[iDiversity] Diversity issues in library programs and the
JohnnyOtto at aol.com
JohnnyOtto at aol.com
Fri Dec 4 09:59:20 PST 2009
Interesting that this article seems to interpret "diversity" only in terms
of race and ethnicity.
In a message dated 12/4/2009 1:00:35 A.M. Pacific Standard Time,
cyn at u.washington.edu writes:
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
Informed Librarian Online -- Guest Forum -- _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
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
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
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.
4. Martin, RR. Changing the university climate: three libraries
respond to multicultural students. Journal of Academic Librarianship.
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.
7. Davis, DM, Hall, TD. Diversity Counts. Chicago: Office for
Research and Statistics, Office of Diversity, American Library Association
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
The Information School
ngersh at uw.edu
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