Decolonisation Statement

Decolonisation and the University of Sussex Library

The library's activities are rooted in systems of inequality built upon the racist legacies of imperialism. Libraries are not neutral. By recognising white privilege and the existence of inequality we will ensure that our collections and our work are not controlled by a single point of view and are informed by evidence-based practice.

Decolonisation in the library seeks to redress the inherent imbalances and power-structures present in our work and collections. We recognise that these unequal power structures are embedded within wider institutional systems of whiteness and are committed to collaborating in a process of lasting change around this in line with the University of Sussex Race Equality Charter Mission.

The library's areas of activity in decolonising practices, collections and services are outlined below. We will promote decolonisation work throughout the library, ensuring that all staff have opportunity to learn and engage. However, dialogue on decolonisation will continue beyond this statement; our work is - and will be - an urgent and ongoing process.


The library acquires material by responding to requests from academics and students and, in some circumstances, through donation and proactive purchasing. Donations are most often received by Special Collections. 

It is vital that requests for material are made from an informed point of view with an awareness of all available resources. To this end we will work closely with academics in the creation of reading lists. Furthermore, we will empower students to understand the acquisition process and assist them in advocating for the resources that they want to be included on reading lists. As we decolonise the scope of our collections, we will lobby our suppliers, requesting that they provide a wide range of material from a variety of sources.

Although the proactive acquisition of special collections materials presents challenges - in relation to availability, cost and competition from other collecting institutions - we will identify where gaps in our unique and distinct collections exist and seek to understand the reasons for those gaps. Our collecting activities will acknowledge and seek to overcome shortcomings in the diversity of our collections wherever they exist.  

Cataloguing and Classification

Common cataloguing theory, procedures, and language can fall behind acceptable and appropriate current usage. We recognise the potential for bias and the existence of colonial structures in the provenance, arrangement and description of our collections. Locally, we will identify the use of problematic or incorrect language and take steps to change it, updating terminology and subject headings. Whenever possible we will lobby for improvements at a national and international level.

Teaching and Pedagogy

Library staff are involved in a variety of activities to support and contribute to the University's teaching activities.

Where the library is supporting teaching activities, we will work with academics, providing them with the knowledge and tools to engage with a variety of materials. When participating in course validation sessions we will use our knowledge and expertise to question - and where appropriate challenge - the use and availability of resources.

When undertaking teaching sessions, library staff will promote and make available the widest possible range of materials. We will equip our users with the skills to make informed decisions about the value of the resources they encounter. At all times, we will recognise our biases and privileges and consider carefully the language we use and the materials we choose to highlight.  

Display, Interpretation and Outreach

The library recognises the importance of raising awareness of our collections through display and outreach activities.  

We will ensure that displays are meaningful, creating dialogue and further engagement, and are not tokenistic. Thought will be given to how displays function and how they facilitate increased access to resources.

Our outreach activities, whether they be digital or in person, will be diverse in design and inclusive in delivery. We will interact with as wide an audience as possible and listen carefully to those who have different perspectives on our collections.  

User Experience

The library has a commitment to provide all of our users with an excellent level of service.  Whilst we seek to treat all of our users equally, we recognise that this cannot be fully achieved when our users do not share equal privileges and experience. Whilst retaining an awareness of shared and differing perspectives we recognise that we must pay particularly close attention to the experiences of - and our interactions with - marginalised groups. As such, we will constantly listen and allow ourselves to be challenged.

Through library and University initiatives we will give our users the opportunity to engage with us in the co-creation of services and resources. In doing so, we recognise that our services are better when we collaborate widely.

We will seek ways to decolonise our library guides, signage, displays and promotions. We will take steps to avoid - consciously or unconsciously - prioritising one user group's access to resources over another.


In order to achieve and embed the working practices outlined above, the library will collaborate widely. We will work with students and academics, University and external groups and networks. Our collaboration will be proactive and open.

The library recognises that collaboration will not be effective if we do not lead in the areas where it is appropriate for us to do so. We will not place the burden of labour for effecting change onto others where it is correct that we should take action.   

Date of issue


Date renewed/revised

04/2021, 04/2022

Document owner

Collections Senior Manager

Approved by


Review cycle


Next review due