Diversity & Inclusion at the INFO College

Photo of students in the 1970s on Hornbake Plaza

Students in the 1970s on Hornbake Plaza.

The UMD INFO College is a notably welcoming and encouraging environment, with members of the college community representing a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

Our faculty, staff, and 2600+ students come to us from over 63 countries and create a welcoming and encouraging environment. 54% of our students identify as male, 45% female, and 1% other. Our students identify as 28% Asian, 24% White, 23% Black, 8% Hispanic/Latino, 4% Biracial, <1% American Indian or Alaskan Native, <1% Pacific Islander, and 13% Unknown/Other.

Diversity and inclusion are central to the mission of the college, with many of our courses, research projects, events, and community partnerships designed to address challenges and promote inclusion of historically excluded communities. Many INFO students at the University of Maryland, regardless of their educational focus, have listed the emphasis on diversity and inclusion as a main reason for choosing to enroll here.

A History of Activism
The College of Information at the University of Maryland was founded in the 1960s with an overtly activist mission, with the founding dean and faculty focused on the ways in which libraries and other information institutions could serve as agents of social responsibility and community good. The many innovative efforts to promote diversity, inclusion, and social justice had a significant impact on the profession of and education in library and information science.

The University of Maryland’s School of Library and Information Services (the original name of what is now the College of Information) began at its founding in 1965 with an agenda focused on bringing information to communities that were typically ignored by libraries and expanding the range of people who joined the library and information science professions. Paul Wasserman, the founding Dean of the School, and faculty members such as Mary Lee Bundy, James Welbourne, and Richard Moses focused the early years of the School on truly innovative – and in some cases audacious – projects to alter the ways in which libraries and information functioned in communities.

Many years later, reflecting on the daring of the School’s early years, the great F. William Summers identified the School as the first library and information science program to fully embrace the “social gospel” and focus on “identifying and addressing the manifold social needs of the community” as the heart of the education program. Or, as Wasserman summarized the goals of the School, faculty and students from the School “formed the vanguard of the activist movement [in librarianship] by demanding social responsibility from the American Library Association.”

Within the first few years of launching the School, the faculty had established three major initiatives to broaden the inclusiveness of library and information science education and practice.

1) The School created an office to recruit students and faculty from underrepresented populations in library and information fields. Several members of the faculty and staff of the School were drawn from urban library systems in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia as a result of these efforts. The School also became the first library and information science program to have a scholarship program specifically for students from populations underrepresented in the field. Shortly after founding the School, Paul Wasserman wrote that the duty of the School was to “equip human beings who are both competent and committed to expanding the potential of man, of our culture and our society.” This belief was reflected in many courses focused on special populations – people with disabilities, prisoners, the urban poor – that were developed at the School in its early years and that influenced subsequent course offerings at many other library and information science programs.

2) The School designed an Urban Information Specialist Program specifically to prepare librarians to work in high poverty, urban areas. This Specialist Program was a 36-hour Master of Library Science (MLS) degree program entirely focused on the information needs of residents of urban areas. The majority of the students in the program were from traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds. Program design and financial support for the first students in the program came from a grant from the federal government.

3) A partnership was established with the Enoch Pratt Free Library of the City of Baltimore to create a “public information center” in the city to serve as a clearinghouse of information related to health, housing, education, police and emergency services, consumer affairs, employment, and government in general. The public information center was established in a high poverty area of Baltimore and featured large amounts of information related to daily life information needs and as well as telephone-based reference services.

Outside of the School itself, several members of the faculty founded a non-profit corporation to create materials for improving the conditions of the urban poor. Through this non-profit entity, faculty members created publications and provided training and consulting services to libraries and other organizations. Very much a do-it-yourself operation, the nonprofit nevertheless managed to produce a series of publications and kits and even ran conferences on the topic of improving equality for the urban poor.

The High John Library

In 1967, the School established its own public library as an experiment to see if a library could function as a resource and community center for a community with limited access to resources and information. The School established the High John Library in Fairmount Heights, a largely Black neighborhood with high levels of poverty and limited information and educational resources located in Prince George’s County, MD, less than ten miles from the UMD campus in College Park.

With Richard Moses and Mary Lee Bundy as its directors, the library was designed to serve the needs of the local community while also serving as a learning lab for students in the MLS program. For community members, the library provided information resources that were otherwise not easily available to them. For MLS students, the library was the ultimate field study experience. For the School’s faculty, the library was a chance to try out new ways to make the library services relevant in an urban community with a wealth of poverty and a dearth of resources.

The utterly unprecedented nature of the High John Library (named after an African American folk hero from the era of slavery) raised controversy in the field of librarianship, seen as a public challenge to the entire field. Critics at that time, when libraries were viewed as sanctified archives of literature and did not engage with their communities, attacked High John for overstepping the boundaries of the library profession. Some argued that libraries should not serve poor communities altogether and that library students certainly should not be educated specifically to work in such communities. The High John Library was even criticized for using language and terminology in its literature that was tailored to the community.

Pushback on the concept of the High John Library was also fueled by the bold activism of the faculty and students involved. They organized and staged a series of protests at the ALA conference to pressure the ALA to create the Social Responsibilities Roundtable (to bring greater field-wide attention to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion) and drove around the South in a truck emblazoned with the High John Library logo to publicly shame libraries that still practiced de facto segregation.

Despite criticisms of the radical nature of the High John Library, students and faculty continued to use it as a test case for many new approaches to outreach and community services. The library held outdoor rock concerts, projected movies on the outside walls of the building, and used surrealist promotions – “Read 1,000 books and win an alligator!” – among many ways to creatively reach the community.

Contradictory to its goals, the library fundamentally failed to connect with the local community and struggled to maintain staffing and resources. In 1970, the High John Library was absorbed into the local public library system, ending its life as an experiment in library activism. Looking back, a major failure of the project was the lack of co-design with the local community. Services were based on expectations and assumptions about the community made by the experiment’s facilitators. The facilitators themselves were also predominantly white and did not reflect the diversity of those they aimed to support. Ultimately, the local residents did not embrace the library as a part of their community.

The High John Library remains the only attempt made by a library and information science program to run a public library as a central part of its educational and public service mission.

The James Partridge Award

The College of Information at the University of Maryland and the Citizens for Maryland Libraries (CML) – a Maryland non-profit organization – jointly present the James Partridge Outstanding African American Information Professional Award each year. The award recognizes information professionals who exemplify the highest ideals of the library/information profession, including career-long dedicated service, leadership, and a commitment to the empowerment of those whom they serve. Established in 1997, the award has recognized nearly two dozen extraordinary pioneers in the field of library and information science. Click here to view past recipients of this award. To Learn More: D. Barlow & P. T. Jaeger (Eds.), Celebrating the James Partridge Award: Essays toward the development of a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable field of library and information science (pp. 21-32). London: Emerald.

Diversity and Inclusion Focuses Today

The faculty and staff of the INFO College engage in a wide range of scholarly, professional, community, and educational projects related to diversity and inclusion. With a broad focus on promoting access to and the ability to understand and effectively use information and information technologies, the INFO College has courses, centers, research tools, conferences, and resources devoted to promoting greater inclusion for individuals and communities in information.

This range of diversity and inclusion efforts at the INFO College includes:

  • Improving health and technology literacy skills for socio-economically disadvantaged students;
  • Mapping and demonstrating the century-long impacts of redlining of communities;
  • Designing apps to promote STEM learning in low-income communities;
  • Working to improve access to legal information for who cannot afford representation;
  • Promoting equity and justice as key functions of archives; and
  • Making the world accessible for people with disabilities, among much else.
Courses and Programs
Every year, the INFO College offers courses focused on diversity and inclusion issues, including courses focused on serving diverse populations; digital literacy and inclusion; the design of inclusive technologies and programs; law, policy, and ethics related to access; the information needs of different populations; and human rights and social justice, among a number of other course offerings. Students interested in Human-Computer Interaction, for example, can take a course that prepares them to design and build accessible technologies, while students interested in careers in libraries, archives, and museums can take a course devoted to human rights and social justice roles of cultural heritage institutions. The INFO College also offers the Diversity and Inclusion specialization in the Master of Library & Information Science program, making Maryland the only MLIS degree program in which students can make these issues the focus of their education. Faculty and staff members of the INFO College also have leading roles in many local, regional, and national efforts in scholarly and professional organizations to advance issues of diversity and inclusion in the information professions.
Research and Scholarship

Research Centers

  • The Center for Archival Futures (CAFe) creates systems to enable the use and care of digital objects and data over time. In particular, they specialize in how digital collections and data support communities: community memory; activism and advocacy; governance, policy, and decision-making; relationships and engagement; lifelong learning and public research.
  • The Maryland Initiative for Digital Accessibility (MIDA) collaborates with disability communities, tech companies, and policymakers to make digital technologies accessible for people with disabilities.
  • The Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) engages in design, development, and evaluation of technologies and interfaces to better understand and support the needs of all users of technology. They are known for co-design with special populations, such as older adults and children.


In 2018, the INFO College founded the International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion (IJIDI), journal promoting discourse on diversity and inclusion issues in the field. Conceived by INFO College Professor, Paul Jaeger, IJIDI provides a space for papers about research findings, best practices, and educational innovations in making information, technology, and institutions more equitable and inclusive.

In 2023, the INFO College co-founded the Including Disability Journal. This peer-reviewed, online, open access journal provides cross-disciplinary examination of social, technological, cultural, and legal barriers faced by disabled people—and offers innovative approaches to eliminating these barriers.


A large amount of the scholarship written by the faculty and staff members of the INFO College discusses issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, rights, and justice as it relates to information. Some of the work focuses on specific populations, while others focus on social and political issues or technologies and infrastructures. In addition to many papers and articles written, here is a recent selection of books authored or edited by INFO College faculty:

Shauntee Burns-Simpson, Nichelle Hayes, Ana Ndumu, Shaundra Walker. (2022). The Black Librarian in America: Reflections, Resistance, and Reawakening. Rowman & Littlefield.

Michael Ashley Stein, Jonathan Lazar. (2022). Accessible Technology and the Developing World. Oxford University Press.

Daniel Greene. (2021). The Promise of Access: Technology, Inequality, and the Political Economy of Hope. The MIT Press.

Beth St. Jean, Beth Bonsignore, Ursula Gorham. (2021). Understanding Human Information Behavior: When, How, and Why People Interact with Information. Rowman & Littlefield.

Ursula Gorham. (2017). Access to Information, Technology, & Justice: A Critical Intersection. Rowman & Littlefield.

Jonathan Lazar, Michael Ashley Stein. (2017). Disability, Human Rights, and Information Technology. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Paul I. Jaeger, Natalie Greene Taylor, Ursula Gorham (2015). Libraries, Human Rights, and Social Justice: Enabling Access and Promoting Inclusion. Rowman & Littlefield.

Jonathan Lazar, Daniel F. Goldstein, Anne Taylor. (2015) Ensuring Digital Accessibility through Process and Policy. Morgan Kaufmann.

Jennifer Preece, Helen Sharp, Yvonne Rogers. (2015). Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction (4th ed.).

Paul T. Jaeger. (2012). Disability and the Internet: Confronting a Digital Divide. Lynne Rienner.


The INFO College regularly hosts internal retreats, presentations, and dialogues for its faculty, staff, and PhD students, to continue to consciously build a caring and inclusive college community.

The annual Including Disability Global Summit (website) was founded by the INFO College in 2015 to explore social issues, politics, and advocacy for disability across disability and across research disciplines. Today, the event’s organizing committee includes international representation, as well as representation from academia and the private sector.

Photo of participants looking at a display at the 2017 Disability Summit

Photo of participants looking at a display at the 2017 Disability Summit

The INFO Anti-Racist Teaching Seminar (ARTS) was founded in 2020. This is an annual 10-week program. All INFO students, staff and faculty are invited to join. This group is dedicated to advancing anti-racism across the curriculum and in our teaching at the College. ARTS priorities:

  • Work with program committees to help them identify areas to develop within each program and assist them in examining degree-level learning goals and to do some curriculum mapping
  • Create focused anti-racist resources that can help students, staff and faculty who want to learn and do more around specific topics
Community Development
Many INFO College projects lead to the creation of new resources to support the needs and rights of specific communities:

  • Campus Community Connection: Projects with Surrounding Communities is an initiative of the INFO College and the National Center for Smart Growth to improve the quality of life in communities surrounding the University of Maryland. These projects include issues of sustainability and resilience, carbon footprint, water and traffic management, and transportation access, as well as cross-cultural communication.
  • HackHealth is an initiative that creates courses and online training materials to promote health literacy and health efficacy by empowering individuals with the information literacy and digital literacy skills needed to successfully engage health information.
  • International Research Portal project for Holocaust-Era Cultural Property is a new federated search engine makes research in this area much more accessible and feasible for Holocaust survivors, their families, and all others who have need of this information.
  • Science Everywhere is an initiative that provides a social media mobile app and community displays to help children in low-SES communities connect, share, and enhance STEM learning experiences they are doing across the contexts of their lives.
  • Empowering the Ages is a Rockville, MD based non-profit and INFO College partner that strengthens social-emotional well-being, provides life skills, and creates connections across generations to provide older and younger people with a sense of belonging and purpose. Beginning in 2023, through this partnership, seniors coach INFO undergraduate students to help them reach their career potential, with activities like goal-setting, resume building, and interview preparation.
Student Organizations

The INFO College also is home to several student organizations focused on inclusion of traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM or higher education:

iDiversity is an organization for INFO College graduate students interested in inclusion information practice and diversification of the information professions. iDiversity hosts a range of talks and events on these topics. The activities of the organization include providing information literacy tutoring at local educational institutions, helping local libraries with fundraising, building free libraries for communities with no local library access, and other advocacy projects.

InfoSci FI aims to develop a professional presence, provide volunteer experiences, and create a positive environment for female-identifying students pursuing a career in technology. InfoSci FI will hold monthly meetings consisting of professor panels, networking events, and advising support.

The INFO Graduate Student of Color Collective (iSG-SOCC) is a student-led and student-focused group at the UMD INFO College (aka UMD INFO College) that aims to provide a supportive space for graduate students of color at the INFO College. The goal is to build a welcoming collective and learning environment for students of color interested in cultivating advocacy, visibility, and community.

The Ladies in Tech at Shady Grove purpose/mission statement: To create a collaborative and communicative environment for women interested in computational and engineering fields such as Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Biotechnology. Through working on projects, L.i.T Club will introduce and raise skills that will help members jump-start their careers in the tech industry.

Learn more about INFO student organizations.

Land Acknowledgement

Every community owes its existence and strength to the generations before them, around the world, who contributed their hopes, dreams, and energy into making the history that led to this moment. Some were brought here against their will, some were drawn to migrate from their homes in hope of a better life, and some have lived on this land for more generations than can be counted. Truth and acknowledgment are critical in building mutual respect and connections across all barriers of heritage and difference.

At the College of Information, we believe it is important to create dialogue to honor those that have been historically and systemically disenfranchised. So, we acknowledge the truth that is often buried: We are on the ancestral lands of the Piscataway People, who were among the first in the Western Hemisphere. We are on indigenous land that was stolen from the Piscataway People by European colonists. We pay respects to Piscataway elders and ancestors. Please take a moment to consider the many legacies of violence, displacement, migration, and settlement that bring us together here today.

The land acknowledgment we use was organized by Ghonva Ghauri from MICA and approved by Piscataway elders.

Diversity & Inclusion Leadership

In addition to teaching, service, and research, the INFO College has several positions and organizations specifically devoted to promoting and celebrating diversity and inclusion in the INFO College and connecting the INFO College to wider university, local, state, national, and international communities.

  • Renee Hill, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  • Ron Padrón, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  • The Diversity Committee – Collaborates to lead efforts related to the INFO College’s ability to inclusively engage and meet the needs of all faculty, staff, students, and partners. This includes, but is not limited to, promoting awareness of diversity issues within the College; facilitating efforts to increase the representation of underrepresented populations among the students, staff, faculty, and partners; arranging for the College to work with organizations and be represented at diversity events; and coordinating the James Partridge Award.


For any questions or suggestions about diversity and inclusion efforts at the college, please email Renee Hill, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, at rfhill@umd.edu.