Tag Archives: Bias

Indigenous Initiatives and Information Studies: Unlearning in the Classroom

Reviewed By: Natalie Daily, Britten Kuckelman, and Hollie Locke

Link to article: https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/ijidi/article/view/32212

SYNOPSIS
The Library and Information Science (LIS) field has historically operated from a colonial position with regard to Indigenous communities, which has often lead to overlooking Indigenous ways of knowledge (pg. 67-68). The origins of many LIS practices can be traced to Medieval Europe and are incompatible to Indigenous knowledge practices (pg. 69). Additionally, merely using the hiring process to address diversity in the LIS field is not enough if practices regarding how services are offered to diverse communities aren’t driven by cultural transformation (pg. 69). In order to encourage more effective LIS services for Canadian Indigenous communities, the authors of this paper designed a course to lead LIS students through the practice of unlearning that which is yoked to the colonial mindset. The authors detailed their goals for the course, the methods they utilized to achieve these goals, and in-depth reflection to analyze the success of their efforts. Ultimately, adopting a posture of humility allowed students to learn from their classmates and prepare themselves for working in service to diverse target communities.
Canada has an Indigenous community that makes up close to 5% of the total population of the country (Statistics Canada 2017). Recently, the country has been having a public reckoning over Indigenous issues through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and recent efforts by the government to acknowledge the “occupation of unceded land” and recognize the rights of Indigenous people to control their own records (pg. 81). The course described in this paper offers a guideline for how to embed cultural competency in LIS coursework in a country that is demonstrating how to take the lead in integrating the Indigenous experience into society.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
According to the authors, the purpose of the course was to cultivate a responsive learning environment where students could develop skills that are critical for work after graduation by providing strategies for support of Indigenous information needs. The primarily aim of this research was to determine the effectiveness of the pedagogical approaches, learning tools, and course materials that were utilized for this course (p. 72). Was this course successful in achieving its goal to prepare students to work with Indigenous peoples in support of ongoing developments in Indigenous culture, languages, governance, legislation, and litigation?
METHODOLOGY
In order to assess how successful this course was in achieving its goals, the authors decided to draw from their own reflections on the design and teaching of the class rather than from the students’ input. According to the authors, the analytic process was “iterative” with both their “insights” and “humility” as educators developing throughout the course (p. 72). The authors followed a pedagogical practice that included developing an iterative planning and reflection process each week with face-to-face meetings where assignments and activities were discussed. Major themes of the course included Positionality & Awareness, Prior Knowledge & Unlearning, Reflective Practice, and Cultivating Humility (p. 73). Throughout the course, students were assigned weekly, non-graded reflective writing prompts, group work, and anonymous surveys (p. 74). In order to develop personal awareness and positionality within the framework of the course, the authors found, through trial and error, that utilizing collaborative tools that allowed the students to respond to the material with anonymity provided students with the opportunity to voice their concerns about making mistakes or offending classmates. For each of the major topics, the authors provided a lesson to the students and an activity that supported the advancement of the skills discussed. For example, during the unit of Prior Knowledge & Unlearning, the authors focused on Indigenous history and contemporary issues and encouraged students to question and potentially “unlearn” professional assumptions and biases towards Indigenous peoples (p. 76). Students were then assigned a reading activity about past federal policies that impacted Indigenous communities, which corresponded with the lesson (p. 76).
FINDINGS
The authors struggled with the theme of prior knowledge and unlearning throughout the course. They found that students lacked basic knowledge of the history of settler initiatives in Canada and struggled with how much of it to teach during a masters level course (p. 76). On top of these knowledge gaps, they struggled to challenge students to unlearn the very core skills the students were taught in their professional programs. “The helping narrative, that part of being a professional is knowing what help is needed, bumps up against some of the ideas we wanted to critically engage with, and in some ways is counterintuitive to the concept of professional and intellectual humility” (p. 77). While the authors did not indicate any successful class activities, they identified a new way to frame this theme earlier on in the course for future classes.
Through multiple iterations of the coursework, the authors designed activities to provide students with the opportunity to critically reflect on and question normal practices in their profession. To this end, the authors provided the students with real life scenarios and asked students to strategize solutions. The authors then provided students with a framework for addressing dilemmas to teach students how to engage with challenging situations. This activity allowed students to challenge what is considered normal ethical practices (p. 78). To introduce the final theme of humility to the students, the authors assigned course readings and videos and then gathered reflection on questions about humility within the profession. “Overwhelmingly the reflections identified intellectual, professional, and cultural humility as key things that students learned about and will carry forward with them” (p.79).
IMPLICATIONS
Canada is not alone in having a history that is shaped by its relationship with its Indigenous groups, and making a concerted effort to “unlearn” cultural constructs and implicit bias is a concept that has implications for societies with their own Indigenous groups. Additionally, many societies have other diversity issues related to their colonial pasts that tend to shape the way that certain groups are treated. Incorporating “unlearning” into formalized coursework for LIS students is a way to give credibility to the knowledge of oppressed and/or disenfranchised groups and how to best serve them. This coursework should focus on unlearning biases resulting from settler, colonial, or Western culture that can be harmful to Indigenous peoples’ and other minority groups’ ability to gain appropriate access to information resources and materials.

References
Nathan, L. P., & Perreault, A. (2018). Indigenous initiatives and information studies: Unlearning in the classroom. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 2(1-2). 67-85.

Statistics Canada. (2017, October 25). Aboriginal peoples in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/171025/dq171025a-eng.htm

Transformative Praxis – Building Spaces for Indigenous Self-determination in Libraries and Archives

Reviewed By: Myla Perrelli, Jennifer Robertson, Josephine Trott, & Jessica Walker

Link to article: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2019/transformative-praxis/

Synopsis
This article looks at the ways in which libraries and archives in Australia can decolonize and indiginize simultaneously in order to provide cultural safety to their communities. The author Kirsten Thorpe believes that much importance lies in the praxis, or combination of reflection and action within the context of theory and practice, as it relates to the work that needs to be done with regards to Indigenous peoples. A stronger and more direct dialogue is needed on the subject of Indigenous people and decolonization within the library community in addition to more direct action. The importance of cultural interface, or the different awareness and knowledge that people have on a subject, is discussed. The article thoroughly delves into important areas where work needs to be done in institutions and research with the goal to provide solutions. These areas include utilizing Indigenous research methodologies, working locally with Indigenous peoples, and resourcing the decolonization and indigenization with time and money. Additionally, the author is an Indigenous archivist from Australia who has 20+ years of experience working in the field. Her family on her mother’s side are Worimi people from a coastal region of Australia.

Core Research Questions
For this article, the core questions are explicitly written in the text. They are:
“ How can libraries and archives engage with indigenous peoples and communities to build mutual partnerships within current frameworks?” (Thorpe, 2019, p.1, para. 3)
Can libraries and archives build spaces with respect to indigenous people, or will they continue to ignore their role of “perpetuating colonial system and structures”? (Thorpe, 2019, p.1, para. 3)

Historically, the organization of information in Australian libraries and archives have continually ignored input or voice from the Indigenous peoples and communities. The author stresses throughout the article that ignoring the Indigenous people’s perspectives, will continue to harm the community and possibly traumatize the multiple generations with colonial centric histories. Practices cannot merely change overnight without community partnerships and engagement. The author questions how we can create mutual partnerships, given the current organization in current libraries and archives.

In the past, there has been an effort in creating library and archive spaces for Indigenous communities; however, “many projects and services were being designed without Indigenous community input or perspective” (Thorpe, 2019, p.1 para. 9). Problematically, Indigenous peoples were asked to approve of new projects only after they have been designed and created. These finished projects had little to no input or collaboration from the communities in which they were for. If Australian libraries and archives want to build and design spaces with respect to the Indigenous communities that exist in Australia, the author argues that there needs to be an effort to collaborate with Indigenous people and decolonize the classification, description, and organization of the existing system.

Methods
Thorpe uses a qualitative examination of personal experiences, or autoethnography, according to the guidelines laid out by Houston (2007) to consider the core questions. The data for this self-study is acquired through Indigenous Standpoint Theory (IST) and evaluated using Cultural Interface as detailed by Nakata (2007). Standpoint theory is an individual’s ability to understand how their perspectives have been shaped by the dominant, usually conflicting, culture. IST specifically looks at how the dominant culture has erased, misrepresented, and suppressed ancestral cultures and languages to perpetuate assimilation. This provides context for identifying the instances of suppression that arise in the everyday life of Indigenous people. These instances are also the root of much distrust with the institutions in question. Cultural interface uses the intersection of Indigenous people’s ancestral identity and colonizer culture to witness systematic conflicts. Using the cultural interface, instances identified with IST can be evaluated based on how much personal harm and trauma is inflicted. Thorpe (2019) considers both the “experiential and intellectual” impact of these instances (Thorpe, p.1, para. 5). This qualitative information is used to inform ways they can be used in praxis to decolonize libraries and archives. In doing so, the oppressive power systems can be eliminated to create supportive spaces and systems for Indigenous people.

Findings
The main finding of the study is that in order to make archives and libraries more supportive of indigenous populations, various goals must be achieved. The first of which is that “indigenous research methodologies” must be utilized (Thorpe, 2019, p.1, para 20). For example, the Kaupapa Maori Theory provides great framework for challenging the “dominant systems of power”, or in other words, the library and archival structures that oppress indigenous populations (Thorpe, 2019, p.1, para. 6). The next component is to use the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to guide library and archive practices. Another idea is to consult leaders in the indigenous community for their advice, work with them to prioritize goals and adopt protocols that are applicable to these groups. Additionally, collaborative members could create plans that will put these protocols into action. Librarians and archivists need to respect indigenous groups’ values and build a relationship of mutual benefit. It is also important to increase representation of indigenous peoples in leadership positions such as on library boards. Leaders need to understand that the process of creating a supportive environment requires changes that must be made to work, with time and resource division. Lastly, advocate for studies of indigenous populations as a core component of curriculum in library and archive courses.

What can American libraries learn from this?
American Libraries can learn from the international perspectives that the populations the library is looking to serve should be leaders for developing services. Key groups in the community must be consulted and power structures of the library must be examined. Libraries need to be willing to look at the underlying structural components of their organizations that may marginalize groups in their community and be willing to change them.

White librarians in particular have a lot of work to do. Indigenous peoples and other marginalized communities should not have to bring this work forth alone. It needs to be an effort that takes into account the trauma and emotional/cultural safety of the community that the librarian works and resides within.

Librarians and archivists also need to understand that there are different cultural practices and beliefs between multiple Indigenous communities. If they want to design spaces for them, then collaboration needs to happen before, during, and after the process. Librarians must recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all in creating these information spaces, so the process will need to be revisited several times, with each distinctive Indigenous group.

Essentially, Americans libraries were designed in a colonized system which has been shown to be oppositional and harmful to Native Peoples. This article draws attention to the ways in which American libraries may be similarly hostile to Indigenous Americans. To consider the actionable ways to decolonize the system, as laid out in the article, provides a starting point for local research and understanding of the methods for measuring and collecting community input.

References

Houston, J. (2007). Indigenous autoethnography: Formulating our knowledge, our way. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 36(S1), 45-50.

Nakata, M. (2007). Disciplining the savages: Savaging the disciplines. Canberra, A.C.T.: Aboriginal Studies Press.

Thorpe, K (2019). Transformative praxis: Building spaces for Indigenous self-determination in libraries and archives. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2019/transformative-praxis/

The consequences of the heterosexual norm — How we organize and retrieve gay literature

Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Chelsea Grant, Emily Lauerman, Carrie Lopez, Katherine Waltz

Link to article: http://libreas.eu/ausgabe12/003joh.htm

Synopsis
This article summarizes the effect the lack of clear cataloging for LGBT library materials has on their findability, which correlates to lack of awareness of their significance in society, and lack of normalization of the LGBT community in general society. Written by Anna Johansson in the journal Libreas: Library Ideas, which is published by the Institut für Bibliothekswissenschaft Berlin, the article references the Swedish classification system (SAB), offering insight on the difficulties that patrons may have when looking for LGBT literature in Swedish public libraries. The focus of this article is on the searchability of their system, where heteronormativity has been reinforced over time by being more specific when it comes to homosexuality in the subject headings, and where non-heteronormative material tends to be described poorly or not at all when it comes to subject access. The article also discusses the lack of heterosexual terms in the classification system due to implied obvious presence of it being self-evident. This leads the author to note that Swedish libraries are “upholders of the exclusive heterosexual norm in society.” The author also emphasizes the importance for the Swedish public library system to secure everyone’s right to information in serving a diverse public.

Core research questions
Johansson addresses the issue by attempting to answer these two research questions: “How does the heterosexual norm appear in classification systems and subject headings lists?” and “What are the consequences of that practice for the retrieval of gay literature?”

Methods used in research findings
The primary research method is studying Swedish classification system (SAB) and its headings to see how it catalogs gay literature (if at all) and how it compares to how heteronormative literature is catalogued. The author also supports her findings with observing other studies that relate to the topic of classification systems and the heterosexual norm. SAB is compared to the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress Subject Headings, referencing Hope A. Olson’s 2002 study about the tendency for difficulty in classifying “others” outside of the male, western norm. This included biases against gender, sexuality, race, age, ability, ethnicity, language and religion.
The author also references Söderman’s 2006 study where librarians were interviewed about indexing who, when broached with the topic of adding “heterosexuality” to the subject heading list, gave the unanimous resulting answer that it would be unnecessary. Johansson also notes the 2004 AIS subject headings list, stating that terms like “lesbian love” and “homosexuality” being listed were crucial for searchability purposes, though they still othered them by not offering the “self-evident” alternative subject heading of “heterosexual”.

Findings and conclusions
There are subject headings for LGBT literature, but they are both very few and very plainly designated as being outside of the norm. To elaborate, they are treated as a extension of hegemonic culture rather than its own category. Librarians need to play their part in creating a “new normal” as it were, by including and cataloging literature pertaining to all colors, ethnicities and sexualities on the same level as the dominant hegemonic culture. The author concludes that it would also be useful to add “heterosexual” as a subject heading in order to remove the subject as the normative sexuality. The conclusion was made that LIS groups must proceed into further research on this topic in order to acknowledge the problem and bring LGBT groups into their research so that they can serve a more diverse public.

What can be gained by American Libraries?
Organizing information plays an important role in regard to how the community acknowledges diverse information groups. Librarians have a chance and ability to support diverse sexuality groups, by aptly classifying sexuality groups to be inclusive of all forms of human sexuality e.g. heterosexual, homosexual, etc. Taking a proactive role in classification can help remove the dominant status of “heterosexual” by listing it as a classification alongside other so-called “other” sexualities so that each sexuality is given equal standing as subject headings.
American libraries will be able to take this global perspective on what is currently happening in the Swedish public library system and address the issues that also exists in American systems, as the author references in Olson’s 2002 study of the Dewey Decimal System. By considering Johansson’s article, American libraries can answer her call to acknowledge and address the problem of othering apart from heterosexuality in classification systems, and allow the option for more ease in finding diverse sexualities in literature.
This idea of adding heterosexuality as a subject heading as a means to remove the position of “heterosexual” as the mainstream or “norm” can also be applied to other areas as well, including ethnicity, religion and gender. White, Christian and Male as pointed out in this article are the normative, so perhaps by adding or using subject heading for ‘white’ and ‘male’ when classifying titles would remove or lessen the othering that occurs when other genders, ethnicities, languages or religions are specifically listed. As pointed out by this article, classifying everything could move a step towards removing any one group or perspective as normative.
Many Americans believe that with the legalization of gay marriage, they have “caught up” with the rest of the world in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. But many Americans turn a blind eye to the amount of prejudice that remains in the US, believing that legalization equals acceptance. Many also fail to realize that much of the world outside the United States is still struggling with acceptance either in obvious ways, or subtle ones like in the SAB system. American librarians can use this study of the SAB system to examine how their own classification systems categorize materials pertaining to various sexualities, using the SAB system as a jumping-off point from which to create subject headings that equalize all forms of sexuality. Libraries have a responsibility to make all information equally findable and accessible to all information seekers. Small steps like this will eventually go a long way in achieving that goal.

Reference:

Johansson, A. (2008). The consequences of the heterosexual norm — How we organize and retrieve gay literature. LIBREAS. Library Ideas, 12. Retrieved from: https://libreas.eu/ausgabe12/003joh.htm

The quest for diversity in library staffing: From awareness to action

Reviewed By: Kelley Presley, Erika Contreras, Jentry Larsen, Sarah Conner, Thomas Fassett

Link to article: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/quest-for-diversity/

Despite the best efforts of the information community in recent years, demographic diversity amongst librarians remains a major opportunity that has yet to be effectively solved. The first step in the journey towards diversity is accepting the lack thereof, followed by the formation of a concrete action plan that will lead our industry to substantial reform. The fact that 88% of the nation’s librarians are white is grossly disproportionate to our country’s actual level of ethnic and racial diversity (Vinopal, 2016). There are several key areas that must be evaluated in further detail in order to effectively problem solve the egregious lack of diversity in the library profession, including but not limited to the definition of diversity, underlying factors behind the absence of diversity, possible implications, a path towards awareness and action, and future directions for research.

Through a review of relevant literature along with inspecting survey results, the author is able to mine for information on diversity in the LIS profession. Vinopal (2016) states that a diverse library staff can better serve the patrons in their community. Diversity is reflected in a library staff in different ways, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, staff with disabilities, etc. The definition of diversity varies from organization to organization, but when one is able to express what they believe diversity is and set a specific goal for achieving it, they are more likely to be successful in their attempts. When a library staff accurately reflects the diversity of the community it serves, it helps to foster social inclusion. (Vinopal, 2016) Emphasizing the role that each librarian takes in empowering the community helps them recognize their impact and feel more valued and less like a statistic.

There are many reasons that contribute to the current lack of diversity in library staffing, such as the level of schooling required to obtain librarian positions. Individuals from low income families have a much lower graduation rate than their peers that come from greater socio-economic backgrounds. The disparity in staffing can also be seen in other ways. One such example is that more people that are white hold a librarian title, while those from other racial or ethnic backgrounds more commonly hold other titles, like library assistant (Vinopal, 2016). Staff members that are a part of the majority group often lack awareness of the subtle discrimination or simply ignore what they see, thus failing to improve the lack of diversity problem.

When measuring diversity, there are several underlying biases that one must be aware of. Vinopal (2016) examines the use of ClimateQUAL: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment. This measuring tool reveals a collective ignorance of the dominant group with their own bias and privilege. This is an assessment of staff’s perceptions along with their library’s commitment to diversity with the policies and procedures that are put in place. Vinopal (2016) explains that the idea of racial preferences in residential neighborhoods and how the dominant culture prefers housing in a not so diverse area. This idea can help people imagine a predominantly white workplace and how that affects the work culture. Employees that are in this particular group are less likely to report racial microaggressions or any other related matters that happen at their work. Therefore, the way underrepresented employees are treated cannot be fully explained because it is not fully discussed in the workplace. The measurement tool can help reveal these biases and lack of awareness that some individuals may have in the library setting, which can in turn help ease their diversity woes.

There is a large and rich body of research that relates to diversity in the workplace. This can assist in examining suggestions to move forward while looking at the pros and cons of these choices. The path from ignorance to making a positive impact can be a steep learning process. Vinopal (2016) notes the IAIT which is research on social cognition based on concepts and stereotypes. Once this information is collected, the group can start on a critical analysis of these assumptions that happen in the workplace and why such behaviors exist. This way, the workplace can start creating a culture that is aware of such biases and starts to challenge the status quo. An important aspect to moving forward is also having a leader who is able to encourage their team to foster a desire for change in the workplace.

Vinopal (2016) remarks that library leaders must leverage their position to enact new policies and programs to show that the library is committed to diversity in action rather than merely talk about it. Actions speak louder than words, and libraries must follow suit. Some of the ways Vinopal (2016) suggests library leadership can begin to make our profession more open and inclusive are: Bias Awareness and Valuing Difference, Name the Problem, Mission and Follow-through, Data Collection, Recruiting, Mentoring, and Pay for Work. Each one tackles biases inherent within the system that must be addressed in order to make library staff more diverse. Open and honest dialogue with staff on a regular basis about discrimination and bias, concrete diversity plans in place, targeting recruiting in diverse communities, mentoring early career librarians in underrepresented groups and paying for qualified interns can all help turn the tide and create a more diverse library staff. These steps and others must be taken once and on a regular basis if lasting change is to occur.

Research on the lack of diversity in library professions has not been widely studied in the LIS literature, and is a subject that most certainly requires further investigation. Vinopal (2016) argues that while there is still much to be studied, these areas are ones that certainly require further investigation: Data on Diversity, Organizational Processes, Attrition and Avoidance, and Leadership. Researchers must look at what can be further studied about underrepresented groups in order to offer insight, the organizational structures are biased and how can they be improved, what the reasons are that minority librarians leave the profession, and how library leaders can positively affect change in their libraries. These are just a small fraction of the answers that are needed in order to understand how libraries can create a more open and welcoming environment to librarians and library staff in minority and underrepresented populations.

The article addresses many questions one may have regarding the lack of diversity in the LIS profession. However, as always, there are still questions yet to be answered. With recent political changes in the United States, there is a question of whether or not diversity in the LIS profession can be achieved. Immigration has become a hot topic, and may severely impact the LIS profession in the United States. In addition, proposed budget cuts to federal library funding could possibly affect any library’s ability to recruit, or hire, any staff, much less a diverse one.

While there are many factors that play a role in the lack of diversity, there are just as many reasons to foster diversity in the library. Vinopal (2016) states, “Our professional library associations affirm a commitment to creating diverse workplaces so that we may better serve diverse user communities, and even support democracy.” One of the essential functions of not only the public library, but most all libraries, is to serve the community and provide access to a whole host of resources. By fostering diversity within libraries, we can reach a wider patron base and create better communities. While the lack of diversity in library professions is not widely researched, it is still important to understand the need for diversity and how it affects the profession and the communities that libraries serve. Creating diverse library communities is a goal that we as library professionals must pursue with vigilance and persistence.

THE QUEST FOR DIVERSITY IN LIBRARY STAFFING: FROM AWARENESS TO ACTION

Reviewed By: Kelley Presley, Erika Contreras, Jentry Larsen, Sarah Conner, Thomas Fassett

Link to article: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/quest-for-diversity/

Despite the best efforts of the information community in recent years, demographic diversity amongst librarians remains a major opportunity that has yet to be effectively solved. The first step in the journey towards diversity is accepting the lack thereof, followed by the formation of a concrete action plan that will lead our industry to substantial reform. The fact that 88% of the nation’s librarians are white is grossly disproportionate to our country’s actual level of ethnic and racial diversity (Vinopal, 2016). There are several key areas that must be evaluated in further detail in order to effectively problem solve the egregious lack of diversity in the library profession, including but not limited to the definition of diversity, underlying factors behind the absence of diversity, possible implications, a path towards awareness and action, and future directions for research.

Research Questions:
The author is attempting to understand why there is a lack of diversity in the LIS profession and what steps can be taken to overcome this. Also, understanding if there are, and what kind, of biases are inherent in our profession.

Methods:
Through a review of relevant literature along with inspecting survey results, the author is able to mine for information on diversity in the LIS profession.

Vinopal (2016) states that a diverse library staff can better serve the patrons in their community. Diversity is reflected in a library staff in different ways, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, staff with disabilities, etc. The definition of diversity varies from organization to organization, but when one is able to express what they believe diversity is and set a specific goal for achieving it, they are more likely to be successful in their attempts. When a library staff accurately reflects the diversity of the community it serves, it helps to foster social inclusion. (Vinopal, 2016) Emphasizing the role that each librarian takes in empowering the community helps them recognize their impact and feel more valued and less like a statistic.

There are many reasons that contribute to the current lack of diversity in library staffing, such as the level of schooling required to obtain librarian positions. Individuals from low income families have a much lower graduation rate than their peers that come from greater socio-economic backgrounds. The disparity in staffing can also be seen in other ways. One such example is that more people that are white hold a librarian title, while those from other racial or ethnic backgrounds more commonly hold other titles, like library assistant (Vinopal, 2016). Staff members that are a part of the majority group often lack awareness of the subtle discrimination or simply ignore what they see, thus failing to improve the lack of diversity problem.

When measuring diversity, there are several underlying biases that one must be aware of. Vinopal (2016) examines the use of ClimateQUAL: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment. This measuring tool reveals a collective ignorance of the dominant group with their own bias and privilege. This is an assessment of staff’s perceptions along with their library’s commitment to diversity with the policies and procedures that are put in place. Vinopal (2016) explains that the idea of racial preferences in residential neighborhoods and how the dominant culture prefers housing in a not so diverse area. This idea can help people imagine a predominantly white workplace and how that affects the work culture. Employees that are in this particular group are less likely to report racial microaggressions or any other related matters that happen at their work. Therefore, the way underrepresented employees are treated cannot be fully explained because it is not fully discussed in the workplace. The measurement tool can help reveal these biases and lack of awareness that some individuals may have in the library setting, which can in turn help ease their diversity woes.

There is a large and rich body of research that relates to diversity in the workplace. This can assist in examining suggestions to move forward while looking at the pros and cons of these choices. The path from ignorance to making a positive impact can be a steep learning process. Vinopal (2016) notes the IAIT which is research on social cognition based on concepts and stereotypes. Once this information is collected, the group can start on a critical analysis of these assumptions that happen in the workplace and why such behaviors exist. This way, the workplace can start creating a culture that is aware of such biases and starts to challenge the status quo. An important aspect to moving forward is also having a leader who is able to encourage their team to foster a desire for change in the workplace.

Vinopal (2016) remarks that library leaders must leverage their position to enact new policies and programs to show that the library is committed to diversity in action rather than merely talk about it. Actions speak louder than words, and libraries must follow suit. Some of the ways Vinopal (2016) suggests library leadership can begin to make our profession more open and inclusive are: Bias Awareness and Valuing Difference, Name the Problem, Mission and Follow-through, Data Collection, Recruiting, Mentoring, and Pay for Work. Each one tackles biases inherent within the system that must be addressed in order to make library staff more diverse. Open and honest dialogue with staff on a regular basis about discrimination and bias, concrete diversity plans in place, targeting recruiting in diverse communities, mentoring early career librarians in underrepresented groups and paying for qualified interns can all help turn the tide and create a more diverse library staff. These steps and others must be taken once and on a regular basis if lasting change is to occur.

Research on the lack of diversity in library professions has not been widely studied in the LIS literature, and is a subject that most certainly requires further investigation. Vinopal (2016) argues that while there is still much to be studied, these areas are ones that certainly require further investigation: Data on Diversity, Organizational Processes, Attrition and Avoidance, and Leadership. Researchers must look at what can be further studied about underrepresented groups in order to offer insight, the organizational structures are biased and how can they be improved, what the reasons are that minority librarians leave the profession, and how library leaders can positively affect change in their libraries. These are just a small fraction of the answers that are needed in order to understand how libraries can create a more open and welcoming environment to librarians and library staff in minority and underrepresented populations.

Unanswered questions:
The article addresses many questions one may have regarding the lack of diversity in the LIS profession. However, as always, there are still questions yet to be answered. With recent political changes in the United States, there is a question of whether or not diversity in the LIS profession can be achieved. Immigration has become a hot topic, and may severely impact the LIS profession in the United States. In addition, proposed budget cuts to federal library funding could possibly affect any library’s ability to recruit, or hire, any staff, much less a diverse one. How can the LIS profession overcome these new challenges? They must lobby, run for office, and make their voices loud to be heard.

While there are many factors that play a role in the lack of diversity, there are just as many reasons to foster diversity in the library. Vinopal (2016) states, “Our professional library associations affirm a commitment to creating diverse workplaces so that we may better serve diverse user communities, and even support democracy.” One of the essential functions of not only the public library, but most all libraries, is to serve the community and provide access to a whole host of resources. By fostering diversity within libraries, we can reach a wider patron base and create better communities. While the lack of diversity in library professions is not widely researched, it is still important to understand the need for diversity and how it affects the profession and the communities that libraries serve. Creating diverse library communities is a goal that we as library professionals must pursue with vigilance and persistence.

Virtual Racism Rears its Head: Uncovering Librarian Bias in E-mail Reference Services

By Emily Wells, Dixie Jorns, Kayleigh Septer, Jennifer Braden, Valerie Valicento

Link to article: https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/229/407

Virtual Racism Rears its Head: Uncovering Librarian Bias in E-mail Reference Services

Emily Wells
Dixie Jorns
Kayleigh Septer
Jennifer Braden
Valerie Valicento

Article synopsis and core research questions

The goal of this article is to find out if librarians are providing virtual reference services to diverse ethnic and cultural groups that are equal in measure when compared to what is provided for other patrons. The main idea extended by the article authors is that since the scarcity of social cues in virtual environments could theoretically lead to equal services, there is also a potential for librarians to lose their self-awareness, thereby resulting in more inequalities. Information is provided on which libraries and library faculty were examined and how: a method involving fake personas from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds using names associated with their ethnicities, and emails sent under those personas. The article discusses the research methods in-depth and shares findings on which ethnic groups receive lower quality services compared to the rest. The article goes on to identify who is facing discrimination in virtual environments, what actions virtual reference librarians take that contribute to this discrimination, and it takes a look at what kinds of queries most often lead to services without descrimination or bias.

Methods used to answer research questions

The researchers used five different types of reference queries in this study. Previous published research was drawn from for three of the queries and were designed to be tailored to the targeted institution. The remaining queries were developed with the virtual reference guidelines of the participating institutions’ in mind.

The study was done over a six week period of time with six fictitious stereotypical persona (African-American, Hispanic, Asian-Chinese, Caucasian/Christian, Muslim, and Caucasian/Jewish) submitting reference queries to the virtual reference service of each of the twenty-three participating libraries. Each persona sent five of each of the queries so that a total of 138 queries were sent over the September and October time frame. Each library received different queries over the first five weeks of the study, and in the final week they received a repeat request with slight alterations to the details.
The order which the personas used to submit the reference requests were randomly arranged to eliminate study bias. Requests were also submitted at different times and on different days in order to prevent the responding librarians from possibly identifying patterns. Because this caused some of the responses to be submitted on weekends, there were some limitations within the study regarding the time frame for receiving responses.

Analysis of the data was completed by utilizing Nvivo software, with each query and related response being classified according to attributes and categories based on the digital reference guidelines of a number of associations. As transactions were coded and recoded, further clarification and refinement of the coding scheme reduced the number of categories used.

Findings and conclusions
As Furlan (2007) notes, the researchers found that “response times varied greatly between users” (p. 98). The Caucasian/Jewish user had a turn-around of less than a day, the Muslim user waited an average of 3.5 days for a response, and the African-American users waited over 18 days for a response to their queries. It was also found that the Caucasian/Jewish users received far lengthier replies than their non-white counterparts. As for the Latino and Asian users, they received average responses in most of the categories that were researched.

The study found that there was a definite discriminatory pattern. The African-American and Muslim users received poor levels of service from all dimensions of quality. On the other hand, the Caucasian users received the best levels of service that were studied. However, with such a small sample size of users, Furlan (2007) states “many other questions were raised by the study for possible future research into racism exhibited by library staff and services” (p. 99). It will be interesting to see if a future study is done with a larger sample set of users to see if the conclusions made in this smaller study are true on a large scale.

Unanswered questions and what future research might address

The article’s theory is based on virtual reference librarians at 23 ARL locations. This is a very specific subset of all the libraries in the United States. Is it reasonable to suggest widespread institutional bias exists across all libraries from this small group? To be accurate a variety of libraries should be included. Many public libraries have a similar virtual reference service. They are used to diverse populations and actively try to include programs addressing it. The majority of ARL libraries are university based and attract those who can fit that lifestyle, often leading to a lowered exposure to diverse individuals. Is it possible that the issue with varying, possible racist service rests with research libraries and not libraries in general? If it seems a leap to compare public and research libraries, it is equal to the leap in the article that a small group of libraries is equal to every library in the United States. Shouldn’t the makers of a research project fluently understand that some does not equal all?

Future research should repeat this experiment with a much larger sample. The responses to the five personas did hint at a trend but again it was only five. The methodology could be expanded to fit more personas. In addition, it would be interesting to see if this experiment could be done in person as more reference questions are asked that way. A study based on face-to-face contact could be a great way to study the prejudices that may affect library services.

Addressing the unanswered questions
As suggested, expanding the number of libraries in the research and the number of personas used, can give more thorough results. However, examining the research for this project more thoroughly can also give a better picture of the project. As Furlan (2007) suggested in her review of the main article, that all the information in the research should have been explored rather than omitted. The Latin and Asian personas were not addressed, nor were all of the results for the Jewish and the Muslim personas (Furlan, 2007). If you add in the information from all of the personas, you see a truer picture of the project.

If the project was conducted on a larger scale, it should also include information on the types of questions. Depending on the library, it may be subject specific, or only a particular librarian works with that topic, or the librarians were unable to get to the request because they were busy. Not all libraries are the same, so there may be procedures in place that the researchers were unaware of. So conducting research in libraries with similar procedures and using more personas may give the topic more results.

Reference

Furlan, W. (2007). Virtual racism rears its head: Uncovering librarian bias in e-mail reference services.
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 2(2). Retrieved from: https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/EBLIP/article/view/229/407