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Category Archives: diversity

ala 2011 annual conference: leaders wanted

CC image courtesy of dolescum on Flickr

Honestly, I didn’t have any high expectations when I left for New Orleans last Friday morning. Now that I’m back in DC, all I’ve been thinking about is the conference and how I left New Orleans inspired to take action in a variety of ways. It was great to finally meet other library students I’ve been in contact with through Twitter, notably writers and readers from the Hack Library School community. I had such a great time with all of you, and I’m proud to call you my friends! The time spent just hanging out with people was definitely the highlight of the conference. I would go back just to hang out again!

As for the conference itself, the session that stuck with me the most was “Leaders Wanted / LIS Doctoral Programs Options Fair: Cultivating Diversity in LIS Education.” I quit my Anthropology Ph.D. program three years ago, and I never considered pursuing a doctorate again until this conference session. I have quite a few issues with academia, but one of the panelists — Camila Alire, 2009-2010 ALA Past President — definitely got me thinking about changing my position on pursuing a Ph.D. She stated that it’s important for librarians/library students of color to get their Ph.D.’s because we need to diversify the profession. Additionally, earning the doctorate makes you a role model — not only for other LIS students of color, but all the patrons of color you’ll interact with. One out of three people in the United States is a person of color, and the library profession should reflect this diversity.

Camila’s comments really resonated with me and got me thinking. I can’t just wait for other people to step up to the plate — or wait for others to provide my perspective in the greater body of LIS knowledge. My goal has always been to perform research on issues important to me, regardless if it related to my job or not. If I’m going to be doing this research anyway, I might as well get that other “union card” at the same time — and the institutional resources and support that come with being in a doctoral program would be immensely helpful. It’s also unfortunate, but a reality, that having a doctorate gives you a certain credibility to some (or many) people. If that credibility would give my research more weight, then I seriously need to consider that. I do not plan on ever becoming a full-time professor — I enjoy working in libraries and archives too much! And if I pursue a PhD, I also don’t intend on becoming a full-time student. I just want to work with people in a library or archive, connecting them with their information needs, and at the same research issues that interest me — is that too much to aim for?

 
 

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what’s missing from fashion archives? women of color

One of my favorite blogs out there right now is Of Another Fashion, brought to you by the bloggers of Threadbared.  Of Another Fashion posts vintage and archival photos of stylish women of color in the United States, creating a digital archive that provides a perspective largely missing from mainstream fashion archives and exhibits.  The photos posted are from archives, other online sources, and public submissions.

This blog is particularly inspirational to me for a few reasons.  Foremost, the blog’s purpose is to highlight and share photographs that have a rich yet overlooked history.  Most of the photos’ subjects aren’t of models, but your everyday average woman.  Another key element of the blog is that it actively seeks contributions from the public — not only to post but with the larger goal of creating an actual exhibit.  Many of the photos shared are from family albums, which I think adds a richer narrative to the fashion record.  In the creators’ own words:

In providing a glimpse of women of color’s material cultural histories — a glimpse that no doubt only begins to redress the curatorial and critical absence of minoritized fashion histories — this archive and the forthcoming exhibition commemorates lives and experiences too often considered not important enough to save or to study.

This idea links directly to Rand Jimerson’s point about the power of archives and archivists (which I’ve written about previously).  In determining which histories, experiences, and narratives are preserved in archival institutions (and the context given of those materials), we greatly influence the cultural record and memory.  Archivists have a responsibility to ensure diversity in the archival record, and Of Another Fashion is a great example to look towards.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in archives, diversity, links, photographs

 

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thoughts on diversity

While I’ve read through some journal articles on diversity in the librarian profession, the following thoughts are based on my own personal life and speculation.  It isn’t the most thorough or cohesive post — and I don’t mean for it to be, as hundreds of pages could be (and are) written.  This post is definitely more of a reflection, and I am sure I will post more on this subject in the future, especially since one of my goals is to research and publish on this topic someday.

I suppose I should first spell out what “groups” I include when referring to diversity, but my list won’t be exhaustive without looking up a formal definition.  I do think diversity really encompasses many things — not just gender, race, and ethnicity.  While the focus of this post will be racial and ethnic diversity, diversity of socio-economic background, sexual orientation, lifestyle, disability, and religion are also very important to me.

So here’s my story (briefly):  I grew up in South Carolina and all throughout my schooling, I was only one of maybe three other Asian American students in my grade.  And while I always loved going to the library, it too was not a racially diverse place — both in terms of the staff and the collections.  My undergraduate experience exposed me to a lot more diversity, but the university curriculum still had a lot of work to be done.  I’ve always recognized if I was surrounded by diversity or a lack of it, but college really made me examine how a lack of diversity is usually a result of institutional and/or structural barriers.  It’s something I definitely “see” all the time now — so naturally, I have to question why the field of librarianship isn’t more diverse.  In my experience, my friends of color chose to go into fields that are already racially diverse (or at least seem to be).  Similarly, I think my female friends are more likely to choose a career that isn’t male-dominated.  No one wants to feel like an outsider — to be the only one coming from a certain background or perspective.

Honestly, being the “different” person can be really tiring.  Not everyone wants to be the “pioneer,” the one to change things, the first to bring up a problem or see it through to a conclusion.  And no one wants to be the token go-to who is asked for their perspective as a representative of all things diverse.  It can be tiring being “that person” in class, the one who always points out how something may be racially or socioeconomically problematic, etc.  Believe me, I’ve been “that person” many, many times.  It’s one thing to be conscious of the problem, but it takes a whole lot of effort to work on solving it.  So when it comes to choosing a career, it can be much easier to pick one where you don’t have to deal with a large lack in diversity.

Another obstacle I see is a lack of diversity within library collections.  If you don’t think the library contains content that interests (or represents) you, you’re not exactly going to be volunteering to join in.  Again, not everyone wants to be the person to change things.  I definitely felt like my undergraduate library did not have a well-developed collection on Southeast Asia, which was unfortunate since that area was a focus of mine.

But ultimately, I think marketing of the profession is why people in general don’t think about becoming a librarian — and this is especially true for people of color.  It didn’t dawn on me that being a librarian is an actual career until I started graduate school in another field.  And now I continually get asked what librarians do, how I got interested in the field, etc…and it always feels like I’m on the defensive, justifying why I would dare become a librarian (because the job seems either obvious or boring).  And while there are many librarians out there blogging, tweeting, etc. — the online community feels very insulated.  I don’t have any solutions in mind (yet), but I think the place to start is marketing librarianship earlier and better.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2011 in diversity