to the same experience, while equity involves overcoming discrimination against specific groups of people.
Accordingly, the FAU Libraries actively celebrates equity through our robust and diverse collections, responsive services, and inclusive and equitable programming. For example, our collections include the databases Latino Literature, Chicano, Archives of Sexuality & Gender, Latin American Women Writers, Caribbean Literature, Black Drama, and GenderWatch; and historical newspapers, like Historical Chicago Defender, Historical Atlanta Daily World, and Caribbean Newspapers 1718-1876. While the databases are not specifically OA sources, they are of compilations of knowledge from demographic groups that often are unheard, with that knowledge available to the FAU community and to the public at large; equitable, in other words.
Meanwhile, the FAU Libraries’ services also play a major role in ensuring equity. Examples include physical accessibility, assistive technology, adaptive technology, and research assistance, all of which we are continuously striving to improve for students and the entire FAU community. We even have a form for reporting barriers to accessibility. Additionally, our programs include celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month, Banned Books Week, and our annual Human Library event.
Equity is an ever-evolving issue, and the FAU Libraries continues to strive to maintain excellence in areas of equity and openness.
Happy OA Week to all!