September finds us welcoming two new Mary P. Key diversity residents to the OSU Libraries.   You can read more about Pamela Espinosa de los Monteros and Darnelle Melvin here []. Welcome Pamela and Darnelle!

Concurrently, Karla Strieb shared with me a recent posting she received as a member of the ALA ALCTS Board of Directors.   The blog posting reports on a virtual roundtable discussion on racial and ethnic diversity in librarianship which was convened after an ACRL 2015 presentation on research conducted on race, identity and diversity in academic librarianship.   Key participants in the presentation and the virtual roundtable were our own Dracine Hodges and Juleah Swanson (both former Key Residents).

Here is important context from the introduction:

The discussion of racial and ethnic diversity in libraries is a subset of the larger discussion of race in the United States. For anyone participating in these discussions, the experience can be difficult and uncomfortable. Such discussions can be academic in nature, but very often they are personal and subjective. In the United States, our long history of avoiding difficult and meaningful conversations about race has made it challenging for some people to perceive or comprehend disparities in representation and privilege. Fear often plays a significant role as a barrier to engaging in these conversations. Fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of change, and the perceived possibility of losing control can complicate these discussions. Participants in these conversations have to be willing to concede a certain amount of vulnerability in order to move the discussion forward, but vulnerability makes many people uncomfortable, which in turn makes it easy to just avoid the discussion altogether.

What follows is a virtual roundtable discussion where we speak openly about why diversity really matters, what actions can be taken, and suggest questions for readers to consider, share, and discuss in honest and open conversations with colleagues. At times, authors reveal the very real struggle to articulate or grapple with the questions, just as one might encounter in a face-to-face conversation. But, ultimately, by continuing this conversation we work to advance our profession’s understanding of the complexity of race and ethnic diversity in librarianship, and to strive toward creating sustainable collaborations and lasting change in a profession that continues to face significant challenges in maintaining race and ethnic diversity.

  • From Dracine Hodges: The roundtable then moves into moving and articulate discussion of diversity.   Here are some pieces that resonated with me:

With that in mind, I think diversity matters in relation to the relevance of services being provided to meet practical and extraordinary needs. Needs that are diverse not only because of ethnicity and race, but also because of religion, gender, socioeconomic status, physical ability, etc.

With recent headlines related to racism and violence, it is easy to see the connectivity of libraries in the pursuit of social justice ideals. So much of the conversation we’ve been having pertains to administrative and cultural constructs that frustrate diversity. These are large and lofty issues in scope. I often think their enormity makes us dismissive of the tangible impacts of diversity in the commonplace work performed in libraries every day.

I’ve heard many anecdotal stories from colleagues, both of color and white, who were able to customize or enhance instruction for an individual or group because of personal insights and experiences related to issues like English as a Foreign Language and format accessibility. Perhaps mountains were not moved, but to the individuals who benefited hills were climbed.

  • From Isabel Gonzalez-Smith: Diversity matters because we all play a part in the messages we disseminate, regardless of how we identify. Librarians contribute towards the preservation and accessibility of information, representations of authority in the intellectual sphere, and advocating against censorship. What is the message that our collections, library staff representation, research, or programming gives to the communities we serve? And what are we doing to serve our patrons in ways that take into account their race and/or ethnicity?
  • From Dracine Hodges: I care about diversity for the very reasons that have been discussed and definitely want to leave the profession better than I found it. I think it’s important to acknowledge that how that happens may look different for each individual. The biggest takeaway for me was the obvious need for a reset or a refresh on the question of diversity in libraries. We’ve begun to have what feels like genuine conversations that will hopefully combat the diversity fatigue felt by both librarians of color and perhaps our white counterparts.

There is a great deal more of rich dialogue and discussion in this posting. I hope you’ll read it all.