Walker garners Black Caucus American Library Association award

Walker garners Black Caucus American Library Association award

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r. Shaundra Walker has a mission to make information discoverable through the power of the library. She’s the Interim Director and Associate Director of Instruction and Research Services at the Ina Dillard Russell Library. She’s spent nearly 20 years in library systems in both academic and public spheres.

Her career in libraries began when she started her Masters of Library Science at Clark Atlanta University. While pursuing her degree, she started working for the Dekalb County Public Library.

Dr. Shaundra Walker recently garnered an award for her work in promoting African-Americans and other people of color in the library profession.
Dr. Shaundra Walker recently garnered an award for her work in promoting African-Americans and other people of color in the library profession.

“At that time, they were doing some really innovative, creative things,” she said. “They were providing materials in Korean, Chinese and Japanese. They also had a really strong ESL program. It was just such a different library experience from what I knew growing up. The combination of the curriculum at Clark Atlanta and the experience that I was having at my job was really impactful.” 

Walker realized what inclusivity could do for a library system. As part of the Black Caucus American Library Association for 20 years, she also learned best practices in bringing communities into the library to both share and discover information. Recently, Walker won the 2020 Demco Award for her work in promoting African-Americans and other people of color in the library profession.

This passion of the library profession took Walker to Mercer University after earning her masters. There, she pursued her doctorate in educational leadership with a concentration in higher education administration. As a graduate of two HBCUs, Spelman and Clark Atlanta, her research began to look at trends in those universities when it came to library science. 

“I became interested in the fact that African-Americans were excluded from most library education programs,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of that history when I was attending those HBCUs. As I got more experience in the profession it was something that was always really interesting to me. I was doing this research while I was also working at the Dekalb Library so the combination of the curriculum and experience that I was having at my job was really impactful.” 

Walker has been at Georgia College for almost nine years. She’s made a place for herself in the profession by applying critical race theory to the field of librarianship.  Her work examines  libraries as they relate to aspects such as race, class and power. 

“People really think of libraries as being very neutral apolitical institutions,” she said. “And really nothing could be further from the truth. I like to give people a different perspective by exploring issues of equity and diversity in the life of a library.”

Walker teaches a course on cultural competency for library professionals. She shares her expertise on how to communicate, understand, interact and create programming that develops relationships with underrepresented communities in library systems. 

The issue is really important because there's not a lot of diversity in our profession.
“Regardless of whether it’s an academic institution or public library, our communities are becoming more and more diverse so there’s a real need for cultural competency in library systems,” she said.

In the beginning of 2019, the Russell Library was granted a $12,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Common Heritage Program. Walker said the grant has started to fill a shortage in local African-American history in the Georgia College library collection.                 

Walker during a Common Heritage event on campus.
Walker during a Common Heritage event on campus.

“Based on conversations with my colleague, Nancy Davis Bray, I became aware that there was an absence of information about the local African-American community,” she said. “I just want to have a truer, more accurate history of Milledgeville in our collection. I hope that it’s through this project that we can develop a template that we can use with other underrepresented communities.”

Bringing communities into the library system to take part of inclusive programming, while also building a staff that is culturally competent has been the framework of Walker’s career. She poses that the role of the library may be shifting, but the importance and need is ever-present. 

“I think personally that libraries are central to a functioning democracy,” Walker said. “You need free and unfettered access to information. Our responsibility is to make that available. Our society will always need an institution like the library.”