Despite great effort from individuals on our staff, the racial diversity of the library’s employees has remained largely unchanged, mirroring the stagnant demographics of the profession. Over the last year, we’ve come to understand more about why we have failed and gained critical insight into how we might succeed in the future via a bolder approach that we are now advocating for, in our library and libraries across the US: by investing time and money in Post-Baccalaureate Diversity Recruitment Fellowships.
Type of Library
Diversification, Failure, Diversity
We've Failed at Diversifying Our Librarian Ranks, Now What ? A Plan for Addressing the "Pipeline" Problem
Like many libraries, at our library, we have tried for many years to racially diversify our profession. One of our librarians even made it to the Library Journal " Movers & Shakers" list for raising awareness of the library profession to students of color through presentations, videos, dinners, and icebreaking activities. But despite our intentions and past efforts, the situation has not improved significantly. Let's face it, we have all failed miserably: currently, the racial composition of librarianship, both at our library and in the librarian profession-at-large, is woefully unrepresentative of the United States’ population. Moreover, despite numerous analyses of this problem over the past decades, the demographics have remained stagnant. For example, for the past decade, our staff of roughly 40 professional librarians has not included any African American librarians. The Institute of Museum and Library Services tweeted a graph in November 2017, showing that the problem is nation-wide (see: https://twitter.com/US_IMLS/status/927922066896146432).
Although we might take comfort in knowing that it's not just us — that the profession as a whole has not been able to diversity its ranks — at our library we are not satisfied by the reason that many leaders in our field give for the whiteness of our profession, namely that the issue is "simply" a lack of a diverse MLS holders. At our library, we are attempting to address this problem at the root, by making graduate school in library science more financially accessible to people of color. This past year and a half, a group of library staff have worked out a proposal for a Post-Baccalaureate Diversity Recruitment Fellowship in which participants would have their tuition and educational expenses financially covered while attending library school and working at our library. The aim is to recruit people of color into the field of librarianship, thus increasing the pool of librarians of color both at our library and in the profession at large by removing the financial barrier of the cost of attaining a graduate dress in Library and Information Studies.
We will outline the previous approaches as well, so that we can learn collectively about what did not work. For example, over the years, we held recruitment events for students of color; we post our jobs to listservs of the library ethnic caucuses; we have included diversity language in our recruitment and personnel materials. What we have found is that some of the efforts were inconsistent, not fully supported by library administrations, or simply not bold or big enough. There are other reasons that we will also discuss.
-A positive new idea – a Diversity Fellowship that has been fleshed out in a proposal template that we will share.
-Work on this proposal has established inclusion as a priority for library staff, catching the attention of the Dean who has looked for ways to make this a reality.