Liberation, libraries and learning

Shona Tulloch, SUSU Liberation Officer talks to the University Library about her exciting new role.

Students outside the Octagon Centre during Intro Week

Hello Shona. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for the Library Blog. The role of SUSU Liberation Officer is new this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the role and your plans and priorities for the year ahead?

Our current priority is a celebration event at the end of this month – the Black History Month Carnival. It’s on 30th October 2021, in the Students Union on Western Bank 12:00-22:00. Local black businesses will be running stalls, there will be African and Caribbean food, dancing, relaxation sessions and then in the evening an after-party with a DJ in the Raynor Lounge. Everyone is welcome! 

In terms of the role – it’s a new role, established to represent students from the five liberation groups of BAME students, LGBTQ+ students, disabled students, women and mature students. We have a group of part-time officers, one for each area which is very important as there’s so much work to do, so we have more people to work on projects. It’s a nice team, there’s a lot of intersectionality and also empathy because everyone has the shared goal of equity and inclusion. The role is important for everyone, to see representation at the top and to bring knowledge from lived experience – it’s a level of passion that someone without the experience wouldn’t be able to understand. Everything is easier when that understanding is there. We have so many passionate students who want to improve the university experience. It’s citywide too – Sheffield is a very connected city and that helps with inclusion and being welcoming of everyone. 

How do you see the Library’s role in supporting liberation?

On a very practical level we are collaborating with the Library to support students with accessibility requirements, enabling access to audio books and through assistive tools and text converters. A longer-term and ambitious plan that the Students Union is establishing, in collaboration with the Library and BookSoc, is a programme of reading for diversity events. These will take place throughout the year. We are building a partnership with the part-time student officers and are listening and responding to reading recommendations.

Event organisers are taking a reflective approach, to consider who is included and to respond in a conscious and active way. We are also working together through the Race Equality Curriculum Sub-Group, to build work to diversify the reading list into the University’s Toolkit for Decolonising the Curriculum. This is complemented by a reading list which brings together material for programme leads to look at as they plan the academic programme with inclusivity in mind.

Staff training is very important to this work – the Liberation Officers are doing a lot of work to oversee staff training, identifying gaps, perhaps to have a push to make training compulsory but actually to work towards a change in culture around training, so that it’s an enjoyable experience where colleagues want to learn. When learning is developed at a deep and empathetic level and that learning is really taken on board and understood it can completely transform someone’s experience. 

The Library is working to support this learning by continuously diversifying our collections. Suggestions can be made through the Resource Recommendation Form. We look forward to hearing from you.

Shona Tulloch was talking to Vicky Grant, Head of Library Learning and Teaching Services. 

For more like this, check out our Student Experience pages.

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