[iDiversity] Diversity issues in library programs and the profession
Cynthia del Rosario
cyn at u.washington.edu
Fri Dec 4 00:59:09 PST 2009
From: Nancy Gershenfeld
Passing along a column from the newsletter "The Informed Librarian". The profession as a whole is aging, so the future is wide open. This is, of course, not a new issue in the least, but the point that the population as a whole in the U.S. is continuing to shift in ethnic diversity heightens the disparity in the profession.
The article URL is http://www.informedlibrarian.com/guestForum.cfm?FILE=gf0912.html
Informed Librarian Online -- Guest Forum -- www.informedlibrarian.com<http://www.informedlibrarian.com/www.informedlibrarian.com>
Changing the Face of Librarianship: Musings on Diversity
by Taryn Resnick
Recruiting and recruiting a diverse workforce has long been a "hot-button" issue in librarianship. This issue nudged its way into my consciousness while enrolled in the M.L.S. program at Queens College, City University of New York, a public university in Queens, New York, the most ethnically diverse county in the United States, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Looking at myself and my classmates, I realized what will come as no surprise to anyone who works in a library: the majority of my classmates were older, white, and female, a group that I myself fit into. Was there a strange disconnect in my newly chosen profession?
Even the most cursory analysis of immigration and fertility data and other demographic trends reveals that the population of the United States is becoming increasingly racially and ethnically diverse, with rapid population gains over the past 20-30 years among racial/ethnic groups, such as Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders, and African-Americans, officially characterized as minorities. According to the 2000 Census, already over one-quarter of the current U.S. population is minority (1-3). Current trends are predicted to continue by government, legal and scholarly experts, with the result that minorities will challenge, and in many locations overtake (or already have overtaken), the numerical superiority of the long-standing majority Caucasian population (4,5). This shift in population patterns will be especially pronounced in the younger segment of the population, which will more than double between 1995 and 2050, whereas the Caucasian youth population will decline (6).
There is universal agreement that the present library workforce, as well as library school enrollment, is overwhelmingly Caucasian and, as such, does not reflect and accommodate the demographic characteristics of the general population. The American Library Association (ALA) reported in 2007 that 89% of professional librarians in the United States are Caucasian (7). Examining enrollment statistics in ALA-accredited library schools, the source of the library professional workforce, reveals a similar pattern of Caucasian preponderance that has not significantly shifted over the past 25 years. In the most recent Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Report, showing 2003 enrollment, minorities accounted for roughly 10% of the total enrollment in library science master's programs, while comprising nearly 30% of the general population (3).
Within the profession itself, there has been extensive examination and debate about the lack of diversity in libraries. Perhaps because the rhetoric underlying the very concept of libraries has long emphasized them as the most democratic of institutions, committed to providing service and resources without consideration for characteristics such as age, race, income, or ethnicity, our failings in this area appear all the more glaring. A number of mechanisms and programmatic responses have been put into place by various important library organizations and associations, such as ALA and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), to resolve long-standing problems that have prevented minorities from entering the library and information science field or from progressing to positions of authority once they have entered.
Can we unpick the challenges specific to minority recruitment and retention from those facing libraries and librarianship in general? McCook and Geist characterize librarianship as an "invisible profession" for minorities (8), but how visible a career is it to the general population? The library science field does face particular challenges in attempting to recruit minorities, but many of those challenges are also much broader. The general public has little comprehension of what librarians do, it is a relatively small field, is not highly visible or prestigious, and salaries are low. Librarianship also requires a graduate degree for professional status, which can be a considerable obstacle. Significantly, Census data reveals that graduate degrees-any graduate degrees--are pursued by and awarded to several minority groups (African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives) at rates far below their representation in the general population (9), indicating problems far deeper than those of any one profession.
In keeping with the demographic trends previously described, enrollment of minorities in colleges and universities has been increasing over the past thirty years, but this has not been reflected in library and information science program enrollments (1,10). Statistics from the National Center of Education Statistics illustrate that minorities are pursuing higher education, but they are certainly not choosing library science. Library science was not among the top ten professions for any of the U.S. Census Bureau designated racial/ethnic minority groupings. For minority candidates with the skills and interests that would be complemented by careers in library science, far more lucrative and in-demand options such as information systems management, engineering, and allied health professions easily win out (1), often in corporations and other organizations that offer substantially higher salaries and have much faster, more flexible recruitment processes in place (11). Unfortunately for the future of librarianship, most of these statements also still hold true with the word "minority" removed from them.
The imperative to make library science accessible and attractive to a full range of candidates of all backgrounds is made even more urgent by one overriding characteristic of the current librarian workforce. Library science tends to be a second career, making librarianship an older profession. For example, since 1990 most individuals entering library school have been over thirty years old (3,7). Studies in 1999 and 2002 found that the majority (up to 62%) of all librarians were between forty and sixty-four years old and 4% were over sixty-five, meaning that up to two-thirds of librarians now working will be retiring within the next twenty years (12,13), causing a severe shortage of librarians that will be further aggravated by critical shortfalls in the numbers of candidates available to replace these retirees (13,14).
There is undeniably a critical lack of diversity in professional librarianship. Addressing this issue requires profound commitment and coordinated, ongoing, aggressive, large-scale outreach, public education, and marketing efforts (8,15,16). Such actions inevitably expand beyond the intended audiences and have broader effects, if the past is any guide. Ideally, measures to increase diversity should strengthen librarianship overall as a profession by making it more visible, flexible, and able to encompass a full spectrum of voices and views.
1. Gandhi, S. Cultural diversity and libraries: reaching the goal. Current Studies in Librarianship. 2000;24:55-65.
2. Josey, EJ, Abdullahi, I. Why diversity in American libraries. Library Management 2002;23:10-16. <http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0143-5124.htm>
3. Saye, JD, Wisser, KM. Students. Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report 2004. Chapel Hill: Association for Library and Information Science Education, 2004. <http://ils.unc.edu/ALISE/2004/Students/Students.htm>
4. Martin, RR. Changing the university climate: three libraries respond to multicultural students. Journal of Academic Librarianship. 1994;20:2-9.
5. Turock, BJ. Developing diverse professional leaders. New Library World. 2003;104:491-498. <http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0307-4803.htm>
6. Jones, D. Demographic shifts call for cross-cultural competence in library professionals. Leading Ideas 2000;12. <http://www.arl.org/diversity/leading/issue12/jones.html>
7. Davis, DM, Hall, TD. Diversity Counts. Chicago: Office for Research and Statistics, Office of Diversity, American Library Association Education, 2007. <http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/diversity/diversitycounts/diversitycounts_rev0.pdf>
8. McCook, KP, Geist, P. Diversity deferred: where are the minority librarians? Library Journal. 1993;118:35-38.
9. Lance, KC. Racial and ethnic diversity of U.S. library workers. Library Journal. 2005;36:41-43.
10. McCook, KP, Lippincott, K. Library schools and diversity: who makes the grade? Library Journal. 1997;122:30-32.
11. Raschke, GK. Hiring and replacement practices in academic libraries: problems and solutions. Portal: Libraries and the Academy. 2003;3:53-67.
12. Lynch, MJ. (March 2002) Reaching 65: lots of librarians will be there soon. American Libraries. 2002;33:55-57.
13. Hewitt, JA, Moran, BA, Marsh, ME. Finding our replacements: one institution's approach to recruiting academic librarians. Portal: Libraries and the Academy. 2003;3: 179-189.
14. Wilder, SJ. The age demographics of academic librarians: a profession apart. Journal of Library Administration. 1999;28:37-48.
15. Kaufman, PT. Where do the next "we" come from? Recruiting, retaining and developing our successors. ARL. 2002;221:1-5.
16. St. Lifer, E, Nelson, C. Unequal opportunities: race does matter. Library Journal. 1997;122: 42-46.
Copyright 2009 by Taryn Resnick
About the Author:
Taryn Resnick has been a Resources Management Librarian and faculty member at the Texas A&M University Medical Sciences Library in College Station, Texas since 2004. After managing and administering basic science research laboratories at two universities, her experience in academic medicine, combined with a life-long love of reading, research, and locating and organizing information, led her into medical librarianship. The underlying principle of Taryn's work in librarianship is providing access to information, primarily through the management of the overall life cycle processes for electronic resources. Her research interests include the roles libraries play in the evolution of scholarly communication, copyright, and technologies in a networked world.
The Information School
ngersh at uw.edu
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