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Penn State University Libraries


Speaking Up: Empowering Individuals to Promote Tolerance in the Academic Library

By Jeff Knapp, Linda Klimczyk, Loanne Snavely
April 2012

Research: Fields

  • Business
  • Psychology
  • Library Science

Research: Themes

  • Effects of racism & discrimination
  • Diversity issues in libraries
  • “Professional” diversity (rank/class)
  • Communication & Conflict Resolution

Effects of Racism/Discrimination

  • “Microaggressions” (Sue, et al., 2007)
  • “Racial Battle Fatigue” (Smith et al., 2007)

Issues in Libraries

  • Students of color using libraries at higher rates than white students (Whitmire, 2003)
  • African Americans and Latinas/os are underrepresented in librarianship (Winston, 2010)

“Professional” Diversity

  • Tensions and conflict between librarians and non-library professionals (Kaufman, 1992)
  • Classism/rankism between faculty and staff in higher ed. generally (Krebs, 2003)

Conflict Resolution

“the ability of employees to work collaboratively requires individualability to initiate, cultivate, and nurture positive cross-racial (andcross-cultural) interpersonal interactions and relationships.”
(Combs & Griffith, 2007)

Conflict Resolution

“Confronting Prejudiced Responses” Model (CPR)

  • Did she really just make that remark?
  • Did she really just make that remark? •  Did she intend harm?
  • Should I say something? What?
  • What will happen if I say something?

(Ashburn-Nardo, et al., 2008)

Common Understanding Now what?

  • Longitudinal analysis of climate surveys 1998, 2001, 2007 showed
    • Common understanding of diversity But ...
    • Inappropriate remarks, jokes, intimidating conduct, etc. stillbeing experienced and/or observed with Most common forms of intolerancebeing
  • Intimidated or Bullied
  • Talked down to or Patronized
  • Derogatory verbal remarks
  • Deliberately ignored or excluded

Empowering the Choir

  • Longitudinal analysis of climate surveys 1998, 2001, 2007 showed common understanding of diversity, but ...
    • Inappropriate remarks, jokes, intimidating conduct, intolerance etc.
  • Were programs reaching everyone they needed to reach?
  • Paradigm shift-- arm the “Choir” with a “Big of Tricks”

Let’s make a program!

  • Planners were well-meaning but not expert (or we wouldn’t need the Bag of Tricks)
  • Searched for sources to build upon
  • Found Speak Up
    • Free
    • Adapted for our needs

30% have heard racial/ethnic/sexist comments in past year

21% have heard age-related ridicule

20% heard jabs at sexual orientation

10% of students have been called a derogatory word in past 6 months

Source: Southern Poverty Law Center. (2005). Speak Up!: Responding to Everyday Bigotry. Retrieved November 28, 2007, from Website:

Program Plan:

  • Review practical steps – 6 steps provided
  • Discuss barriers we face
  • Develop & practice

Sample Scenarios for Discussing Barriers to Speaking Up

  1. Following a search committee meeting, you (a white male) and oneof the committee members (also a white male) offers to take you out tolunch. The coworker confides in you that he knows how to play the gameand keep his mouth shut at work but "now that we're out of there… " Hethen goes on against Affirmative Action hiring and how he thinks thatminority candidates getting extra advantages is unfair.
  2. You stop by a colleague's office and her door is open. She claimsloudly, "This department is a joke; the work is just glorified staffassistant work." Her office is within earshot of the department's staffassistant.
  3. You notice that your supervisor always assigns tasks like taking meeting notes and event planning to your female colleagues.

Sample Group Discussion Scenarios

Respond to the following situations:

  1. A Chinese American woman was at a conference when anotherprofessional, who seemed genuinely interested in trying to get hisAsian employees acclimated to working in the United States, asked her,“Do Asians have authoritarian leadership styles because of theirgovernments?”
  2. A manager writes: “One of my employees constantly makes ‘jokes’about people being ‘bipolar’ or ‘going postal’ or being ‘off theirmeds.’ I happen to know that one of our other employees — withinearshot of these comments — is on medication for depression.”
  3. An intern in the unit is with a group of people joking loudly. The intern says, “That’s so gay.”

Feedback Positive

  • First offering a hit
  • Offered 7 times (max 25 attendees/session)
  • 147 attendees to date
  • Word spread and another unit at Penn State picked up the program
  • Another session to be offered 5/14/12 @ 1:30 p.m.

Your Questions


  • Ashburn-Nardo, L., Morris, K. A., & Goodwin, S. A. (2008).The Confronting Prejudiced Responses (CPR) Model: Applying CPR inOrganizations. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7(3), 332–342.
  • Combs, G. M., & Griffith, J. (2007). An Examination ofInterracial Contact: The Influence of Cross-Race Interpersonal Efficacyand Affect Regulation. Human Resource Development Review, 6(3), 222–244.
  • Kaufman, P. T. (1992). Professional Diversity in Libraries. Library Trends, 41(Fall 1992), 214–230.
  • Knapp, J. A., Snavely, L., & Klimczyk, L. (2012). SpeakingUp: Empowering Individuals to Promote Tolerance in the AcademicLibrary. Library Leadership & Management, 26(1). Retrieved from
  • Krebs, P. M. (2003). The Faculty-Staff Divide. Chronicle of Higher Education, 50(12), B5.
  • Smith, W. A., Allen, W. R., & Danley, L. L. (2007). “Assume the Position . . . You Fit the Description.” American Behavioral Scientist, 51(4), 551–578.
  • Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M.,Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). RacialMicroaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286.
  • Whitmire, E. (2003). Cultural Diversity and Undergraduates’ Academic Library Use. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 29(3), 148–161.