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

The Importance of Having a Diverse Staff

 

By: Jessica Morales

While researching for advantages to maintaining a diverse staff the following reasons became common to me as I saw them repeated in slight variations in different articles.

  • A cultural staff would be beneficial in deciding service and materials for specific groups of library patrons
  • Staff members who are bi-lingual can help non-English speaking patrons
  • Hiring staff that reflects the community often increases the number of users in that community
  • Having a diverse staff allows you to think outside of the box
  • Staff members will have their cultural differences to share with one another. Thus, a learning atmosphere will be created. (“Reasons for Hiring a Diverse Staff,” 2007)

After reading these I began to wonder why people find security in ethnicity rather than the ability one has to aid them in accessing the information they desire.

Continuing on with my research, I kept coming across Meeting the Health Information Needs of a Diverse Population. It came up in several of my searches on different databases and I kept disregarding it until, I finally succumbed.  My earlier thoughts of ethnicity playing a role in the way information is accessed began to come to light.

This article discusses the important role the library plays in distributing information regarding health to diverse communities. Also, how the library is able to lift barriers for those seeking information about health. (Alpi & Bibel, 2004) After reading this everything became relevant. What if I were in a situation where a language barrier prevented me from gaining access to information as important as health. I am certain that the sight of someone I knew that could communicate with me would be welcomed. Undoubtedly, there are other staff members from different ethnicities that are able to communicate in other languages. However, I would have to imagine that some sort of comfort must exist is seeing someone who MAY speak your native tongue, when you are surrounded by a majority that does not.

 

Discussion Questions:

What are some other situations that you think having a diverse staff would be beneficial?

Can you think of a situation where interacting with people who share your ethnicity makes a difference?

 

References:

Alpi, K. M., & Bibel, B. M. (2004). Meeting the Health Information Needs of Diverse Populations. [Feature]. Library Trends, 53(2), 268-282.

Reasons for Hiring a Diverse Staff (2007). [Feature]. Illinois Library Association Reporter, 25(5), 21.

 

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3 Responses to “The Importance of Having a Diverse Staff”

  1. I lived abroad for a few years, so I have been in the situation where I was the one looking for some familiarity. I don’t think most people move to a foreign culture with the plan of searching out others who speak the same language or come from the same background; however, finding someone who is relatable makes the experience more fun and easier to deal with.

    Trying to get basic tasks accomplished with a less than perfect grasp of a language can be very difficult. I recall the hassle of trying to acquire the correct type of debit card which could be used in a washing machine. Theoretically simple, but I had to go through several employees and use a lot of broken Finnish before I was rewarded with the card I needed.

    Using a library can cause similar headaches. The public library in the large city where I attended university had signs and forms in English, as well as an extensive English book and periodical section. While all staff members may not have felt entirely comfortable speaking English, there was always someone available with the fluency needed to help. Comparing that library with the small public library in the town where I was a teacher shows the tremendous differences which can exist just a few miles (or kilometers) down the road. In the small town library, the staff had few people who felt even slightly comfortable speaking English and all signs and forms were in Finnish. Sure, it helped me to learn the language, but it also made certain things more complicated (and the English book selection was limited to only a few shelves).

    I always have to remind myself that I lived in a country with a small population where most foreigners were able to survive in English and many Finns could speak it fairly well. It is hard to translate those statistics to the US. That should not stop us from trying to transform libraries into places where patrons feel comfortable interacting in their own languages with staff members who have an appreciation for or an understanding of their languages and cultures.

  2. Eric, thanks for affirming some of my assumptions. I was skeptical at first to post this blog. I, myself was having a hard time finding the correlation of security in ethnicity rather than ability to provide a service.

  3. If you’re using your network resources heavily, the automatic online backup reviews setting did not include video files. Sadly, the pesky pre-nup that she was with Nate before.


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