Diversity in the Library

Do you feel welcome and included in your library or information center? Do your co-workers and clients? The answers may surprise you.

All too often, diversity—as measured by the presence of women and minorities—has served as a proxy for an inclusive and welcoming environment. But hiring more women and minorities and making your services more accessible to them are only two of several steps to achieving inclusivity, and not necessarily the first ones you should take.

The November-December issue of Information Outlook addresses some of the many issues related to diversity, including identifying and reducing implicit biases and microaggressions, defining and creating an inclusive culture, advancing equity and social justice, and increasing awareness of barriers to accessibility and taking steps to eliminate them. One theme running through the articles and personal reflections is the importance of creating an environment that encourages conversation about diversity and provides a safe space for sharing different points of view.

The November-December issue also contains the second installment of the new “Info Careers” column, this one by Cindy Coan. After losing her job at a museum library in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Cindy tried to connect with another library, but no job offers came her way. Needing to generate some income while she searched for a new job, she turned to book indexing to tide her over. More than 15 years later, her sideline has become her full-time job, which she enhanced in 2007 by adding document translation services.

Ann Cullen rounds out this issue with a look at how librarians are supporting experiential field-based learning courses in business programs at universities. Her article, based on a contributed paper she presented at the SLA 2018 Annual Conference, presents a framework that could be useful in examining other areas where librarians provide research support.

To read Ann’s “Info Research” column or any of the other contents of this issue, click on the links below.

‘Keep an Open Mind and Appreciate Different Perspectives’
An interview with Dr. Michele A.L. Villagran
“I don’t think there’s a checklist where you just say, check, check, check, check, and now we’re there, we’re done. It’s a process; it’s ongoing. What I think there is are signs, which is probably a better way to answer this. There are signs that you are improving or progressing or your organization is valuing diversity and inclusion.”

Starting the Conversation: The Disabled Library Patron
Senovia Guevara
“Starting a conversation in your library about how your team currently meets the expectations of your patrons is routine in many libraries. Generating ideas on how to better meet the future needs of patrons, regardless of their ability to access your library or information center, can become a natural part of that conversation.”

Diversity is Not a Trend
Natasha S. Chowdory
“The hardest thing about talking about diversity is that it means something different to each person. For me, it means getting more women into senior positions. (It’s a standard trope in the U.K. that you can have a predominantly female profession but only male directors). But it also means seeing more BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) individuals in library roles. However, this approach is not without its own problems, as it results in ‘positive discrimination’ and programs geared at funnelling BAME individuals into senior positions.”

Diversity Matters for Success
Flordalisa Lopez-Terrones
“Being exposed to so many different organizations and work environments has widened my skill set, which I believe brings value to my current employment. Success, in my experience, is providing superior service to our customers by having diversity in both our personnel and our collection. The term diversity is very gray; we can take it in many directions. The firm where I’m employed is fairly diverse, and even though I illustrate success, a lot of work still needs to be done.”

Business Librarians’ Involvement in Experiential Field-based Learning Courses
Ann Cullen
“My research identified three approaches business librarians are taking with FBL project courses: self-service, on-demand, and embedded. These approaches can be characterized by their positioning with FBL courses—either proactive or reactive . . . The three-approaches-to-support framework could be a useful tool for examining other areas of research support where librarians are assuming more proactive roles.”

When Life Throws You a Series of Curves
Cynthia J. Coan
“Looking back on my working life, it seems that the element of the unexpected has been a recurring theme. Often, what has transpired has been a far cry from what I thought I had signed up for. Yet, through all the messy, unpredictable twists and turns, I have managed to learn new skills and to grow, often in ways I might not have if my career had remained on a predictable path.”

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