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Diversity within libraries

In my previous post, I discussed a film we had seen regarding librarianship as a profession in 1947. In that post I briefly mentioned the lack of diversity within the information professional workforce.  While writing that entry I came across this blog by Mr. Library Dude. He discusses the lack of diversity found within the workforce in America.  I wanted to see if this may also be true in Canada.


Lily white or Lego yellow? [screen shot from Lego website]

White or Lego yellow?


While researching I came across this article  by Mary Kandiuk, that highlights this issue of lack of diversity within the Canadian Academic Libraries as well. Specifically they mention that only 7% of academic librarians are visible minorities.

Both these articles lead to some interesting question posed by the authors regarding LIS as a profession.  Is there not enough recruitment of people that are ethnically diverse? Why does librarianship not attract as many minorities? Is there a lack of promoting and mentorship?

This issue is one of concern. When considering recruitment of a professional workforce it is important that it is reflective of the community it serves. By having librarians that speak the languages that are prominent in their community; by knowing what the needs (programs, services, collection) of that minority group within their community are and how to meet them; libraries may in turn be better able to serve their community.


A look at the Changes in librarianship.

Okay so a lot has happened since 1947. From the invention of the internet to the first black president to the rise and fall of Justin Bieber. Our society has rapidly changed in the last 6 decades. Librarianship, too has had to adapt to the changing world we live in.

So, I recently watched a film for a class assignment which personifies this statement. The Librarian 1947 Vocational Guidance Films. It is very interesting to note the changes that have occurred in the profession as well as the things that remain the same.

The most glaringly obvious similarity, to me anyway, was the fact that the workforce was and is still currently dominated by women. And dare I say it… white women. This lack of diversity in the film is more a statement of its time period than anything else, however it is no less true today. The ALA released a report in 2010 that highlighted this lack of diversity.  Out of the 118 666 librarians they surveyed,  83% were female and 87% were white. This leads to an interesting question. Why is there such a lack of diversity in librarianship as a profession?

Another common trend between  then and now is the acceptance of emerging technologies. In recent years this acceptance has almost become necessary to stay relevant in the constantly changing society. From the introduction of digital librarians to the concept of next generation librarianship, there is a movement towards a more technologically advanced LIS community. Even this blog is the sign of the changing environment we are currently in. It is very interesting to note the librarians have always been open to such advances.

Something that struck out to me was the almost boxed up categories of what an information professional is (reference, school, circulation, cataloging, reader advisory). We no longer have such limited categories of librarianship and no longer are we only working in the typical library.  A blog by Mia Breitkopf lists some of these atypical job titles (all lacking the word librarian), including the more unusual wine librarians to the more conventional Digital Archives Systems Administrator. I was happily surprised by the multiple different direction I could go with this degree.

What makes up a good librarian. Well in this film it is simple:

1. Have you a real love of books?

2. Do you like people and do people like you, do you like ALL kinds of people?

I think it is an universally accepted fact that librarians should love to read. And yes liking people is something that would help in traditional librarianship. However, I don’t believe these two qualities can limit or lead to success alone. The characteristics of what defines a good librarian is not as static as this makes it out to be. Not all people who meet the above criteria will necessarily make good librarians. And really loving to read is not a requirement of librarianship (helpful and most likely true but not required). Thus we should not try to limit and/or recruit people based on these characteristics alone.

Finally, the most depressing thought of all is the fact that in 1947, librarianship was a career of the future, with job opportunities aplenty. Sadly with recent downturns in the job market, higher salaries, and budgetary concerns, this is not so true anymore. However, even with such changes, LIS is still as an exciting potential career. You may have to be more creative and think outside the categorical box to get employed, but there is still hope!