Looking through notes I'd taken in an old work journal - and then looking at blog posts I've written - I can see this ongoing focus on diversifying library science students and library staff. This is something the profession has talked about for a long time and has engaged in focused activities. Sadly, the overall diversity of our LIS programs and library staff is not what we want it to be. Why?
Disclaimer: I need to stop and say that what follows is my point of view. Mine and no one else's.
First, we need to recognize that our public libraries were not originally for the public. They grew out of men's and women's clubs, which were not open to everyone. In addition, we need to remember that public libraries in the U.S. were segregated, meaning that Black people did not have the same access as those who were White. We need to acknowledge that academic institutions were segregated for many years. Historic Black colleges and universities (HBCU) offered LIS degrees, because people of color could not attend White institutions. Yes, now libraries are reportedly for everyone and anyone can hopefully attend any academic institution.
As a side note, here is the original "Library's Bill of Rights" passed by ALA in June 1939. This version says nothing about who can use the library. or if they can use the same materials. The current version of the Bill of Rights includes:
A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
Second, to be a professional librarian, you need an accredited master's degree. A student needs to have a bachelor's degree and be accepted to a master's program. Not everyone makes that cut. And the student needs to be able to afford - in money and time - to attend that master's program. Not everyone has the money and not everyone has the time.
2019 information from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 40% of Black students finish their undergraduate education compared to 64% of White students. This means that fewer Black students are eligible to attend graduate school. How many of them will see LIS as their career choice?
We know that student loan debt adversely affects many students. How many students can afford to take on more debt? Given the salary for librarians, is that debt a good choice?
Are LIS programs prioritizing scholarships to educate those Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) who have a bachelor's degree and have decided that they want to become librarians?
There is an important point in there. Are we attracting diverse people to librarianship? Can we find those who have a bachelor's degree and are interested in library science? This is where LIS programs, LIS associations, and others spend their time and efforts. This is where some get frustrated, while others may have some success. This is where being methodical is important, but being methodical requires patience and we're not always patient.
And this is where we'll pick up in Part 2.
There are many resources on this topic. Below are related posts that I've written. As you can see, this has been important to me for a long time.
- Resources about Racism. Digitization 101. June 2020.
- The Art of Listening. Digitization 101. Feb. 2020.
- #ALAmw20 Day 2: Sustainability, Diversity, Change, and More. Digitization 101. Jan. 2020.
- #ALAac19 : Bias, microaggressions, diversity, and inclusion. Digitization 101. July 2019.
- Totally Off-Topic: Sample Interview Questions – Diversity and Equity. Digitization 101. Feb. 2019.
- #ALISE2018 : A Critical Dialogue: Faculty of Color in Library and Information Science. Digitization 101. Feb. 2018.
- Diversity on Both Sides of the Desk. Online Searcher, 2018, v. 42, n. 2.
- What Color is Your Robot? Digitization 101. Dec. 2016.
- #ALISE2015 : Re-constructing Utopia: How LIS educators and practitioners can dismantle structural racism on the Internet and in the profession. Digitization 101. Jan. 2015