• The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action

    January 13, 2016
    floor mosaic

    Image by flickr user Andy Hay (CC BY 2.0)

    by

    The work of diversity in libraries begins at the crossroad where superiority, inaction, and denial become intolerable. – Sandra Ríos Balderrama, “This Trend Called Diversity”

    In Brief: Despite our ongoing quest for diversity and a growing number of initiatives to increase it, the demographics of the professional librarian population haven’t changed in any significant way. We are starkly lacking in diversity based on race and ethnicity (we are overwhelmingly white), age (librarianship is an aging profession), disability, economic status, educational background, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other demographic and identity markers of difference. This lack of diversity should be seen as a signal, an invitation to us to look critically at our culture, our practices, and our assumptions, and investigate what it is about ourselves and our profession that is preventing underrepresented people from being able to, or even wanting to, enter and stay. We need an awareness of how privilege, bias, and the attendant power differentials and oppression play out at the individual and the systemic levels of our profession. And we must consider how these affect the experiences of underrepresented and marginalized people within our dominant (white, heterosexual, cisgender, and patriarchal) culture. In this article I consider the meaning of diversity in librarianship. Then, using the ClimateQUAL Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment as an example, I analyze the potential problems with our data collection and analysis related to diversity and organizational culture. I conclude by suggesting some practical steps for library leadership and by identifying future directions for research.

    Why Diversity and What does it Mean?

    We often read about the benefits of diversity in organizations.1 The typical corporate “business case for diversity” focuses on the economic benefits of workplace diversity for the company, thereby treating staff from underrepresented groups simply as any other resource acquired and deployed to increase market share. Conversely, our professional library associations affirm a commitment to creating diverse workplaces so that we may better serve diverse user communities, and even support democracy.2 For example, the Association of Research Libraries’ Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce mentions better organizational decision-making and problem-solving, as well as the correlation between institutional diversity and customer satisfaction.3 The American Library Association’s Policy Manual section on Diversity says, “Libraries can and should play a crucial role in empowering diverse populations for full participation in a democratic society.”4 The Canadian Library Association’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusion states, “[A] diverse and pluralistic society is central to our country’s identity. Libraries have a responsibility to contribute to a culture that recognizes diversity and fosters social inclusion.”5 The International Federation of Library Association’s IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto recognizes that “[c]ultural and linguistic diversity is the common heritage of humankind and should be cherished and preserved for the benefit of all…Therefore, libraries of all types should reflect, support and promote cultural and linguistic diversity at the international, national, and local levels, and thus work for cross-cultural dialogue and active citizenship.”6 Not unlike the corporate business case for diversity, library arguments for diversity are usually framed as benefits to the organization and its users. Less frequently do these explanations center on the potential benefits, or recognize the attendant risks to the underrepresented people hired as a result of these efforts.

    What do librarians mean when we say “diversity”? ARL’s IRDW and ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship Program focus exclusively on “racial and ethnic diversity.”7 However, the ALA Manual’s section,“Diversity,” has a much broader scope, committing to combat discrimination based on “race, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, creed, color, religious background, national origin, language of origin or disability.”8 The CLA states that “Canada’s libraries recognize and energetically affirm the dignity of those they serve, regardless of heritage, education, beliefs, race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental capabilities, or income.”9 IFLA talks about serving a “heterogeneous society” with “complex identities,” and focuses on “cultural and linguistic diversity.”10 As well, some individual libraries and library schools have included diversity in their strategic plans and created special initiatives to diversify their staff or bring more people from underrepresented groups to the profession.11 Some are quite specific about what “diversity” means to them and why it’s important, and some are less so. Unless we are clear about what we’re trying to accomplish and why, and unless we’re willing to name and examine the underlying factors that thwart the changes we hope to see, we will ultimately fail.

    Despite the growing emphasis on increasing the diversity of library school students and library staff, and despite the significant demographic changes in the United States population, the demographics of the professional librarian population have barely shifted in decades.12 Our concerns sound remarkably similar to those of Gerhard and Boydston in 1993 who, looking back to affirmative action efforts of the 1970’s and 1980’s, lamented that “[l]ibrarianship has been committed to affirmative action, yet it has been historically difficult to convert that philosophical commitment into activity.”13 ALA’s 2007 “Diversity Counts” report states, “Credentialed librarians are predominantly women, ages 45–54, and white. They are not limited by disability and work full-time.”14 Comparing the 2009-2010 ALA Community Survey Estimates with the 2010 United States Census bureau’s figures reveals the disparity for race and ethnicity:

    Race/Ethnicity

    (includes differences in language used)

    2009-2010 American Community Survey Estimates (Diversity Counts 2012 Tables) 15 U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates, 2010 16
    ALA: White

    U.S. Census: White alone, not Hispanic/Latino

    88% 63.7%
    ALA: African American U.S. Census: Black 5.2% 12.6%
    ALA: Asian-Pacific Islander

    U.S. Census has two categories

    2.7% Asian     4.8%

    Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander alone:  0.2%

    Native American/Alaskan 0.16% 0.9%
    Latino 3.1% 16.3%
    Two or more races 0.85% 2.5%

     

    The Association of Research Libraries statistics for 2012-2013 are comparable to the ALA numbers above and underscore the magnitude of the disparity for representation by race and ethnicity in research libraries.17 These poor numbers are not unique to libraries; the statistics are similar in most institutions of higher education across the United States. The US National Center for Education Statistics states that “[i]n fall 2013, of all full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 79 percent were White (43 percent were White males and 35 percent were White females), 6 percent were Black, 5 percent were Hispanic, and 10 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander.”18 The “Diversity Counts” authors state, “In regards to racial and ethnic diversity, the need for both intensified recruitment and retention strategies is evident.” At the same time they observe that “existing LIS minority education and recruitment programs are able to yield just enough new graduates to provide for the replacement of retirees and those leaving the profession prematurely.”19

    We lack other forms of diversity as well, though demographic data for areas other than race and ethnicity are less well tracked in the profession. The “Diversity Counts” authors say “The comparatively low employment of librarians with disabilities is also deserving of attention given the increase between 1990 and 2000 of people self-identifying [on the 2000 United States Census] as having one or more disabilities.”20 While 19.2% of the population between the ages of 21 and 64 self-identified as having a disability on the 2000 United States Census, according to ALA statistics the percentage of credentialed librarians with disability status was 4% that same year.21 The authors are also concerned about the high attrition rate of librarians under age 45, which “accounted for 44% of credentialed librarians leaving the work force, [and which] speaks not so much to an inability to effectively recruit individuals to LIS education and practice as to an inability to effectively retain them.” They go on to note that, “some racial and ethnic minority groups, notably African Americans and Latinos, are actually seeing a decrease in the number of credential [sic] librarians under age 45.”22 While the attrition rates of librarians is a more generalized problem in the profession, it would be well worth examining whether and why staff from underrepresented groups are leaving the profession at even higher rates than others.

    The same report acknowledges a vicious cycle that the lack of diversity perpetuates: “[T]he lack of diversity [in libraries] in regards to race and ethnicity, age group, disability, and other dimensions…work [sic] to distance the very communities they seek to attract.”23 The authors continue:

    The persistent lag in diversity in our LIS schools, the number of librarians and library assistants leaving the profession prematurely, the aging of racial and ethnic minority library workers, and the continued under-representation of workers with disabilities, suggests a proportionally less diverse library workforce on the horizon.”24

    We need to ask ourselves why “Diversity Never Happens: The Story of Minority Hiring Doesn’t Seem To Change Much.”25

    Underlying Factors

    In attempting to answer this question, some library literature points to factors beyond just ineffective recruiting strategies. In a brief article in American Libraries magazine, Keith Curry Lance looks at the differences in the levels of racial and ethnic diversity in librarian versus library assistant positions. Comparing the percentage of racial and ethnic subgroups in the US population, he finds that the distribution in library assistant positions is more or less proportional, whereas the distribution in professional librarian positions is not, the latter skewing heavily toward an overrepresentation of white people. ALA’s 2007 “Diversity Counts” report confirms this discrepancy, and calls out academic libraries as particularly problematic: “When looking by types of libraries, the racial distributions are most pronounced in academic libraries. Library assistants in academic libraries have three times as many Latino and twice as many African American staff than their MLS counterparts.”26 Lance concludes that this is because of a “pipeline issue” related to national disparities in educational attainment between whites and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. He says,

    Where a relatively low level of educational attainment is usually required, the racial/ethnic discrepancies between the general adult population, high school graduates, and library assistants are either minimal, or, in the case of Asians/Pacific Islanders, favorable to the group. It is librarian jobs—positions that generally require a graduate degree—that see more troubling discrepancies.27

    Based on the 2003 data tabulations from the United States Census, Lance shows that when one considers just the subset of these groups in the general population that hold graduate degrees, Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians/Alaskan natives are actually represented proportionally in librarian positions.28 Looking at graduate degree holders only, Lance notes “the most underrepresented group, proportionally, is Asians and Pacific Islanders.”29 Recent United States Census Bureau numbers on educational attainment and ALA statistics on credentialed librarians support Lance’s observations.30

    What both Lance and the “Diversity Counts” report are acknowledging is a much larger and more troubling systemic problem negatively affecting the ethnic and racial makeup of the library profession. Research shows that the educational attainment and general life trajectory of individuals is largely a result of the socio-economic status of their parents. A decades-long study of nearly 800 Baltimore children illustrates how hard it is for the children of disadvantaged parents to move out of their income brackets. Karl Alexander, a main researcher on the project, says “Almost none of the children from low-income families made it through college.”31 The library staffing pipeline is rooted in the discrepancies in socioeconomic status based on race and ethnicity, discrepancies which are inherited generationally. Alexander explains, “This view is at odds with the popular ethos that we are makers of our own fortune.”32 As a 2007 ACRL white paper on diversity acknowledges, “Academic librarianship recruitment history cannot be divorced from the history of education and federal education policy in the United States. Also important to federal education policy history is its relationship to civil rights history.”33 Library discussions of and initiatives around diversity must recognize the historical and current factors contributing to how our profession is structured and functions.

    In addition to the structural pressures that inhibit educational attainment in certain socio-economic, ethnic, or racial groups, there are other insidious factors working against our stated goals of diversity. The dominant culture of our profession, from its foundations to the present day, reinforces itself by normalizing whiteness and other forms of oppression and by marginalizing difference.34 As April Hathcock tweeted recently, “We treat diversity as a prob[lem] to be solved when the prob[lem] to be solved is whiteness in all its forms.”35 In a recent article, Hathcock provided a definition of whiteness that recognizes other forms of oppression by the dominant (white, heterosexual, cisgender, and patriarchal) culture.

    [Whiteness] is a theoretical concept that can extend beyond the realities of racial privilege to a wide range of dominant ideologies based on gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and other categories….it also stands as a marker for the privilege and power that acts to reinforce itself through hegemonic cultural practice that excludes all who are different.”36

    In their article “Diversity matters? Rethinking Diversity in Libraries,” ShinJoung Yeo and James R. Jacobs suggest that “diversity means little if there is no understanding of how the dominant culture and ideas are articulated within our institutions and our daily library practices.” They continue:

    One must ask oneself if it would be possible to really achieve diversity without challenging our racist, homophobic and sexist consciousnesses that are so deeply imbedded that we don’t even recognize them? If we are blind to our unconscious biases, then striving for numerically diverse organizations is building on a foundation of sand.37

    Unconscious or not, this ignorance of our own biases is willful and difficult to cure: the dominant group’s hold on power and privilege is at risk in any effort to open our eyes and to investigate the underpinnings of our profession’s whiteness and oppression named by Yeo, Jacobs, Hathcock and others.

    Recent research confirms the existence of this willful ignorance of bias within the dominant culture and how it plays out in practice. In a study of gender-based microaggressions, Basford et al. note that, while overt sexism may be in decline, “many scholars fear that discrimination is not disappearing but rather has become more subtle in nature[,]”–equally pernicious but less likely to be perceived by those not targeted. They conclude that “women were significantly more likely to perceive workplace gender microaggressions than men….” and “women are more attuned to subtle forms of discrimination than men.”38 Similarly, in her study of racial microaggressions in academic libraries, Jaena Alabi says,

    academic librarians of color noted that they are treated differently than their white peers. Minority academic librarians are also more likely to perceive racial microaggressions directed toward colleagues. However, non-minority librarians are unlikely to report observing racial microaggressions.39

    Alabi notes as well that “Racism and racial discrimination are seldom discussed explicitly in the LIS literature, despite the presence of works chronicling the experiences of minority librarians.”40 What the research of Alabi and Basford et al. suggests is a dynamic already well known to people from marginalized groups: individuals from the dominant group have a tendency not to perceive (or to ignore) acts of subtle discrimination by members of their own group against individuals from marginalized groups. Thus there is little incentive to report such experiences to the very members of that dominant group with the potential power to do something about it. When we refuse to recognize our own biases and the biases of others around us, our actions and their repercussions go unnoticed and therefore unexamined.

    data path

    Image by flickr user r2hox (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Measuring Diversity and its Implications

    One way that willful ignorance of bias manifests itself is in the ways that organizations measure “diversity” and interpret the results. I will illustrate this by considering the increasingly popular tool used by academic libraries to evaluate their organizational diversity, ClimateQUAL: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment, designed at the University of Maryland and now run by the Association of Research Libraries. In this article I use ClimateQUAL as a means to examine the ways that collective ignorance of the dominant group to bias and unexamined perpetuation of privilege and oppression can affect how libraries interpret the data that we collect and the way that we set priorities based on it. ClimateQUAL is described on its website as “an assessment of library staff perceptions concerning (a) their library’s commitment to the principles of diversity, (b) organizational policies and procedures, and (c) staff attitudes.”41 The theory on which the survey is based suggests that:

    [a] healthy organization is defined as one in which employees feel empowered and believe that the organization values diversity. It is an organization in which the policies, practices, and procedures are administered fairly and employees believe that they are treated fairly.42

    ClimateQUAL is clearly designed and described as a measure of staff perceptions about the organization’s climate, including what they believe and how they feel about the organization’s fairness and how it values diversity. Because of its focus on perceptions about what the organization values, ClimateQUAL can be a powerful tool for revealing and understanding fairness and bias within an organization. However, for a profession greatly lacking in diversity, relying on staff perceptions of demographic diversity and fairness as a proxy for organizational health might be quite problematic if not handled in an extremely thoughtful and well-informed way. A look at relevant research on race from outside the library literature will make it clear why this is the  case.

    As the above-cited statistics show, the library profession is overwhelmingly white. Research studies have shown that, while white people say they like diversity, election and census trends suggest otherwise. A Pew study found that while the majority of people in the United States profess a desire to live in racially, politically, religiously, and socioeconomically diverse communities, residential segregation belies their stated preference.43 We know that choice is hardly the reason why most people of color live where they do. As far as housing is concerned, choice in location is still a privilege primarily enjoyed by white people.44 The Pew data suggest that “when the subject is community diversity, Americans talk one way but behave another.”45 Research also shows that white people’s tolerance for residential racial diversity is much lower than that of Blacks. In “Does Race Matter in Neighborhood Preferences? Results from a Video Experiment” Krysan et al. write:

    For the most part studies of residential preferences find that whites are willing to live with only a handful of African American neighbors (some put the figure at around 20 percent), while African Americans are open to quite a diverse range of neighborhoods, though a “50-50” neighborhood is routinely identified as the most attractive…46

    While this research did not study the preferences of whites for workplace diversity, we can imagine that many of the same dynamics and biases play out in white-dominated workplaces–even those that profess a desire for diversity. How much diversity is enough to make staff in the dominant culture, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, etc. feel like the workplace has achieved an acceptable amount of, but not too much diversity? And how much “valuing diversity” does the organization need to demonstrate in order for staff from the dominant culture to perceive it as sufficient, regardless of whether or not staff from marginalized groups would consider it enough?

    These questions and the research that underlies them should inspire us to think more carefully about how we interpret our ClimateQUAL results. ClimateQUAL respondents are asked to react on a 7-point scale, from strongly disagree to strongly agree, to phrases such as:

    • The race of a team/division member does NOT affect how they are valued on this team/division.
    • The support from supervisors that team/division members receive does NOT differ as a function of team/division members’ race.
    • The support from supervisors that team/division members receive does NOT differ as a function of team/division members’ sexual orientation.47

    The survey instrument is designed to elicit individuals’ perceptions about their own relationship to the organization. Yet the way these question are worded–using the generic “a team/division member” and “they,” rather than “your race/sexual orientation” and “you”–thereby leaves the possibility open for respondents to answer based on their perceptions of how staff of other races, sexual orientation, gender, etc. are valued and supported in the organization. If your organization is between 80-90% white (a fair assumption based on ALA and ARL statistics), the overwhelming majority of the organization’s answers to questions about race will be based on white people’s perceptions and reflect a white cultural perspective. (The same holds for questions about other demographic categories vis-à-vis the dominant culture.) Both the popular press and research on diversity attest to the fact that white people are unlikely to understand the lived experience of people of color and do not recognize racial bias when it occurs.48 As Jaena Alabi noted, “non-minority librarians are unlikely to report observing racial microaggressions” even though “minority” librarians are, in fact, experiencing them.49 Thus, in an overwhelmingly white (and heterosexual, cisgender, and patriarchal) organization, it is important to recognize that the data we collect represents primarily the worldview of the dominant culture and will be shaped by its limitations and biases.

    The ways that the ClimateQUAL results are reported could potentially compound the problem. The results of an organization’s ClimateQUAL assessment can be evaluated in various ways. For example, organizations may compare results to their own own results from previous years’ assessments, or organizations may compare results to those of peer institutions that have also administered the survey. Comparing a library’s own results from survey to survey, it’s impossible to know, for example, if an improvement in score is a result of actual increased support for diversity within the organization, or simply the demographic majority staff’s increasing comfort with the (likely biased) organizational culture they already have. As well, a common way to review ClimateQUAL results is to look at a library’s average scores on the various rubrics. Focusing data analysis at the organizational level obscures dynamics happening within organizational subgroups, including minority identity groups. (This problem can be mitigated by further analysis, as discussed below.) Ironically, the research cited above suggests that because of the dominant culture’s willful ignorance of bias, the less diverse the organization, the more satisfied the staff may be with their library’s current support for diversity, no matter how inadequate it is. As well, the ClimateQUAL site explains that comparing a library’s results with those of peer institutions “provides feedback from the survey that is grounded in a baseline from the libraries that have already participated.”50 However, if other institutions are having the same biases in their results as described above, comparison among them is unlikely to tell us anything useful about our own biased results.

    In reviewing ClimateQUAL survey results, we in the dominant culture are also less likely to recognize the built-in bias described above because of confirmation bias, “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses.”51 If we feel like we’re doing well on diversity and we believe our organization is fair and just (as it may well be for staff in the dominant culture), of course our diversity results will look pretty darn good to us. Why question them? Instead of falling prey to confirmation bias, it is possible instead to use the results of ClimateQUAL to reveal some of our unconscious or implicit biases. In addition to the perception questions, at the end of the survey ClimateQUAL asks respondents to voluntarily provide demographic information such as work status, race, religion, age, disability status, sex,  sexual orientation, and gender identification. Although some of these  questions are asked in problematic ways, with them we are able to contrast the organization’s demographic data with its scores for staff perceptions of its commitment to the principles of diversity. (One of the most disturbing demographic questions mixes options for sexual orientation and gender identification in a single question and allows the user to choose only one or not respond at all, thereby forcing some respondents to erase a part of their self identity. This is a good example of a microaggression.) If an organization’s perceived level of diversity fairness is quite high but the actual demographic diversity of the organization is low, that is one clue that the results may be skewed by the significant underrepresentation of the very people who would notice and experience bias and discrimination in the organization. As well, we can compare the data for individual demographic groups to see if there are discrepancies in various identity groups’ perceptions of the organization’s climate for diversity based on demographic characteristics.52 For example, what if the comparison revealed that white people (or heterosexual people) think we’re doing well on diversity fairness whereas black people (or gay people) say they perceive discrimination? Looked at this way, the ClimateQUAL data could provide us with a rare opportunity to experience organizational bias awareness, the first step toward addressing discrimination in our organizations.

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    Image by flickr user ~Brenda-Starr~ (CC BY 2.0)

    A Path Toward Awareness and Action

    There is a large and rich body of research on workplace diversity, investigating questions such as self and group identity and stigma, power relations between groups, social networks, conflict and problem solving, and the emotional toll of being from a marginalized group in a workplace designed for and around the needs of dominant, white culture.53 The research of Dobbin and Kalev provides a cautionary note for us in our quest for diversity. In their article on corporate diversity programs from the 1960s to the present, they acknowledge the harm done in diversifying without dismantling power differentials: “[E]vidence to date suggests that bureaucratic hiring and promotion systems may have done more harm than good, institutionalizing patterns of inequality rather than challenging them.”54 They note that programs to increase gender and racial diversity had mixed success, and that even as some programs were successful, women and members of other underrepresented groups were often denied access to the management training that would have helped them move up in the management structure. They observed,

    innovations designed to quash managerial bias have been broadly ineffective. Bureaucratic practices designed to eliminate managerial discretion from the hiring and promotion process have not led to increases in diversity; nor have diversity training programs designed to make managers aware of their own unconscious biases; neither have diversity performance evaluations that give managers feedback and career incentives to improve diversity.55

    However the authors do note that some interventions were actually successful, including making managers responsible for advancing diversity and for recruiting women and people from other underrepresented groups.56

    In its 2012 Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries, ACRL acknowledges that moving from ignorance to awareness and then to positive action is a learning process. “To achieve diversity in substance as well as in form, libraries have to open their arms to all perspectives and experiences. That requires competency in matters of cultural pluralism that are not intuitive and must be learned, like any other essential skill.”57 Research indicates the effectiveness of bias awareness interventions as a first step to developing insight into how implicit biases affect negative workplace behavior. In their article on gender bias and bias literacy, Molly Carnes et al. show how becoming conscious of one’s own bias is a prerequisite for taking action to correct it: “Scholars in learning theory and organizational change converge on the importance of being able to articulate tacit knowledge to bring it into consciousness.”58 The results of their research-based bias awareness interventions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest that this kind of approach to “consciousness raising” can be effective: “This broad range of research literature presents consistent advice regarding the steps necessary to overcome bias and produce intentional behavioral change.”59 These conclusions are supported by the research of Ferguson and Porter who looked at studies of intergroup bias and prejudice reduction.

    The importance of reducing implicit bias in the workplace cannot be overstated. Implicit intergroup bias has far-reaching negative effects in many organizational domains, including, but not limited to, selection, retention (including compensation and promotion issues), teams-related issues, general work environment, and worker self-esteem and well-being…. In other words, fostering harmonious intergroup interactions is at the crux of producing the best possible outcomes in organizational productivity, organizational climate, and social justice.”60

    A widely used instrument in social psychology for raising awareness of individual bias is the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which is freely available on the website of Project Implicit, an organization that promotes research on implicit social cognition.61 Project Implicit’s website explains that “The IAT measures the strength of associations between concepts (e.g., black people, gay people) and evaluations (e.g., good, bad) or stereotypes (e.g., athletic, clumsy).” They continue, “Implicit attitudes are positive and negative evaluations that occur outside of our conscious awareness and control.”62 Like Carnes et al.’s conclusions, Project Implicit contends that through awareness and vigilance, implicit preferences and biases can be changed. “Research shows that implicit preferences are quite malleable so it is possible to manage and change them if you want to.”63 In an article on bias in library collection development, Brian Quinn suggests the Implicit Association Test as a tool for selectors to become more aware of biases in collecting, as well as other tools such as self-paced online tutorials, guest lectures, and brown-bag discussions.64

    While a crucial step, consciousness raising and addressing bias at the individual level must then be followed by critical analysis of the assumptions, behaviors, processes, and structures that undergird our profession. Creating a culture of ongoing bias awareness, challenging individual and structural discrimination, and building organizations that truly value diversity also require leaders who are awake to the biases and oppression that are foundational to our political and socio-economic systems and to our profession. While organizational culture rests in the collective hands of all staff, library leadership controls the money, resources, and power needed to transform an organization’s strategic direction and policy. Leaders can shape the organization’s values, and instigate change by setting strategic priorities, allocating staff time for learning opportunities (such as bias awareness), and encouraging critical inquiry by modeling the behavior we want to see.65 Leaders can encourage and empower us to engage with essential questions like “In what way do I benefit from and perpetuate the status quo and how can I disrupt it?” and “How is valuing difference foundational to the mission of our profession?”66 Sandra Balderrama says,

    We must be able to articulate why we in our profession would want someone distinct from us to work with us, not for us. To work alongside us, not beneath us. To create with us, not duplicate us. To reciprocate with us, not assimilate to us. To mentor us, not intimidate us. To be an equal, not a box in the organizational hierarchy. To be a colleague.67

    In a 2014 conference paper on women in leadership, Chris Bourg cautioned library staff interested in social justice issues but reluctant to take on leadership positions, that avoiding them “might mean that you are leaving the leadership of our profession in the hands of those who aren’t concerned about those things…”68 We need socially engaged library leaders who will push us beyond the next diversity initiative toward examinations of privilege, bias, power, structural discrimination, and institutional oppression, and how they further marginalize and drive away the very people we claim we want to include.

    brass tacks

    Image by flickr user MicroAssist (CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Brass Tacks for Library Leaders

    Organizations take their cues from their leaders. If our enthusiasm for diversity isn’t backed up by concrete actions, our expressions of concern about it ring hollow. Here are a few specific steps that high-level library leaders must take if we are to make our organizations and our profession inclusive, open to difference, and diverse. The ideas listed below aren’t new; many others have already suggested them. Library leaders are in a position to prioritize them and make them happen.

    Bias Awareness and Valuing Difference

    Create opportunities in the organization to raise awareness of implicit bias, discuss it, and take steps to reduce it. Research supports the importance of openly recognizing difference vs. color- or gender-blindness (or other kinds of willful ignorance to recognize difference). Ferguson and Porter conclude that “a multicultural ideology is more beneficial than a colorblind ideology for both majority groups and minority groups, and for multiple intergroup and work-related outcomes.”69 Create opportunities for staff to have meaningful conversations about bias and discrimination, organizational climate, culture, and diversity.

    Name the Problem

    Don’t disguise the issues or use euphemisms. In research under way to evaluate library diversity plans, Ione Damasco notes that, while the word “inclusion” was frequently used, none of the plans included words such as “racism,” “anti-racist,” “whiteness,” “white privilege,” “privilege,” or “racial justice.” She continues, “We have to name our problems before we can fix them….our inability to articulate these issues in our formal documents might reflect our difficulties in overcoming the lack of diversity in our field.”70 We need to learn not just to see and name bias in ourselves and in the world around us, but to understand the underlying dynamics that perpetuate them and speak openly about them.

    Mission and Follow-through

    Make diversity and social justice a genuine and regular part of the organization’s work. Rather than just paying lip service to the concept of diversity, include diversity initiatives in the library’s strategic plan and then make time and provide support for staff to accomplish them. Create a standalone diversity plan. Damasco’s research shows that of 1500+ 4-year colleges and universities libraries surveyed, only 1.4% (22) had independent diversity plans. As a profession we can’t legitimately say that we believe in diversity if only a miniscule percentage of our libraries have plans to address it.71

    Data Collection

    Think critically about the data collection tools your organization employs, the data gathered, and how you make sense of it. In addition to knowing what kind of information the tools are designed to elicit and how they do so, it is also crucial to understand what biases we bring to our interpretation of the data, and to think about what data is missing and why. Consider how different types of data might help expose bias in interpretation, for example, as noted above, by considering what it might mean to have a high ClimateQUAL score for perceived level of diversity fairness when the actual demographic diversity of the organization is low.

    Recruiting

    For all but the highest-level library positions, for which recruiting firms may be engaged, we typically post job ads on websites and listservs and then encourage library staff to promote the position through their own networks. This reliance on personal networks, which tend to lack diversity, can serve to perpetuate demographically homogeneous workplaces.72 Instead, go out and recruit job candidates from among the communities you wish to include in your organization. Send staff to attend conferences or meetings that individuals from underrepresented groups attend and encourage them to think of your organization as a place that would welcome their applications. Within your own organizations, recruit staff who are already credentialed but who, for whatever reason, haven’t made their way into professional positions.73

    Mentoring

    Devise targeted mentoring and professional development strategies that encourage, support, and develop all staff in your organization. In her article on diversity initiatives in the profession, April Hathcock strongly recommends mentoring early-career librarians from underrepresented groups in order to better support them as they rise in the profession. She specifically notes the importance of “[helping] library workers new to the profession to navigate the culture of whiteness in the profession at large and within your specific place of work.”74 We can also encourage non-credentialed staff already working in our libraries to pursue careers as library professionals and mentor them as they progress.75

    Pay for Work

    All staff, including interns, should be fairly compensated for their work. As Angela Galvan explains, “only students with access to money can afford to take an unpaid internship…insuring the pool of well-qualified academic librarians skews white and middle class.”76 Leaders in a growing number of library organizations are rejecting unpaid internships. Recent examples include MIT Libraries, which will now pay all interns, and the Digital Library Federation, which no longer advertises non-paying internships.77

    Future Directions for Research

    There is much research still to be done on issues related to the lack of diversity in librarianship and on how to recognize and dismantle the privilege and whiteness that are at the heart of our culture. Here are just a few areas that need further inquiry:

    • Data on Diversity: It’s much easier to write about the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in libraries than about other kinds of diversity because we lack meaningful demographic data for and research on other identity groups. What kinds of data might we gather to more fully understand the landscape, while being respectful of the many reasons why people from certain identity groups may not want to share personal information?
    • Organizational Processes: What are effective ways to incorporate bias awareness into our organizational and professional development? What kinds of processes or structures might help push an organization toward a better understanding of privilege and discrimination, and an appreciation for cultural and demographic difference?
    • Attrition and Avoidance: The ALA’s research suggests that staff from underrepresented groups are leaving the profession at even higher rates than others. What reasons do departing staff give for leaving the profession? Are these attrition rates higher than in comparable professions? Does pay influence the decision by members of underrepresented groups to leave the profession or to avoid it completely?
    • Leadership: Are there leadership styles or methods that can help promote organizational awareness of bias and discrimination and to develop actions to address them? How can leaders help managers and supervisors turn this awareness info positive change within their departments? How can leaders maintain a focus on these issues and hold themselves and the organization accountable, even while tending to all the other work of the organization?

    Acknowledgements

    I would like to thank April Hathcock and Jill Conte for their engaging and challenging conversations during the research process and their helpful comments and editing on drafts of this article. I’m especially grateful for Jill’s patient and careful reading and her willingness to question my assumptions and point out my own biases in my writing. A special thank you to Ian Beilin, my In The Library With The Lead Pipe Internal Peer Reviewer, who asked difficult and important questions, and pushed me to clarify my arguments and polish my prose. Finally, my gratitude to Lead Pipe editors Erin Dorney and Ellie Collier for their thoughtful feedback throughout the peer review process.

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    Starr, Terrell Jermaine. “10 Things Black People Fear That White People Don’t (Or Don’t Nearly as Much).” Alternet, March 16, 2015. http://www.salon.com/2015/03/18/10_things_black_people_fear_that_white_people_simply_dont_have_to_partner/.

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    United States Census Bureau. “Profile of Selected Social Characteristics: 2000 Census 2000 Summary File 4 (SF 4) – Sample Data.” American FactFinder. Accessed August 13, 2015. http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=DEC_00_SF4_DP2&prodType=table .

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    West Virginia University. “WVU Libraries Launches Librarian Diversity Initiative.” WVUToday. Accessed July 30, 2015. http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2015/07/22/wvu-libraries-launches-librarian-diversity-initiative .

    Wikipedia contributors. “Confirmation Bias.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Confirmation_bias&oldid=672196556 .

    Yancy, George, and Paul Gilroy. “What ‘Black Lives’ Means in Britain.” Opinionator: The Stone, October 1, 2015. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/paul-gilroy-what-black-means-in-britain/ .

    Yeo, ShinJoung, and James R. Jacobs. “Diversity Matters? Rethinking Diversity in Libraries.” Counterpoise 9, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 5–8. http://freegovinfo.info/files/diversity_counterpoise.pdf .

    1. For a recent example, see: Page, The Difference. []
    2. For a critical discussion of libraries, democracy, racial exclusion, and structural oppression, see Honma, “Trippin’ Over the Color Line,” 8. []
    3. Association of Research Libraries, “Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW).” []
    4. American Library Association, “ALA Policy Manual, Section B.3 Diversity.” []
    5. Canadian Library Association / Association Canadienne des Bibliothèques, “Canadian Library Association Position Statement on Diversity and Inclusion.” []
    6. IFLA, “IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto.” []
    7. Association of Research Libraries, “Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce (IRDW).” []
    8. American Library Association, “ALA Policy Manual, Section B.3 Diversity.” []
    9. Canadian Library Association / Association Canadienne des Bibliothèques, “Canadian Library Association Position Statement on Diversity and Inclusion.” []
    10. IFLA, “IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto.” []
    11. Some examples include: Penn State University Libraries, “A Framework to Foster Diversity at Penn State University Libraries’ Diversity Strategic Plan 2010-2015”; West Virginia University, “WVU Libraries Launches Librarian Diversity Initiative”; Simmons School of Library and Information Science, “Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives.” []
    12. The ALA’s 2007 “Diversity Counts Report,” notes that whereas the racial and ethnic minority population of the United States grew by a combined 152% from 1990-2000, “[d]uring roughly this same period…the number of racial and ethnic minorities receiving accredited MLIS degrees grew by only 4%.” Davis and Hall, “Diversity Counts Report,” 3. []
    13. Gerhard and Boydston, “A Library Committee on Diversity and Its Role in a Library Diversity Program,” 335. []
    14. Davis and Hall, “Diversity Counts Report,” 5. []
    15. American Library Association, “ALA: Diversity Counts Website.” []
    16. United States Census Bureau, “Quick Facts, United States. Population Estimates, July 1, 2014.” []
    17. Association of Research Libraries, “Minority Representation in US ARL University Libraries as of 2012-2013: Taking a Closer Look at the Evidence.” []
    18. National Center for Education Statistics, “Fast Facts.” []
    19. Davis and Hall, “Diversity Counts Report,” 11, 3. []
    20. Ibid., 3. []
    21. Ibid., United States Census Bureau, “Profile of Selected Social Characteristics: 2000 Census 2000 Summary File 4 (SF 4) – Sample Data.” []
    22. Ibid., 11. []
    23. Ibid., 3. []
    24. Ibid., 18. []
    25. Kelley, “Diversity Never Happens.” Using the term “minority” to refer to underrepresented racial and ethnic groups is increasingly seen as pejorative, and it is also becoming numerically inaccurate as the United States moves toward becoming a “plurality nation,” where no race or ethnic group is projected to have a numerical majority within the total population. Ferguson, “Minorities: Time to Retire This Outdated Term?” and Colby and Ortman, “Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060,” 13. []
    26. Davis and Hall, “Diversity Counts Report,” 14. []
    27. Lance, “Racial and Ethnic Diversity of U.S. Library Workers,” 43. []
    28. United States Census Bureau, “Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Tabulation.” []
    29. Lance, “Racial and Ethnic Diversity of U.S. Library Workers,” 41. Lance doesn’t say why this is the case. []
    30. United States Census Bureau, “Current Population Survey (CPS) Data on Educational Attainment”; American Library Association, “ALA: Diversity Counts Website.” Based on the detailed United States Census Bureau CPS tables for 2014, I calculate that the percentages for higher degree attainment (meaning Master’s, Professional, or Doctoral degree) by racial group were 12% for non-Hispanic whites, 18.4% for Asians, 6.5% for Blacks, and 3.8% for Hispanics. (Here I’m using the terminology used by the United States Census Bureau. []
    31. Rosen, “Study.” []
    32. Ibid. []
    33. Neely and Peterson, “Achieving Racial and Ethnic Diversity among Academic and Research Librarians: The Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement of Librarians of Color,” 8. []
    34. For a recent article on the history of whiteness in the library profession, see Honma, “Trippin’ Over the Color Line.” []
    35. Hathcock, “Twitter Post, 8/18/2015.” []
    36. Hathcock, “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS.” []
    37. Yeo and Jacobs, “Diversity Matters? Rethinking Diversity in Libraries,” 1. []
    38. Basford, Offermann, and Behrend, “Do You See What I See?,” 345. []
    39. Alabi, “Racial Microaggressions in Academic Libraries: Results of a Survey of Minority and Non-Minority Librarians,” 52. []
    40. Ibid., 47. See the article for her survey of the scant library literature on racism in academic libraries. []
    41. ClimateQUAL, “About: What Is ClimateQUAL?” (emphasis mine). I’m not sure what “principles of diversity” they are referring to, and they don’t provide a link to a source, but their Core Scales page does describe the different kinds of diversity that are covered by the instrument. These include “surface diversity” (related to differences based on external characteristics) and “deep diversity” (related to differences based on internal characteristics like values, interests, competencies, personality, beliefs, and assumptions). These two types of diversity are related, and ClimateQUAL measures both. []
    42. ClimateQUAL, “ClimateQUAL FAQs: Survey Theory and Methodology.” (emphasis mine). []
    43. Pew Research Center, “Americans Say They Like Diverse Communities; Election, Census Trends Suggest Otherwise.” []
    44. Madrigal, “The Racist Housing Policy That Made Your Neighborhood.” []
    45. Pew Research Center, “Americans Say They Like Diverse Communities; Election, Census Trends Suggest Otherwise.” []
    46. Krysan et al., “Does Race Matter in Neighborhood Preferences?,” 2. []
    47. ClimateQUAL, “ClimateQUAL Sample Questions.” []
    48. Starr, “10 Things Black People Fear That White People Don’t (Or Don’t Nearly as Much).” []
    49. Alabi, “Racial Microaggressions in Academic Libraries: Results of a Survey of Minority and Non-Minority Librarians,” 52. []
    50. ClimateQUAL, “ClimateQUAL: Benefits of Participation.” []
    51. Wikipedia contributors, “Confirmation Bias.” []
    52. In order to maintain respondent anonymity, the instrument requires that you have enough respondents in each demographic category in order to break the data down in this way. If there aren’t enough respondents from the already-marginalized groups in question, this method is unavailable to us and the scant voices within these groups will be further marginalized. ClimateQUAL, “ClimateQUAL FAQs: Survey Theory and Methodology.” []
    53. For an introduction to the wide variety of ways to investigate diversity in the workplace, see Roberson, The Oxford Handbook of Diversity and Work. []
    54. Dobbin and Kalev, “The Origins and Effects of Corporate Diversity Programs,” 273. []
    55. Ibid., 274-275. []
    56. Ibid., 256. []
    57. Association of College & Research Libraries, “Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries (2012).” []
    58. Carnes et al., “Promoting Institutional Change Through Bias Literacy,” 64. []
    59. Ibid., 65. []
    60. Ferguson and Porter, “An Examination of Categorization Processes in Organizations: The Root of Intergroup Bias and a Route to Prejudice Reduction,” 105. []
    61. Project Implicit, “Project Implicit: Implicit Association Tests.” []
    62. Project Implicit, “Project Implicit: FAQs.” []
    63. Ibid. []
    64. Quinn, “Collection Development and the Psychology of Bias,” 297. []
    65. A recent McKinsey Quarterly article underscored the importance of leadership in addressing the problem of gender equity in corporations. See Barton, Devillard, and Hazlewood, “Gender Equality.” []
    66. American Library Association, “Core Values of Librarianship.” []
    67. Balderrama, “This Trend Called Diversity,” 198. []
    68. Bourg, “Mentors, Gender, Reluctance.” []
    69. They define multiculturalism as “an ideology that promotes the recognition and acceptance of group differences.” Ferguson and Porter, “An Examination of Categorization Processes in Organizations: The Root of Intergroup Bias and a Route to Prejudice Reduction,” 108-109. For a critique of the term “multicultural” see Honma, “Trippin’ Over the Color Line.” []
    70. Damasco, “The Practice of Core Values: Academic Library Diversity Plans and the ACRL Diversity Standards.” []
    71. Ibid. []
    72. Thanks to Ian Beilin for suggesting this problem. []
    73. Thanks to Jill Conte for providing me with this insight. []
    74. Hathcock, “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS.” []
    75. Recognizing the low pay of non-credentialed library staff and the cost of graduate school, these efforts will be most successful if financial support is provided in addition to mentoring. []
    76. Galvan, “Soliciting Performance, Hiding Bias.” []
    77. For a statement about MIT’s new paid internship policy, see Bourg, “The Radicalism Is Coming from inside the Library.” []

Please read the comment policy before posting: 33 Comments

  • Gina says:

    Thank you for the article! In the spirit of respect for diversity, please reconsider using the terms “blind” and “blindness” as metaphors for lack of understanding or ignorance.

    A few resources:
    http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/ableist-language-matters/
    http://www.newappsblog.com/2011/07/ableist-language-and-philosophical-associations.html
    http://mic.com/articles/94988/7-things-people-with-disabilities-are-tired-of-hearing#.mG6k29GOf

  • Rodrigues says:

    I recognize so many factors mentioned here as things I’ve either been faced with personally in library work and HR practices or have seen happening to others. The big rub is that– as pointed to in the quote about bias becoming not less prevalent but simply more subtle, along with big words being said about diversity without a lot of real change– we’re left with a million anecdotes about microaggressions and barriers that we know are proof of these obstacles but individually make you wonder if it’s your own perception that is off. It’s like the interpersonal abuse of gaslighting but on an enormous, system-wide scale.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Rodrigues. It’s insidious and so important for us to talk about and expose. And for people in the dominant culture, and those in power, to make it possible to have those conversations rather than cover it up/ignore it.

  • Erin Dorney says:

    At the request of the Lead Pipe editors, the author has amended this article to rephrase instances of abelist language. Jennifer happily complied and on behalf myself, Jennifer, Ian, and the entire Lead Pipe editorial board, we apologize that this language was not addressed during the editing process. As Jennifer said, we’re all learning, and we appreciate the comment left by Gina that reminded us to be more careful and accurate with the words we publish.

  • Max Macias says:

    Libraries are really White-supremacist. They are mostly unconsciously so–which is even more dangerous.

    Even when POC get library degrees–many times they have bought into the White-Supremacist system of education, information and knowledge creation it makes little difference.

    People need to care more about equity, social justice and diversity MORE than they care about their reputations.

    The library world blackballs and abuses people who speak out and point of these things.

    I’m a fantastic librarian, was the LSTA advisory council chair for my state library, was the former REFORMA NW President, have achieved 100% retention in my info lit classes (the only one at my school to have done so), have over 22 years of experience working in libraries and I still can’t get a FT librarian job.

    I’ve been involved with so many councils, committees and such–and they never go anywhere–when it comes to social justice, equity and diversity.

    What the library world wants is POC who are “yes sir, yes ma’am” shufflers. They want a face of color who has a White-supremacist ideology within them.

    I can almost guarantee nobody will answer this post, or deride it.

    The library world, and Education in general are complicit in bolstering White-supremacy.

    Why don’t we have a POC terrorism task force in the library world. POC live under a constant state of terrorism, but people would rather speak about this stuff with distancing language.

    We need more people to speak out!

    Thank you for your article.

    Max

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Max.

    • David says:

      Wow, just wow. Here I am approx 12 years in the library community working alongside POC being completely unaware that I was actually a Nazi committing terrorism against non-white co-workers.

      • Amanda Tarbet says:

        Way to misunderstand the comment and immediately invoke Godwin’s law. I suppose it’s too much to ask some people to think critically about the oppressive systems in which they are complicit and from which they benefit.

        • David says:

          I’m afraid Max invoked it first. I wasn’t the one slandering an entire profession as white supremacist terrorists. Or does ‘thinking critically’ to you include calling people the worst names in the book?

          • Amanda says:

            Except that’s not what he said. That’s what you think he said because, well, I’m not sure why. Probably you’re a white guy who doesn’t like uncomfortable truths about his privilege. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on past experiences that would be my go to explanation. And before you flip out, I am white.) At any rate, I’ll explain it to you. Not because I think you’re interested in a dialogue or learning anything new since your initial comment was so antagonistic, but just in case anyone else stopping by who reads this thread is interested.

            White supremacy does not always equal Nazism. We, Americans, live in a white supremacist society that actively oppresses non-white people. Librarians are not individually autonatically white supremacists, but white people and white librarians benefit from the white supremacy inherent in our society. And Max is correct is saying that there is rampant complacency in libraries that can prevent us from doing anything about the white supremacy inherent in our institutions.

            As for terrorism, he wasn’t saying that librarians are terrorists who sit around plotting how to terrorize POC. The terrorism is built into the fabric of this nation. POC absolutely DO live under a constant state of terrorism. Murders of unarmed (and often innocent) black men and women at the hands of police and covered up by those police, the fact that black men are 8 times more likely to be killed by police then white men, are proof. As are things like the school to jail pipeline, higher rates of incarceration for crimes more likely to be committed by white people, and a whole ugly, horrible history of the things that have been done to POC in this nation that I will not type here because librarians should be able to research and learn. If we are not actively working to reduce inequality in our institutions, then we are allowing this racial terrorism to have the last word.

            That’s as much as I have the patience for tonight. The second hand embarrassment I have for you is exhausting.

      • David: Max did not use the term Nazi. He is talking about white supremacy, which is a form of racism that promotes the idea that white people are superior to people of other races or ethnicities, and the belief that white people should therefore have and maintain power other them. One of the many ways white supremacy is exercised is by privileging other white people, either consciously or unconsciously, in professional situations. This can happen simply by maintaining the status quo in hiring and promotion. If we’re not actively seeking to change the demographics of our profession we are maintaining that status quo.

  • Shannon Simpson says:

    Thank you so much for your article!
    As a woman of color in the library field I have had many experiences validated in this and other recent research. I have MANY ideas for libraries in which we could level the playing field. From not requiring students to be enrolled full-time in order to be eligible for scholarships, (what happens when you don’t get any funding and now your weeks into grad classes?) to requiring that EVERY SINGLE LAST PERSON that is up for a library job being required to answer a question about inclusion, racism and cultural competency. If we cannot affect the pipeline immediately, at least we can seek out those members of the majority that will be willing to fight to make our field more inclusive -both in representation and thought. Imagine if every single person we hired could talk competently about race and ability? Why CAN’T that be a requirement for hire? As referenced in so much research, librarians of color feel overburdened with the work to make change in our profession on the fronts of diversity and inclusion, however, we cannot be the only ones taking up this fight. It’s the same problem in all of academia. Many of us are extremely passionate about this topic, but because it is rarely valued at the same level as teaching or scholarship, we burn out because we are so often the ones doing the majority of the work. We need every librarian understanding this problem and championing this cause if those of us that are here and care don’t keep bowing out from burn out feeling non-valued in their efforts. We need to train those that are already here, only hire those that understand and can share the burden of the work in which we must all engage in order to keep our profession progressive and reflective of the communities that we serve.

    • Shannon, thank you for your comment and your great ideas for more actively building inclusive workplaces. I agree that this is a task for all of us, but *especially* for those of us in the dominant culture. As Chris Bourg recently said at the ARL Leadership Symposium, “it is not up to librarians of color to solve the whiteness problem in librarianship – that’s on us white folk.” https://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2016/01/09/whiteness-social-justice-and-the-future-of-libraries/
      I believe that the burnout you describe is related to the attrition rates that I mention in my article — how could it not be? Even as we work toward more being a more inclusive profession, there is research to be done to better understand the nature and the causes of burnout and attrition. I hope others continue this research and that we see more and more leaders who implement the things you mention above.

      • Elizabeth Hopkins says:

        I would say that during my career as a librarian, I have suffered reverse racism and even though I am more qualified, the job has been very often given to a member of a ‘minority.’ I am shocked and amazed that the underlying assumption is that diversity must take over and displace all whites.

        In general I am very disappointed that my own opportunities have been so greatly diminished because of the displacement of whites and the destruction of Western Civilization. The question is why must all of our countries be destroyed, when minorities should be encouraged to make their own parts of the world desirable places to live?

        • Amanda Tarbet says:

          Elizabeth, are you serious right now? There is no such thing as reverse racism. There is discrimination, which can happen to anyone in the United States, but the only people who can experience racism are oppressed minorities.

          I’m not even going to touch the second paragraph of your comment. It’s chock full of racist nonsense. Why the hell would someone like you even want to work in librarianship if this is how close minded they are? You’re an embarrassment to our profession.

          • Shannon Simpson says:

            Elizabeth,
            Your comments are extremely troubling. Did you read the article and take a look at the research? You really, really, need to learn a lot more about our shared American history, about privilege and implicit bias, among a load of other things.
            One of the biggest problems I have with discussing hiring, is that there is such a very disturbing assumption that when there is a minority hire that somehow it was merely there minority status that got them the job and not their qualifications or abilities. Many of us did not coast on into any job we wanted, many of us did not get scholarships and many of us are frustrated that we have to work in circumstances where diversity is just this annoying extra nuisance to some of our co-workers.
            I was passed over for a job that went to a young white woman that was a brand new LIS grad. I had many more years of experience and background in the area. I WOULD NEVER assume that the people that did not hire me (I am a woman of color) were racist or even that I was somehow more qualified. What I assume is that I was over-qualified and that they might have really been looking for a new grad to fill the position or a million other things. You never know what a stranger may bring to the table and diversity of people has shown over and over to bring creative and progressive ideas to the table that are much better than when homogeneous groups make decisions. If you want your library to be better, you should want to work with a diverse group of people. The fact that all you saw with the woman that was hired over you was her skin color and made assumptions about her qualifications – most HR departments require minimum qualifications before anyone can step in the door – means that you felt you deserved that job. I would never feel like that! I don’t deserve anything in this world, I am just lucky to have a job and family and roof over my head.
            Your comments are extremely troubling because of the assumptions you are making about people of color that are unfounded and debunked – less intelligence and inability to be from a desirable place? Don’t get me started about what was plundered from the “less desirable places” from wealth to people, in order to build these “more desirable” parts of the world.

        • Elizabeth: this article isn’t about “displac[ing] all whites.” I’m not even sure how you could have taken that idea from the article that I wrote, because it’s certainly not in there. My article is about making our profession inclusive of all the different kinds of people who live in our society, and not discriminating against people based on disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or any other factors.
          Whatever your personal experience in librarianship may be, the numbers very clearly show that our profession in no way represents the demography of our country. And, as your comment so aptly demonstrates, people from underrepresented groups are frequently made to feel like they are unwelcome, that they don’t belong, and that people from the dominant group just want them to go away. Yours is a very harmful statement.

  • […] The quest for diversity in library staffing: from awareness to action […]

  • FLOYD COUNCIL says:

    “Best article, ever.” African American male Librarians can’t even be counted in America. May we all find our place in the village.

  • Shannon Simpson says:

    Jennifer – You should definitely turn this into a conference presentation. In fact, I would use some of the comments here and some recent and not-so recent ALA Think Tank threads, (in Facebook), to illustrate the gap in understanding about the importance of inclusion and the problems in representation among working librarians in the field.

    I conducted research a few years ago on race and debt and scholarships in attaining an MLIS. I had over 1000 responses and left a field for comments. Some of the comments from working librarians were appalling and completely the opposite of what was actually occurring in the field.

    I guess the adage: “Never read the comments,” goes for well-written research and recommendations on respected blogs, as well.

    • Hi, Shannon. Thank you for your encouragement and for responding to comments above! I’m thinking about next steps and have something percolating right now.
      Did you publish the results of your research? If so please add a link or citation here, or send it to me at jennifer [at] vinopal [dot] org. I’d love to see it.

  • Erin Dorney says:

    The editorial board has determined that at least two of the above comments are offensive and in violation of our Code of Conduct. However, we have chosen to leave the comments up because other readers have responded so thoroughly and intelligently. We are opting to preserve the discussion as evidence for exactly why these discussions of inclusivity need to continue. We would like to remind our readers of the “Further Reading” on social justice issues links from our Conduct page, particularly:

    – 18 Things White People Should Know/Do Before Discussing Racism | The Frisky (http://www.thefrisky.com/2014-06-12/18-things-white-people-should-knowdo-before-discussing-racism/)
    – Racism 101: This Shit Doesn’t Go in Reverse | whites educating whites (so POC don’t have to) (http://whiteseducatingwhites.tumblr.com/post/28789498254/racism-101-this-shit-doesnt-go-in-reverse)

    Moving forward, this comment thread will be moderated by the editors and comments will not be approved if they are determined to violate our Code of Conduct.

  • […] Vinopal, Jennifer. “The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action.”  In the Library with the Lead Pipe, January 13, 2016. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/quest-for-diversity/ […]

  • Maha Kumaran says:

    My colleague sent me a link to this interesting article. I am one of the few Canadian librarians interested in diversity in librarianship in Canada. We don’t use the term “color” instead we use “visible minorities.” I am a visible minority and data on minorities in Canadian libraries is hard to find. If interested please do see this article https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/23294

    In 2011 a few foundational members started the visible minority librarians of Canada (ViMLoC) as a network with CLA https://vimloc.wordpress.com/publications/

  • […] and this situation thus forms a fairly homogenous workforce of librarians. If we truly want a diverse workforce of professional librarians, we will have to address this pipeline issue. These respondents mentioned that their experiences […]

  • […] inclusion through her blog At the Intersection. I also recommend Jennifer Vinopal’s essay, The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action, for understanding how privilege, bias, and power effect diversity and inclusion in our field. Her […]

  • […] post is a follow up to my recent In the Library with the Lead Pipe article entitled The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action. I ended that article with “Brass Tacks for Library Leaders,” suggesting some concrete […]

  • […] my recent article “The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action,” published In The Library With the Lead Pipe, I look at a common survey tool used to evaluate […]

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