February 2, 2015
Topic: Campus News
Darlene Nichols is working at the grassroots level to encourage productive conversations about a vitally important topic: race.
For three years, Nichols, the foundations and grants librarian at the University Library, has been one of the facilitators of an Ann Arbor community-based dialogue series, "RACE: Race and Conciliation Encounters." The series allows community members of all races to foster deeper understanding and communication.
As a facilitator, Nichols creates a safe space in which participants feel comfortable opening up and learning across racial differences.
"The most valuable thing is seeing people come to understand the different perspectives and the challenges that we all have, and the ways that every single one of us is impacted by racism. It harms everyone," she says.
Darlene Nichols is foundations and grants librarian at the University Library, and one of the facilitators of an Ann Arbor community-based dialogue series, "RACE: Race and Conciliation Encounters." (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)
From 2010-14, Nichols was U-M's librarian for diversity and inclusion, working to raise awareness of intercultural issues and to help staff and faculty make the library a place where diversity and difference are valued and respected.
In 2014, Nichols' U-M coworkers honored her dedication to diversity and inclusivity in the working environment by nominating her for the Distinguished Diversity Leader Award, which she has received.
Nichols, who has worked at the U-M Library since 1985, stepped into the role of foundations and grants librarian in September. As the library's specialist in philanthropy and grant seeking, her responsibilities include assisting users, faculty and students to find grant resources and write grant proposals.
"I like helping people, such as finding elusive literature to complete a grant proposal to dataset for a research project," Nichols says of her job.
The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, email the Record staff at email@example.com.
Nichols supports the thousands of U-M faculty, staff and students who use the libraries in a variety of ways, from demonstrating research procedures in workshops and class visits to guiding a student through helpful resources for a big term paper.
"It's not always going to be perfect, but when it works out it feels really good," she says.
Both at work and in her community, Nichols continues to advocate for productive conversations about diversity and difference, from racial to political differences.
"Rather than try to smooth over those differences, we want to learn how to utilize them in order to be the best that we can possibly be. Rather than avoiding conversation, let's use those differences to come up with something better."
What moment in the classroom stands out as the most memorable?
Once when I was visiting a class, I generated a full bibliography from my RefWorks account of 700 items in about 60 seconds. The students all said, "Ooooh!" They were so excited about the ease with which you could make a few clicks and have a bibliography in APA format. I've never had that reaction happen before or since!
What can't you live without?
My iPad. I use it every single day for something.
What is your favorite spot on campus?
In between the Fine Arts Library and the Museum of Art, there's a little alcove with benches. It's a nice quiet space, off the beaten track.
What inspires you?
I'm inspired by people who are really committed, encouraging and supportive of those around them. They make me want to be my best possible self.
What are you currently reading?
"The Sorcery Code" by Dima Zales and Anna Zaires, and "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?" by Martin Luther King Jr.
Who had the greatest influence on your career path?
When I started shelving in the children's library in high school, the women of that department were amazing and very committed to children's literacy. They're very wonderful people to work with, then and now.