Academic and Research Libraries Serving the Needs of Mixed Race Students, Faculty and Staff

This post is by Karen E. Downing, Education Liaison Librarian, University of Michigan, Donovan Johnson, Undergraduate Student, University of Michigan, and Prakruthi Manjunatha, Graduate Student, University of Michigan

Academic and research libraries are highly committed to contributing to their campus diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts. Through the library’s collections, staff, services and programming, they attempt to create a culture of inclusivity for all students, faculty and staff. With this in mind, libraries are continually looking for ways to increase collaborative DEIA involvement with campus partners.

For many academic and research libraries, building expertise, collections, exhibits, and programming around issues related to the growing mixed race populations on campus is new territory. Mixed race populations are growing in many nations across the globe, and within our campuses. For example, between the 2010 and 2020 United States censuses, the mixed race population increased from nine million people to 33.8 million people; a 276% increase (Jones et al., 2021). These statistics are a wake up call for many postsecondary institutions that their demographics will be shifting in profound ways, and we need to be well-positioned to meet the needs of mixed race people.

The lack of an overall welcoming campus climate for many people of color is a daily reality for many mixed race students, faculty, and staff in a world that revolves around mono-racial norms. The study of what it means to be multiracial in a mono-racially organized world is called “critical mixed race studies” (CMRS). Academic librarians should know that both the numbers of mixed-race students and those engaging in CMRS research are growing rapidly throughout the disciplines. A recent search in ProQuest Research Library on the terms “mixed-race OR biracial OR multiracial” returned 359 results in the decade beginning in 1980, and 16,242 results in the decade beginning in 2010! (See Figure 1 for details.)

The expression of social and cultural identities matters to people in myriad ways that are relevant to how we think about campus demographics, course offerings, co-curricular activities and groups, and library collections. While not every multiracial person will conduct research on multiracial issues, seeing one’s self reflected in our campus culture and activities is important for any group or individual (Snider, 2017). Academic and research librarians should know that mixed race people may not have places or people on campus that reflect their identities in the same ways other groups may. While librarians cannot control what courses are taught on campus, they can plan co-curricular programs and enhance and highlight collections to insure that mixed race students, faculty and staff see themselves reflected in our library offerings. Collaborative programs or exhibits that highlight mixed race issues with other campus units and groups can also further enhance campus relationships, and send a message that the library is a welcoming place for all.

One easy way to start mixed race inclusive services is to create a research guide that highlights the library’s collections, as well as links to reliable Internet resources. At the University of Michigan, our Interracial Resources research guide gets thousands of visits each year. We hope this information is useful to you and your campus communities!

FIGURE 1. Number of Mixed Race Resources Across Disciplines in ProQuest Research Library


Jones, N., Marks, R., Ramirez, R., Rios-Vargas, M. (2021). 2020 Census illuminates racial and ethnic composition of the country. Accessed on February 10, 2022 from:

Snider, Gwendlyn C.(2017). Embodying the Oppressed and the Oppressor: Critical Mixed Race Studies for Liberation and Social Justice Education. Master’s Theses. 217.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *