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LIS 950: Libraries and community

The purpose of this seminar is to explore an important topic in library and information studies in depth — in all its intertwined historical, cultural, philosophical, and political aspects — through a graduate reading/discussion seminar. The topic varies each time the course is taught; this time around, we will focus on "libraries and community"

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

respnses for Friday

I appreciate the suggestion that öutreach"may be one of the themes this time. I am thinking that maybe another issue might be the library and the librarian as representatives of the dominant culture. In our two contrasting history articles, one takes considerable notice of the idea that librarians thought their mission was to contribute to the melting pot. To encourage immigrants to read "good" books, to focus on education for learning/reading in English. It seems there was a certain amount of discomfort in providing foreign language materials. It was done so that older immigrants who were not going to learn much English could still access reading materials. There wasn't much of a sense that an ethnic/cultural community should have materials representing itself, or a sense that ethnic/cultural groups might/should have pride in having materials representing their culture or ethnicity. Or that parents might want to encourage their children to read in the language of the Old Country, or read about the Old Country in English, even.

In another vein, I wish I could understand some of my discomfort with what we have encountered so far with contemporary writings about diversity in our profession. I think that I support and want diversity and agree that it is important. I agree that the relatively low status and pay of librarians makes it harder to achieve diversity. It does take a lot of expensive education to become a librarian. I wonder what other similar fields, maybe nursing/social work (also lower-paying "feminized"professions) have in the way of diversity issues. Is it similar? What are the common elements?

I also think that much of what we have read about diversity centers around people of color. But that is not the only kind of diversity. There is diversity of bodily appearance. Did you-all see the article on piercing/tattooing of library staff in American Libraries or was it Library Journal recently--in connection with an article on "dress codes"for library staff. Pretty amazing to me that this should be an issue in a world where many people have tattoos/piercings and lots of them are the young folks that we really wish would come into the library. How about diversity in other respects. Such as sexual orientation? disability status? age? religion, even? It seems to me that there are many kinds of diversity and our profession is concentrating on just one kind. Is this because "protected minorities"(as our article defines them) are the ones most important in achieving diversity? Or is it that the more formal mandate to avoid discrimination against protected minorities makes it easier and less controversial to develop programs to work towards diversity in regards to this group?

The authors of the article argue that minorities of color should be represented in the library in the same proportion that they are in the population. This seems like a good and laudable goal to me. But then should not other minorities also be represented in this way as well, and should we not also be recruiting and encouraging these minorities also, and also organizing libraries to reach out to and to represent the culture or interests of other minorities as well? Might this be politically dangerous? Well, I have more questions than answers.

See you Friday. Barbara


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