lack of diversity

I attended a couple of programs which focused on the lack of diversity in the profession: one on the dearth of black male librarians and another on the rarity of Asian/Pacific American leaders in libraries.

On June 28, 2008, I caught the latter part of the panel, “An Endangered Species: The Black Male Librarian.” Sponsored by BCALA, the panel was convened and moderated by Julius Jefferson, Jr., my friend, co-CIRLA Fellow, and a librarian with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress (LC). The panel included two CIRLA Fellows mentors: Beacher Wiggins, Director of LC’s Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate, and Johnnie Love, Coordinator of Personnel Programs at the University of Maryland Libraries. Also on the panel were: Stanton Biddle, Administrative Services Librarian at Baruch College, Alma Dawson, Professor in Library and Information Science at Louisiana State University, and Damon Austin, Agricultural Sciences Librarian at the University of Maryland Libraries.

The well-attended program discussed the fact that only .5% (or less than 600) of all librarians are black males. The panelists and audience members talked about recruitment ideas: making librarianship sexy, early literacy education, applying specific interests (e.g., sports) to the LIS field, scholarships, mentoring, etc.

The following day, I attended APALA‘s program, entitled “Asian/Pacific American Library Leaders: A Rare Commodity.” The panelists were: Ling Hwey Jeng, Director of the School of Library & Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University, Heawon Paick, Manager of the Junipero Serra Branch Library, Ben Wakashige, System Director of Learning Resource Centers at National American University, and Patty Wong, County Librarian/Chief Archivist for Yolo County Library.

The panelists talked about how their paths to their leadership positions. They all stressed the importance of a can-do attitude, networking, and mentoring.

It is very interesting that these two programs both occurred at a time when the presiding ALA President is Loriene Roy, the first Native American in this position. Clearly, while librarianship is making some headway into racial diversity, there remains much to be done.

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