Thursday, September 8, 2016
My library system has been on a diversity kick. For three years now the main administrative focus of my library has been towards increasing and improving the diversity of our libraries. Every In Service Day for these few years we have focused entirely on, or prominently featured, classes, discussions, plans, meetings, and brainstorming sessions based around diversity. We seek to improve the racial and cultural diversity of our staff. We hope to improve our service to a wide range of under served communities. We are serious about this!
I do not object.
And I am going to report on what we have learned.
But I am not going to report on what we learned about, for instance, Black Lives Matter, or better serving the Hmong Community. We may have learned a few things about all that. I don't know, but we learned a great deal more about what our County and our library system means when they talk about improving diversity around here.
When one is discussing institutions the proof is always and only in the pudding.
And so here is what we've learned:
1. The library is deeply committed to both mandatory and optional staff training, lectures, book clubs, and sessions around the subjects of diversity. These are rarely if ever specific to our jobs. Rather they are more interested in personal development and general enlightenment. No expense is spared as regards staff time and the hiring of speakers and lecturers.
2. The library is not interested in practical applications. It has not come up in these sessions, and though we have in the past had things like printed library guides in a variety of languages, we found that printing them had become expensive. Signage, collections, policies, and displays remain the same.
3. When it comes to hiring we are so dedicated to diversity we are willing to make sometimes even unwise hiring decisions in the interests of inclusivity. Hiring people of color has become a major consideration in our hiring decisions and the number of people of color working in our library has increased, a little. However, this is only true in relation to our lowest paying and lowest hierarchical jobs. The higher one goes in the organization the less it is true. Thus our student workers remain somewhat diverse, Circulation is a little more diverse, Librarians are also a little more diverse in the most paltry substitute positions, but tends to remain more or less homogenous in the more permanent positions, and all managers, directors, and department heads remain strictly White. White as the driven snow, white as a perfect cloud, white as a blank page. White as a lie.