Mapping Prejudice: The Map Library as a Hub for Community Co-Creation and Social Change

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The John R. Borchert Map Library was the ideal incubator for an experiment that has changed how a wide range of people are thinking about structural racism and the history of race in American urban environments. Mapping Prejudice used a cartographic visualization of racial covenants as the intellectual nexus of a project that transcended disciplinary boundaries and invited community members into cutting-edge research work. The Map Library provided the physical space, resources, and geospatial expertise necessary for community-driven mapping work. It also served as an intersectional hub necessary for this transformative research initiative, illustrating the synergies between map librarianship and other disciplines. The work depended on the unique contributions of the map librarian: project management; experience networking with researchers, campus departments, and community groups; and knowledge of best practices surrounding data management, curation, and reuse. This article explains how Mapping Prejudice changed academic scholarship and public understandings by engaging volunteers in meaningful research. It concludes by providing a description of future directions for this project and calls on librarians to lead more work of this kind. The example of Mapping Prejudice suggests ways that map librarians can be leading new modes of inclusive, equitable and community-responsive research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Map and Geography Libraries
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 4 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Taken together, all of these skills are necessary when taking on a project that falls outside the scope of “normal” library work, as some of the significant challenges the project team encountered over the past six years revolved around planning, project management, fundraising, and budgeting. Actively championing a project that was not initiated by library administration requires a significant amount of marketing, even within the library organization. The question of whether this project was worthy of staff time came up again and again. Project staff responded by conveying the impact of the project in the community—citing the number of volunteers, the attendance at dozens of public presentations, and the power the map had demonstrated in illuminating this history. Fundraising was another area that was critical. Even though permission was given for in-kind staff time to be used to help manage the project, no central library funding was provided for the project staffing. The project received critical early funding by leveraging campus networks that had been cultivated through the Map Library. By reaching out to an interdisciplinary network of faculty, researchers, and campus departments, the project team convened a meeting in May 2016 to showcase a proof of concept map that displayed several hundred racial covenants. This demonstration prompted the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the University to fund a pilot project to map several thousand covenants. In December of 2016, the project team launched a website to unveil this updated map, which included 4,500 covenants. This public showcase fueled intense community interest, which grew after the map was the subject of an article in the city’s largest daily newspaper (Brandt ). This success secured continued funding from the University Metropolitan Consortium for the remainder of 2017. The project could have never gotten off the ground without this initial funding from non-library entities. And over the next several years, the project received funding from a patchwork of sources, both within the University and in the broader community. The funding came through these networks and connections. But this effort would have stalled without the support of library administrative functions (human resources, finance office, etc), which provided the infrastructure necessary to hire staff and administer funds.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • academic libraries
  • community co-creation
  • critical cartography
  • Critical GIS
  • crowdsourcing
  • decolonization
  • digital humanities
  • map libraries
  • Minneapolis
  • public history
  • racial covenants
  • structural racism
  • transdisciplinary research


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