Diversity in Libraries
A blog for exploring and discussing the topics of diversity and multiculturalism in libraries.

Diversity in Staff

By Jessica Morales

Close your eyes and picture a librarian. What do you see?

“Credentialed librarians are predominantly women ages 45-54 and white.” (“Diversity Research and Statistics,” June 13, 2008) In 2000, 89 percent of credentialed librarians selected white as their ethnicity while the U.S. census declared that 75.1 percent of the population was white. African Americans were reported as making up 5 percent of the library workforce, and 12.3 percent of the population. Latinos represented 2 percent or librarians and 12.5 percent of the population. Asian and Pacific Islanders  and individuals claiming two or more ethnicities made up 4 percent of  librarians. A more recent but, smaller demographic look at the makeup of the ethnic diversity within library staffs revealed similar numbers. In 2006, 9,137 ALA members responded to a survey and the results were 89 percent of ALA members were white, 4.5 percent Black, 3 percent Hispanic, 1.4 percent Native American and 2.7 percent API. (“Diversity Research and Statistics,” June 13, 2008)

These numbers reveal that in the library profession minorities are underrepresented in relation to the percentage of the population they make up. Why? Efforts have been made to increase the number of minorities in the profession. The ALA has a diversity office that is dedicated to the study of diversity and the retention of employees. However, it would seem that they have been unsuccessful.

In an article in the Library Journal, Tony Grenier claims that it is not a lack of trying to recruit but rather the requirement of a master’s degree that is preventing minorities from entering this field. “African Americans and Latinos, coming from families with incomes often below the median, graduate in numbers lower than their population percentage.” (Greiner, 2008) The number one reason why ANY college student drops out of school is financial burden. (Pratt, 2008)This may be seen as more of an obstacle to specific minority groups because they often come from families that are unable to help them fund their educational goals.

Grenier’s suggestion for a solution is to make the requirement a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position. He states,”Except for the better-paying fields of law and medicine, library science is one of the few professions to require a graduate degree for an entry-level position.” (Greiner, 2008) In result, lowering the financial burden of an additional degree would open the door for more minorities to be able to participate in the library profession.

I think as a society we need to promote self-investment. We need to encourage people, specifically minorities, to not be scared to invest in themselves through education. What do you think? How can we encourage more people of diverse backgrounds to enter into librarianship?

References

Diversity Research and Statistics (June 13, 2008).  Retrieved November 10, 2009, from http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/diversity/diversityresearchstatistics/index.cfm

Greiner, T.  (2008, May). Diversity and the MLS. Library Journal, 133(8), 36.  Retrieved November 16, 2009, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1473388641).

Pratt, B. (2008). 1.5 Million College Students Expected to Drop Out in 2008 Due to Financial Pressure, from http://www.pr.com

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