The most diverse library in Victoria is inside the SUB

Culture Literature

SOCC’s library is home to the most diverse collection of authors in Victoria

Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor.

In the basement of the Student Union Building, a little known library with only a few shelves sits in the middle of the Students of Colour Collective’s (SOCC) office.

It’s every bookworm’s paradise. The books topple each other, their colours radiating a mix of bleached yellow and navy blue. There’s textbooks, books of fiction, non-fiction, and memoirs, all on shelves you’d have to bend over to see.

It’s a library designed to promote written works by authors of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) community, but still serves as an education resource for Victorians of all races.

This library pales in size comparison to the towering bookshelves residing in the McPherson library or the vast foyer of the Law library. When you walk into the SOCC office, you may even miss it. The shelves stand no more than four feet high, and you have to really squat down low to reach the bottom level. But it’s the contents of the library that make it special.

The SOCC looks to promote knowledge of issues such as colonization through a safe, hands-on learning space.

“SOCC has a community library, with the focus of having a library that is both by and for the BIPOC community,” says Kemi Craig, SOCC’s Office Coordinator.

“Even though BIPOC identities are centred in terms of who’s writing the books and who the books are about, the books are also for allies.”

While SOCC workshops are designed exclusively for members of the BIPOC community — those who don’t identify as BIPOC are required to ask for permission to enter the space — Craig says the library is for everyone. The SOCC looks to promote knowledge of issues such as colonization through a safe, hands-on learning space.

“The library is the exception, because the idea is … building allyship, [and] education is a part of that process, and also education in a safe way — through raising your personal knowledge of issues like colonization and racialization.”

The library has a book for every kind of reader. Shuffled around on the shelves are theory-based textbooks and works of fiction, providing both technical and narrative perspectives on issues of race and colonization.

“Our stories affect our imagination, and our imagination affects what we deem is possible.”

“People talk about colonization and they talk about racialization, but rarely is the discussion had [around] how do those things land on [human] bodies. So, I appreciate having both academic, both theory-based literature, including some textbooks that have been donated. But also having fiction — narrative stories like poetry, and prose, and novels.”

Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor.

Craig says they are looking to increase the library’s audience and inspire readers of all races and generations by adding more afrofuturism novels — like Black Panther — as well as graphic novels.

With the discussion turning towards novels of our imagination, Craig stands from her chair in SOCC’s headquarters, smiles, and waves her hand in the direction of the library.

“Our stories affect our imagination, and our imagination affects what we deem is possible. So we need to be reading not just stories that are based in reality, but also those stories, whether it’s theory or it’s science fiction, that are based in possibility and speculation.”

As for Craig’s favourite book in the library, she says it’s a close call between Brontez Purnell’s Since I Laid My Burden Down or I Mix What I Like!: A Mixtape Manifesto by Jared A. Bell.

SOCC is always looking for more donations and recommendations to add to the library’s collection, says Craig. They are currently in the process of adding a library page to their website.

“We are open to donations, and we are open to requests,” says Craig. “We can’t always guarantee the request, but basically we will get a list of requests and when we have our collective meetings that collective can go through the requests and say ‘Oh, yeah! That’s looks like something that many people would enjoy.’”

To sign out a book, you just sign your name and contact information — there is no standard return policy. Instead, it’s based on the honour system, because Craig says they “don’t want time to be a huge barrier.”

You can access SOCC’s library in room B020 in the SUB to sign out a book or file a request for a different title.