Beyond books: libraries as tools for anti-racism

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Photo: Megan Loreto

Beyond books: libraries as tools for anti-racism 

By Megan Loreto 

This is a practical, how-to guide for LMU students looking to take advantage of all that libraries have to offer. Many of the resources highlighted here pertain to the Black Lives Matter movement and contribute to a larger focus of dismantling systems of oppression in the university’s community and beyond. Contrary to what you might expect, libraries are rarely limited to physical books. In the midst of COVID-19, many are offering extensive digital resources including but not limited to: e-books, audiobooks, films, documentaries, newspapers, magazines, databases and language learning programs. I spoke with Student Engagement Librarian Raymundo Andradeat the William H. Hannon Library to inform my own understanding of the wide variety of resources LMU students can access. 

The scope of this article will include libraries immediately surrounding LMU, but keep in mind the local county and city libraries in your area likely offer similar resources. If you have the means to purchase books written by Black, Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) writers, always do your best to support them through local and independently owned bookstores

Keep in mind the distinction between public libraries and institutional libraries such as LMU. They offer different services because they serve different purposes. Public libraries offer more access to popular reading collections, films and less specialized, more accessible learning materials. University libraries offer more academic books, access to more extensive databases and more specialized, hard-to-find materials. Utilize both. 

How to get a library e-card*: 

*Use your LMU or Los Angeles address to sign up online in order to qualify for a library card. 

  • To access LA City Library resources click here

  • To access LA County Library resources click here

  • To access LMU's library you must be an LMU student, faculty or staff member with a valid MyLMU login. 

Download these apps: 

  • Libby by Overdrive* — for ebooks and audiobooks

    • *Overdrive and Libby are the same, but Libby has an upgraded interface. 

  • Kanopy for films and documentaries 

  • Lynda for online learning

  • Mango for language learning 

William H. Hannon Library (LMU) 

  • JSTOR is an excellent database for accessing a wide variety of peer-reviewed articles, books and journals that LMU students have access to through the library. Check out Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus to find a comprehensive list of contemporary and historical readings regarding racism. 

  • Utilize the departmental LibGuides to access specialized resources. For example, the African American Studies LibGuide includes a collected list of open web resources, primary sources and statistics

  • Contact the library’s 24-hour Live Chat service if you have a specific research question. They are always available on the homepage of the library’s website.  


Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) 

  • Check out the city library’s Black Lives Matter page for more reading lists, including music, books for kids and resources in Spanish. At the bottom of the page, you will find ebooks on “Social Justice for Adults and Teens” which you can access through Libby. 

  • Watch something from the Human Rights category on Kanopy through your LAPL account. While LMU offers access to Kanopy, you can only view a limited selection of films and documentaries so use your city library account instead for full access. 

  • Read the New York Times for free at any time through LAPL’s complimentary digital access. Make sure you have an active library e-card and follow the instructions on the website. 

  • The digital newspaper archives at LAPL are also useful for exploring history in context. Take a look at their other databases, some of which LMU does not offer access to such as Vogue

L.A. County Library 

Libraries are extremely valuable during the time of COVID-19 when in-person research is not a possibility. By using public libraries, you are ensuring that Los Angeles tax dollars are put towards maintaining these opportunities for the community. Keep in mind, public libraries often offer voting information, resources for those learning English as a Second Language (ESL), a safe space for individuals experiencing homelessness and so much more. 

While no institution is infallible, libraries work to promote the ideal of equal access to information for all members of the community. Take the time to explore what free tools you have at hand. LMU librarian Raymundo Andrade puts it best: “If anyone believes that knowledge is power, and if libraries are the keepers of knowledge, then by using libraries to explore our interests, passions and ideas, libraries can become a source of power for all of us.”

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