Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Struggle to Diversify Library Staff, part 4

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi with moderator and ASL interpreter
Earlier this month, I wrote three blog posts about diversifying the profession. Many people read the first post, with a smaller number reading the ideas listed in part 2, and fewer reading my radical idea in part 3. That means that most people never got to the idea I put forth after asking, "how does library education need to change in order to have the diversity we desire in our libraries?" Too bad. No wonder there was no push-back on the idea!

Last night I had an opportunity to hear Dr. Ibram X. Kendi speak. Listening to him, I realized that those posts do not use the phrase "structural racism" or even the word "racism," yet clearly the structure (or pathway) which leads to becoming a librarian is racist if it inhibits people of color from that path. Yes, some people of color Black, brown and indigenous people do successfully become librarians, but not enough. 

So let me ask:

How do we prompt real change? 

What needs to change so there is real change?

I hope you will share with me, or with others, your ideas.

Ocr. 27, 2020: This article in tangential to the topic of diversifying library staff, yet I think it is important to remember: Iowa City Public Library to focus on DEI, alternatives to police intervention in new strategic plan.


Alec said...

If the premise is false, the conclusion usually is false. Your premise is dependent upon race as a separate and distinct thing. Derrick Johnson, the CEO and President of the NAACP says that he does not believe in the concept of separate but equal. The concept of race is the concept of five distinct and exclusive classes. Inclusion is the absence of exclusion. Having five distinct races is the definition of exclusion, not inclusion. Having five separate races that seek equity is precisely what separate but equal means.

Then the folly is found in the first of four posts, and I quote:

Use marketing to show that there is already ethnic diversity in the field. In other words, you (the recruit) would be joining people who are like yourself.

The irony of this statement is lost upon the author and the profession. This statement makes clear the exclusion of classes, and implies the need for beefing-up the excluded classes so that they make up a numeric balance that implies equity. It is illogical and untenable.

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...


Thank you for your comment. My apologies for not approving it sooner so others could read it. (It's now Dec. 23) Clearly, I do not moderate comments as quickly as I should. Most are actually canned ham, so I'm thrilled when I find one that is on topic.

You quote a tactic from Post 2, which is among ideas I pulled out of my old work journals. They all have some merit, however, they are short-sighted. This is something that requires us taking a multi-pronged approach.

I know from what you have posted elsewhere that our thoughts about race are different. I believe that race is a construct that is used in our world and we cannot ignore it. Perhaps there is a future when race will be an archaic idea.


Paul Signorelli said...

"How do we prompt real change?" By committing to being part of the positive change we are proposing to make; by working with colleagues who are equally committed to prompting real [positive] change; and by working with those who will be positively affected by any [positive] real change we foster might be great places to start.

"What needs to change so there is real change?" Looking at, acknowledging, and drawing attention to the negative impacts our current situations cause for significant numbers of people in our communities is one of many possible starting points. Recognizing and acting upon the idea that each of us can play a small part in promoting strong, positive, cumulative results is another. And using our ears to listent to those who oppose our ideas as well as to listen to those who support those ideas is a third, essential part of identifying what needs to be done to produce real [positive] change. No, none of this is easy. And none of it becomes easier through procrastination. As a cherished friend and colleague recently asked in a different context, "If not now, when?"