This lack of diversity has been lamented as a problem for decades, yet in spite of efforts to increase the diversity of the library workforce, there has been minimal progress. Much has been written about how to increase diversity in libraries, including suggestions for improving every step of the process from library and information science education, to hiring and retaining a more diverse workforce, to developing diverse collections and library programs. Libraries are not the only work setting that faces a problem with diversity. However, given that the public library is a forum that serves a variety of communities and interests, it is critical to develop a public library workforce that more accurately reflects the diverse backgrounds that public libraries serve.
Posts Tagged ‘public libraries and diversity’
The library workforce fails to reflect the increasing diversity of our communities. It’s time for effective change.
As a result of recent violent events and historical reflection, public libraries are increasing efforts to advance racial equality and provide resources for conversations and greater communication between diverse groups of people and more engagement with local libraries and their programs.
As much as I love my local library, it has become predictable in its timing and placement of diverse books. In February, I can always count on seeing a large selection of books promoting Black History Month. Many of these titles I’ve never seen throughout the year, but because it’s Black History Month, there they all are, standing proud, front and center. The same is true for National Hispanic Month from mid-September to mid-October, Asian Pacific American month in May, and American Indian Heritage month in November. For the other eight months of the year, the displays are filled with the usual books featuring white characters or happy-friendly animals.
The St. Paul Public Library in Minnesota is proving that the public library is one of the most valuable places in town, especially for an under-represented immigrant population — the Karen. In December, mayor Chris Coleman announced that the library had curated and published two Karen language children’s books, which were then handed out at a special book launch and read at a December storytime.
Back when I was in school settings, first as teacher and later as librarian, I greatly adored the publication Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. When I left educational institutions and entered the public library system, my commitment to issues of diversity, equality, and justice remained strong. Over the years in the public library, I have struggled with how to continue to “teach tolerance” while not in the role of “teacher.” I have tried to pursue these values in different ways for not only the public but also for the staff and my library board. For my community, I have engaged these concepts through collection development, displays, and programming. For staff, I have provided both formal professional development opportunities and informal discussion on the distinctions between difference and danger. For the library board, I’ve crafted policy to support these values and explained the importance of being conscious of these issues and implementing policy.
The January/February 2016 issue of Public Libraries will focus on Diversity as it relates to public libraries, public library services and collections, and public librarians. We’re looking for feature articles and shorter opinion pieces on that subject. Take advantage of this opportunity to share your ideas or programming, or your library’s successes, with colleagues across the country. Your article can focus on any type of diversity efforts, examples include: