Competency C

Recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity.

Statement of Competency

Having this competency means a librarian is aware and appreciates the differences in library patrons and staff, not only in race and socioeconomic status but also in health, age, culture, and gender. Ideally, diversity should not make a difference in the service given to these various groups nor should any employee feel that being a member of a group marginalizes them in any way in terms of treatment, opportunity, or promotion.

Diversity Awareness

Often the word “diversity” is associated with race. But Hastings (2015), states that “diversity is not about color, gender, age, language, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status – it’s about all these things.” She also underscored the importance of library professionals who “reflect the nature of the communities with which they work” and believes that if patrons cannot approach a librarian who they can relate to, they will in turn get their information elsewhere (p. 134). This puts them at risk of getting the wrong information and defeats the purpose of promoting literacy in the community.

Diversity awareness enables an information professional to be more integrated with the community he or she serves and helps make the library an inclusive environment where patrons feel safe and respected, where their questions are answered without bias or judgment. It is a kind of librarianship that is not hindered by dissimilarities in appearance, economic status, religion or ethnic origin.

Impact of Diversity

As the country becomes more diverse, libraries should be able to provide service and access to information for every patron. A library with a diverse staff can address the patrons’ needs better and brings a broader perspective to the work environment, heightens sensitivity, and nurtures understanding between people who otherwise would not associate with one another.

However, there are those in librarianship whose attitudes still indicate resistance to helping people who don’t fit the idealized image of a patron such as the unemployed, the poor, and the homeless. When working with our communities, we as information professionals should always consider and foster inclusion, provide access, and ensure that human rights and social justice are upheld (Jaeger, et.al. 2014, p. 131). After all, it is our duty to promote information literacy.

Jacobs (2008) said, “information literacy…also encompasses engendering lifelong learning, empowering people, promoting social inclusion, redressing disadvantage, and advancing the well-being of all in a global context”(p. 257). Consequently, by having deeper engagement with the community and having diversity reflected in our professionals, services and collections, we become agents of social justice. We become culturally competent professionals who can serve diverse populations without exclusion.

A culturally competent organization can cope with the rapid changes in community demographics. Nonetheless, R.R. Thomas (1990) warned that management must not view diversity just in terms of visible differences and argued that “to manage diversity successfully organizations must recognize that race and gender are only two of many ways in which human beings differ from each other. Managers and leaders must expand their understanding of diversity to include a variety of other dimensions such as personality traits, internal and external qualities, formal and informal organizational roles.” He described diversity management as a “comprehensive managerial process for developing an environment that works for all employees” (p.112).

Diversity Programs

As of 2010, 80% of LIS graduates did not have the opportunity to take a course related to diversity, and courses in diversity and inclusion are not given enough emphasis in LIS programs, only offered infrequently as an elective (Jaeger, et.al. 2014, p. 129). Diversity awareness needs to be encouraged even before a LIS professional enters the workplace. Last year’s Symposium on Diversity and Library and Information Science Education is one initiative to bring attention to issues of diversity and inclusion in LIS education so that a LIS graduate is prepared to work with diverse populations (Jaeger, et.al. 2014, p. 131).

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is one of the organizations that has dynamic diversity programs to recruit people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into careers in research libraries. I was fortunate to be chosen as an ARL Career Enhancement Program Fellow this year, which gave me an opportunity to explore career options at the National Library of Medicine. Without diversity programs like these, minorities will not have the opportunity to aspire for leadership positions that could affect changes in the future.

The American Library Association’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (2015) has similar programs, groups and committees, events, and tools to ensure the “inclusion of diverse perspectives” and be the “leading advocate for equitable access to library services for all.” As a minority, the appreciation of diversity is important to me. The ALA Diversity Counts study (2012) showed that less than 3% of credentialed librarians are Asian/Pacific Islander. The statistics certainly puts me in the minority. Nevertheless, I am bolstered by the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Diversity Standards which states:

Diversity is an essential component of any civil society. It is more than a moral imperative; it is a global necessity. Everyone can benefit from diversity, and diverse populations need to be supported so they can reach their full potential for themselves and their communities (ACRL, 2012).

Although it is a challenge for any organization to adopt an environment of inclusion, it is reassuring to know that efforts are being made to correct the seeming lack of diversity in the LIS profession.

Justification of Evidence

  1. Compassion for the Less Fortunate (LIBR 210 – Reference and Information Services)

In this discussion post, I expressed my concern for the homeless patrons of the public library. In the City of Norfolk, it is not uncommon to see homeless people both inside and outside the library and although they are often slovenly, they are still citizens and have rights under the First Amendment to free access to information. In his article for the iSchool Student Research Journal, Paul Barrows (2014) cites Herbersger as saying, “The homeless have a range of information needs including information about finances, relationships, childcare, housing, health and health care, employment, education, transportation, and public assistance” (Hersberger, 2005). Whereas most of us can access information in the convenience of our homes, the library is the homeless person’s only recourse. It is therefore imperative that as community service, the library is accessible to homeless persons because it is a way for them to rise out of their homelessness.

In her TED talk “What to expect from libraries in the 21stcentury,” Pam Sandlian Smith (2013), Director of AnyThink Libraries, recounted an eight-year old homeless boy who was coming in the public library all summer. One day, the boy asked if he could hold a puppet show on Friday afternoons, using the Story Hour area. Smith acquiesced to the request. The boy worked all week on his project and by Friday had put up handmade signs all over the library the said “Puppet Show 2 o’clock” and it was attended by parents and their children. Smith said he did a good job and did so for the rest of the summer. In the fall, he came back with his dad and told Smith that it was his birthday and said that of all the places in the world, on his birthday, he wanted to be in the library. But he told her that he is moving out of the homeless shelter and the area because his dad got a job. He just wanted to stop by and say thank you.

Smith said that little did she know that during that summer, the library served as a “place to create, to think, to fulfill a dream” for this little boy. The power of the library to affect a person’s life is often unseen yet it is potentially profound. For the homeless person, it is a place to feel connected to the community and be treated with integrity. In Smith’s story, it certainly made a difference in one little child’s life.

  1. Diversity Management Resources (LIBR 204 – Information Organization and Management)

I chose this artifact as evidence for Competency C because diversity management plays a vital role in the 21st century library. In our management class, my group was assigned to create a question that shows the relationship between management and diversity. The question we formulated was “How can a manager create an organization that is culturally competent and inclusive?” Our research is supposed to answer the question by finding various resources a manager can use to foster diversity awareness in the workplace. I took a leadership role in the group by planning our project timeline and made sure our group adhered to it. I reviewed submissions and worked to put them together in one cohesive document.

To help answer our question, we found sources like When Cultures Collide by R.D. Lewis, a book that is can benefit anyone who wants to better understand and establish amicable relations across cultures. We also found journal articles that focused on diversity particularly in libraries, e.g. Barbara Dewey’s article “The Imperative for Diversity: ARL’s Progress and Role.” There are other helpful aids like The Community Toolbox (2015), a website that provides information, checklists, tools, and presentations. It is a free online resource for those who are working to build healthier communities and bring about social change and their mission is to promote community health and development by connecting people, ideas, and resources. With resources such as these, I am confident that as a practicing professional, I will not lack the information I need to make sure that I am self-aware of cultural differences and I nurture inclusion in any work environment I find myself in.

  1. Health Literacy Program for Seniors (Library Advocacy Un-shushed – University of Toronto e-course)

During my study of health information in an ALA e-course, I was deeply disturbed when I learned that low health literacy is so common in America. Nearly half of all American adults – 90 million people – have difficulty understanding and acting upon health information (Neilsen-Bohlman, et.al. 2004, p. 1). Studies show that this problem is not defined by economic status but is often greater in older adults, those with limited education and those with low proficiency in the English language (p. 9). The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy reports that only 3% of older adults surveyed had proficient health literacy skills (p.12). This puts the elderly into a group that is of considerable risk of not comprehending medical instructions and/or failing to seek quality healthcare.

My evidence is an example of a library initiative that speaks to this particular audience. It is from a class I took on advocacy. For the given assignment, I decided to champion the cause of senior health literacy by writing a pitch for the local Friends of the Library and Senior Citizens League for support in providing a health literacy program for seniors. After all, improving the literacy and health of our elderly is our moral responsibility. In this particular class, I learned that no matter what the cause, as an advocate, I must be prepared to relay my message in the most succinct way possible. It was an excellent exercise in delivering a focused, results-driven message to stakeholders.

References

ACRL. (2012). Diversity standards: Cultural competency for academic libraries. Retrieved from www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity

ALA. (2012). Diversity Counts 2009-2010 Update. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/diversity/diversitycounts/divcounts

ALA. (2015). Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/diversity/

ARL. (2015). Diversity recruitment. Retrieved from http://www.arl.org/leadership-recruitment/diversity-recruitment#.VgNpmMtViko

Barrows, P.K. (2014). Serving the needs of homeless library patrons: Legal issues, ethical concerns, and practical approaches. SJSU School of Information Student Research Journal, 4(2). Retrieved from. http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/vol4/iss2/3

Dewey, B. (2009). The imperative for diversity: ARL’s progress and role. Libraries and the Academy, 9(3), 355-361.

Hastings, S. (2015). If diversity is a natural state, why don’t our libraries mirror the populations they serve? Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 85(2), 133-138.

Hersberger, J. (2005). The homeless and information needs and services. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 44(3), 45-63.

Jacobs, H.L.M. (2008). Information literacy and reflective pedagogical praxis, Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(3), 257.

Jaeger, P.T., Sarin, L.C. & Peterson, K.J. (2014). Diversity, inclusion, and library information science: An ongoing imperative, Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 85(2), 127-132. Doi: 10.1086/680151kre

Kutner, M, Greenburg, E., Jin, Y. & Paulsen, C. (2006). The health literacy of America’s adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. NCES 2006-483. National Center for Education Statistics.

Lewis, R.D. (2003). When cultures collide: Managing successfully across cultures. London, UK: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Nielsen-Bohlman, L., Panzer, A.M., Hamlin, B., Kindig, D.A., eds. (2004). Health literacy: A prescription to end confusion.Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Sandlian Smith, P. (2013). What to expect from libraries of the 21st century.” TEDxMileHigh [Video file, 11.24 min.] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa6ERdxyYdo

The Community Toolbox. (2015). Building culturally competent organizations. Retrieved from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/culture/cultural-competence/culturally-competent-organizations/main

Thomas, Jr., R.R. (1990). From affirmative action to affirming diversity.” Harvard Business Review, 68, p. 112.

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