Congratulations to Gail Williams, Winner of the 2023 Chancellor’s Award for Embracing Diversity
Our beloved library colleague Gail Williams was posthumously honored with the 2023 Chancellor’s Award for Embracing Diversity at the UMKC Faculty Recognition event on April 4, 2023.
The award recognizes and celebrates UMKC faculty, staff, and registered student organizations engaging in UMKC Strategic Plan Pillar 4: Foster an Environment of Invigorating Multiculturalism, Globalism, Diversity and Inclusion. Gail made extraordinary contributions in all four areas of this pillar:
- Achieve a more diverse and inclusive student body, faculty and staff to increase access and academic success.
- Create and sustain an organizational environment that acknowledges and celebrates diversity and employs inclusive practices throughout its daily operations.
- Engage students, faculty and staff in learning varied perspectives of domestic and international diversity, including social justice.
- Create and sustain an institutional infrastructure that effectively supports progress in achieving diversity.
In her six years with the Library, Gail made a significant impact on our organization’s environment, was recognized by her fellow interlibrary loan department members for her expertise, and began work on our equity initiatives almost immediately after being hired in 2017. Gail served as a founding member of the University Libraries’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, was one of just two library staff members trained to serve as an Equity Advocate on University Libraries’ faculty search committees, managed our internal “Everyday DEI” blog series, served as the Co-Chair of the DEI Committee from 2020 to 2022, oversaw the committee’s name change to the Equity Committee to better reflect the scope of their work, led development of our public-facing “Library Stories of Equity in Action” series, was integral in creating the Libraries’ Worker Relief Fund for mutual aid, and played an active role in writing the BIPOC Workers Seek Equity Statement that led to the University Libraries’ Equity Action Plan.
Gail was awarded a competitive professional development grant to attend the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color in 2018, established a planning team intended to host a regional unconference for library workers of color, and was invited to present on her work with equity initiatives at the 2021 Northwest Interlibrary Loan Conference and the 2023 Joint Conference of Librarians of Color. In recognition of her service and efforts towards equity, and her commitment to the University’s key values of Learning, Diversity, Integrity, Accountability, Respect, and Collaboration, Gail was the recipient of the libraries’ 2020 Living the Values Award.
The conclusion of Gail’s nomination letter for the award summarizes her lasting impact on our library and UMKC communities:
Every day that we had the pleasure of working with Gail Williams, we witnessed how much she truly embraced diversity as a lived value. Even now, since her passing, her efforts continue to resonate. The seeds she planted over the past several years have made a difference for so many in the UMKC community and beyond. We are proud to nominate our dear friend and colleague, Gail Williams, for this year’s Chancellor’s Award for Embracing Diversity.
Gail’s sister Bené Matney will donate the $1,500 award and make an additional $2,500 gift to the Gail L. Williams Fund, which supports work in moving toward a more equitable environment at the UMKC Libraries.
Thank you to the University Libraries Equity Committee and others for nominating Gail for this award, which broadens the reach of her legacy.