Quick Links: Talumpati | Licensed Librarians | Filipiniana Online | Stereotypes | Leadership | The Philippines

OLA 2007: Does OLA Care About Diversity?

Session #420
Thu @ 10:40 am
Librarianship as a Profession
Recruiting for Diversity: Affirmative Action and Academic Librarians
Mary Kandiuk

Of all the sessions that I attended, this one had the least number of participants, but it also had the most significant effect on me.

I like Canada because, among other things, it is very multicultural. Unlike other cities I've visited in the past year, the chances of overhearing conversations in a Philippine language in the subway are very high. I was also pleasantly surprised to find very good Philippine collections in the academic and public libraries I've been using in Toronto.

But it was not until a librarian from Tibet pointed it out to me before the conference officially began that I realized just how "white" OLA was. The same observation would be repeated by Kandiuk, and extended to the photos of speakers found in the conference program.

Kandiuk discussed the importance of affirmative action, and expressed disappointment that very few studies had been done about diversity among Canadian librarians. One of the most recent ones was "The Future of Human Resources in Canadian Libraries" (pdf), which indicates that only 7 percent of librarians in Canada (compared to 14 percent in the entire labor force) are members of visible minorities or aboriginals (see pp. 44-46).

However, what really stuck with me was an anecdote related by Kandiuk about an email she sent to a listserv about starting a discussion on affirmative action. How many people replied? Two. And how many were there for the session? Seven, including the convenor and the speaker.

Kandiuk proposed several reasons for the seeming indifference—including ambivalence about the subject, reluctance about saying the wrong thing, lack of relevance to the majority's needs, and perhaps only minority librarians are interested—but since no studies have been done, she couldn't really say which one was causing the lack of dialogue regarding the lack of diversity among librarians.

True, OLA offers an aboriginal student scholarship, but it's not the same as pushing affirmative action or even close to ALA's Office for Diversity or the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (see notes taken by The Gypsy Librarian). And while OLA deserves credit for the existence of the session I attended, I've been told that it almost didn't happen.

The OLA referred to in the title of this post is not directed just to its leadership, but its members, too. The title is in the form of a question because I would like to start a conversation. It is my hope that this post will receive more than the two replies that Kandiuk got to her listserv email.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...