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The British Library's main librarian says, "Racism is the creation of white people."


The British Library's chief librarian has claimed "Racism is the creation of white people," it was reported.

Liz Jolly, the institution's chief librarian since 2018, urges white staff at the British Library to support the action plan against racism, according to the Telegraph.

In a video clip she said to colleagues: "I think, as I said before, that we have to make sure that some white colleagues are involved because racism is a creation of white people."

Documents suggest that changes to the library's displays could be made to "decolonize" the British Library's collection after a letter signed by hundreds of staff declared a racist "state of emergency".

Liz Jolly, the British Library's chief librarian, said racism is "the creation of white people" as the institution plans to review its exhibits and collections as part of an anti-racism project

The decolonization working group, part of the library's BAME network, reportedly raised concerns about a number of artifacts on display in the library, including busts of the founders and a portrait of Mr Punch.

Earlier this week, it was reported that staff had urged colleagues to donate to Black Lives Matter and support the work of Labor MP Diane Abbott, a claim the library strongly denies.

It comes after the British Library launched an anti-racism project following the assassination of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Staff were invited to an online meeting where CEO Roly Keating described the urgent need to “change generations” to ensure that the library is “truly representative of its staff, collections and the users it serves.

Speaking to staff, Keating said, “The assassination of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement is the greatest challenge to the complacency of organizations, institutions, and methods of doing things that we are likely to see in our lives.

“There have been gradual changes over the years, but this is a wake up call to the library management that this is not enough.

"Our duty right now is to show humility, listen, learn, and then make change."

The questions raised at the meeting included the long-standing lack of BAME representation in the institute's management and senior curatorial staff.

The meeting also addressed what the library identified as "an urgent and overdue need to fully and openly account for the colonial origins and legacy of some of the library's historical collections and practices".

The British Library has committed to funding and implementing an Action Plan Against Racism and has set up an Anti-Racism Working Group to make recommendations for change.

Speaking to the staff at the time, Liz Jolly said: “The murder of George Floyd showed that we are fine to say that we do not believe in racism, but I have to say as the chief librarian that we have not done enough to ensure that this organization is anti-racist and I apologize for that.

& # 39; With the convening of the Anti-Racism Working Group, this is our chance to get it right.

"The group will make recommendations on both immediate and longer-term measures that we will incorporate into our strategy and culture to make us a truly anti-racist organization in a broad and sustainable way."

Earlier this week the British Library announced that it is now "reviewing" its manuscripts with Sir Hans Sloane as "bright" activists target one of many London landmarks – including the famous Sloane Square – named after the pioneering doctor.

The move was revealed in a note on his website and coincides with a broader review of Sloane's legacy, in which the British Museum he founded removed his bust from a pedestal and put the label "slave owner" on it.

The British Library said the review of its collections and exhibits after George Floyd's death was part of its commitment to anti-racism and

The British Library said the review of its collections and exhibits after George Floyd's death was part of a commitment to anti-racism and "a matter of basic human decency".

The 18th-century philanthropist financed his collection of 71,000 artifacts, in part with money from his wife's sugar plantation in Jamaica, where slave labor was used.

Describing claims that staff were encouraged to support Labor as "completely inaccurate", the British Library said, "As with any other publicly funded institution, we are absolutely committed to partisan neutrality."

A British Library spokesman said: “Our commitment to anti-racism is a matter of basic human decency, based on our values ​​and our publicly stated goal of promoting knowledge and mutual understanding.

& # 39; Like an increasing number of organizations, the library has a number of staff-led networks that cater to the specific needs and concerns of staff with protected traits, including LGBTQ staff, staff with disabilities, female staff, as well as black, Asian and minority ethnic staff.

& # 39; These networks are operated by and for employees and are in contact with the library administration in accordance with the agreed structures and protocols

& # 39; A subgroup of one of the employee networks created the report, which includes a range of employee perspectives on the artworks and sculptures found in our public spaces.

Sir Hans Sloane - seen in a contemporary illustration - was a driving force behind the 18th century Enlightenment and his collection was acquired by the British Library

Sir Hans Sloane – seen in a contemporary illustration – was a driving force behind the 18th century Enlightenment and his collection was acquired by the British Library

In the entrance hall of our building in St. Pancras are busts of four people whose collections were acquired by the British Museum after their creation in 1753 and are now part of the collection of the British Library.

& # 39; The busts depict Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631), Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), Right Honorable Thomas Grenville (1755-1846) and Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) and have been in the entrance hall since the opening of the building in 1997.

"As part of our broader work program on inclusivity and anti-racism, we have reviewed the labeling and presentation of the busts to add information that will help visitors understand them in their broader historical context."

The library spokesman added that the review was fully in line with the guidelines of the Historic England Contested Heritage, which recommended that contested statues be retained where possible, but added "powerful reinterpretations … to provide a deeper understanding of our often troubled past to develop". & # 39;

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