Desk with books on it
Community | 11/16/2023

MCPHS Manchester Occupational Therapy Students Diversify Book Sharing

By Maaha Rafique

Books that will be included in the library on the Manchester campus.

Desk with books on it
Books that will be included in the library on the Manchester campus.

The new lending library project promotes the importance of diversity in reading.

Studying to become an occupational therapist has shown Logan Stevens that understanding where people come from and the circumstances in which they live is an essential part of caring for them. Now, they and their peers are creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) lending library on the Manchester campus of Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), with the goal to motivate others to learn with and from people from diverse backgrounds.

Stevens is president of the MCPHS Manchester chapter of the Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD), a national nonprofit organization that advocates for equity in occupational therapy practice. An occupational therapist is a healthcare professional who supports individuals with daily tasks as they work towards living independently.

Along with their peers on the executive board, Stevens hit upon the idea of a lending library while thinking about ways to provide themselves and others with opportunities to learn and evolve. Inspired by the Little Free Libraries that have popped up around Boston and other cities, they decided to create a campus resource to which anyone could contribute. While they originally envisioned a small outpost to house books, the project has expanded in scope, and plans are now underway for the library to exist as its own section of the main Manchester campus library.

Stevens said that while they know many resources are available online and elsewhere that provide information about DEI topics, they wanted to use the library project to inspire people to take the first step to educate themselves.

“We are responsible for our own knowledge and our own ignorance, so self-education is so important,” Stevens said.

From organizing Pride events to hosting discussions about implicit bias, the MCPHS Manchester COTAD chapter has worked on many DEI initiatives. One example of its work includes successfully advocating for signs outside public bathrooms on the all three MCPHS campuses that advise people to use the restroom they feel most comfortable with, regardless of gender identity.

Stevens said this advocacy is important to them as both an occupational therapy practitioner and an individual.

“I feel as though I'm very much in a place of privilege. There's just so much available for me, and it seems silly if I'm not able to use what I have to support others and to advocate for the needs people have that aren't being met,” Stevens said.

Plans for the lending library began to take shape at the beginning of 2023. The COTAD chapter members started by creating a list of books to include, choosing memoirs, biographies, fiction, and more. They also included documentaries and podcasts so that the library could benefit people with visual impairments.

After completing a list in July, they sent a proposal to the President’s Office and the Office of Inclusion, after which they quickly received approval. All the while, they continued to add books and solicit recommendations. A new cohort of first-year students added 50 books to the list.

Throughout the process, the club had support from faculty and staff, including Heidi Robertson, OTD, OTR/L, the faculty advisor for the COTAD chapter in Manchester.

"This little library project is an exciting opportunity to provide continued DEI education to students and faculty," Robertson said. "Through the library, individuals can look for books or videos that pique their interest, and in a time that works within their busy schedules."

Eventually, Stevens and the rest of the MCPHS Manchester COTAD Executive Board want to expand the library to the Worcester campus, the site of another Occupational Therapy Master’s program.

Stevens wants the library to be a true community resource that’s easily accessible to anyone who wishes to use it. They encourage students and others to contribute.

“I love all the books that we chose, but students being able to share books that they've either felt seen in or that they've felt have impacted their profession, their personal life, or their perceptions of culture would be huge,” Stevens said.