Tag Archives: Canada

Roundtable: What is holding librarianship back from being more inclusive of visible minorities?

Reviewed By: Naomi Paven, Mary Jo O’Connor, & Mario Torres

Link to article: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/4887/4833

Soliciting input from three librarians and one MLIS candidate, “Roundtable: What is holding librarianship back from being more inclusive of visible minorities?” initiates a long-overdue conversation about the lack of visible minority representation within the field in Canada. As addressed in this article, the important discrepancy between Canadian demographics and the makeup of librarianship in Canada cannot be pinned on a single factor or event. Hiring and promotional structures within library systems, recruitment initiatives by information schools, and collection development are listed as areas where potential bias and barriers exist. Beyond the stacks, however, there is an emphasis for the consideration of race, racism, and white supremacy in Canadian society. Librarians, library systems, and information schools must examine their contributions to unfair and unequal practices with a critical eye, and question to what extent their workplaces are a reflection and perpetuation of a biased society.
Although geographically close and sharing powerful economic and political ties, Canada is not a sparsely populated carbon copy of its southern neighbour. With one tenth the population of the United States and governed by a parliamentary system, this officially bilingual nation struggles to define its cultural identity. However, like the US, Canada has also experienced a recent spike in social tension—initiatives to address the wrongs of colonialism, a surge in race-based violence, and a heated federal election scheduled for October 2019 elicit opinions from pundits to laypersons. This article scratches the surface of where diversity and inclusion, Canadian society, and Canadian librarianship intersect.
The article seeks to address the disparity between the great variety of ethnicities in the Canadian population and their lack of representation in librarianship. Bell, Chan, Liu, & Ramos are tasked with answering “What is holding librarianship back from being more inclusive of visible minorities?”. This is a particularly important question in Canada since the 2016 Canadian Census reported that over 250 different ethnicities and ancestries can be found in the Canadian population, with 40% of census respondents identifying more than one ethnic ancestry. The majority of Canadians identify as European descendants, with Chinese, East Indian, and Filipino being among the most common non-European ancestries.
The province with the greatest number of librarians identifying as a visible minority is British Columbia at 15%. Ontario, the country’s most populated province comes in third with only 9%, and all three Territories, as well as the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, recorded no librarians who are visible minorities. These discrepancies could be due to hiring practices within institutions, or also through inherently racist or biased recruitment of MLIS candidates, or several issues within the profession and society. It is also possible that the current library demographics reflect the cultural, economic, and political dominance of white people in culture in Canada and, more broadly, North America. This article raises potential obstacles to the effective recruitment of visible minorities into the library profession and addresses how Canadian Librarianship can overcome these challenges.
While the article does not adhere strictly to the standards of a research paper, it does use a format backed by academic precedent. In this instance, a written roundtable where multiple individuals in the profession respond to the same question. Tamara Noor, the compiler of the responses that form the article, does not necessarily state that these responses are meant to be representative or authoritative regarding diversity in librarianship. Rather, the responses are presented merely as four opinions from those who have had, by virtue of working in or towards a career in the LIS professions, opportunities to confront this question. This is appropriate as this article appeared in the “Features” section of an otherwise research focused journal.
In a sense, this method attempts to likely capture the voice of their reading and target audience, Canadian, and more broadly North American, library and information researchers, professionals, and students. Despite not outlining a specific methodology for this article, there was clearly editorial thought put into the selection of opinions as they are well chosen by representing a diverse range of positions within information professions. Respectively, an associate librarian, a collections librarian, a systems administrator/manager and an MLIS candidate were consulted. While the subjective nature of the question would make it difficult to address through quantitative analysis, this short article provides an interesting look into some of the likely more common opinions regarding this topic.
Given the nature of the article, the findings are likewise diverse. Norda Bell, an associate librarian, points to larger systemic issues with western cultural itself, claiming that these underlying forms of bias and cultural hegemony perpetuate inequality and lack of diversity in the profession itself. In short, that problems of diversity and retention of diversity in MLIS field will not be solved by internal solutions alone, but by addressing “racism, exclusion, and structural barriers”. While Bell writes with strong sentiment and valid arguments, she doesn’t offer many ideas or methods for broaching this intensely sensitive question, or what happens thereafter, how these ideas are merged into MLIS practice effectively and efficiently.
Mary P. Chan, a collections librarian, gives a similar opinion, but grounds it in facts and possible solutions—she notes that librarians need to worry less about whether there is a lack of diversity in the profession as research, data, and experience will prove to most individuals, the problem is there. Chan claims that action is more important at this stage and offers a list of ideas for possible solutions. She addresses the issue from an institutional standpoint and highlights three core areas of the profession which can create change: administrators and managerial level librarians, professional associations, and MLIS schools/programs.
Of all the respondents, Guoying Liu, Head of a Systems Department, presents her argument most like a research paper. Liu first addresses the demographics in Canada and points out need for improvements in CAPAL data. She then systematically discusses several issues relating to diversity in Canadian librarianship. In Liu’s estimation, the most salient issues affecting the roundtable question are: the issue of proper environment to encourage diverse libraries, and the perceptions of librarians on this topic; lack of diversity recruitment and retention; and deficit of visible minority voices in the MLIS field. Finally, Astrid Ramos is a MLIS candidate and thus has the least first-hand experience on the topic, but also has studied it in her program. She focuses on the idea of recruiting students at all academic levels to increase interest and knowledge of opportunities for people of diverse background to join and strengthen profession.
While well intentioned, diversity initiatives have often proved to be unsuccessful, and are frequently met with opposition in both Canadian and American institutions. The argument is that that the most qualified person, regardless of circumstance, will be hired. This perspective is a result of the unconscious bias that fails to recognize the systematic forces which leave people of color with less access to resources than their white peers. This lack of access has a direct impact on who could be considered the most qualified person for the job. Libraries are not exempt from this bias. This article states that in order for diversity initiatives within Canadian organizations to be successful, there must be an accompanying discussion which confronts inequalities within institutions.
American libraries face a similar issue. In order to make the career path more welcoming to visible minorities, there must be an institutional effort to “[a]cknowledge that past grievances like systematic discrimination and lack of properly funded educational opportunities will deter potential students” (Bell, Chan, Liu, & Ramos, 2018, p.3). American libraries can do as this article suggests and make diversity an institutional priority. Doing so will require addressing those previous grievances and providing alternative opportunities that will ease the way for visible minorities who wish to gain employment within an information institution. A diversity initiative that does not acknowledge the harmful structures in place and work to remove barriers is destined to be unsuccessful. In order to truly bridge the gap within American libraries, this article suggests incorporating feedback from visible minority librarians into strategies and action plans that seek to improve institutional inclusivity.

References –
Canadian Association of Professional Academic Libraries. (2017). 2016 Census of Canadian academic librarians cross tables. Retrieved from https://capalibrarians.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Cross_Tab-Report_June_16_2017_FINAL.pdf

Bell, N., Chan, May P., Liu, Guoying., & Ramos, Astrid. (2018). Roundtable: What is holding librarianship back from being more inclusive of visible minorities?. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 13(2) DOI: http://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v13i2.4887

Statistics Canada. (2017, October 25). Ethnic and cultural origins of Canadians: Portrait of a rich heritage [webpage]. Retrieved from https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016016/98-200-x2016016-eng.cfm

Reflecting the lives of Aboriginal Women in Canadian Public Library Collection Development

Reviewed By: Jessica Bell, Allaxandra Guillen, Shana Hay, Myka Menard

Link to article: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/1245

Article Synopsis
This paper outlines the reasons why Canadian libraries need to develop collections that include accurate and informative resources by, about, and for Aboriginal women in Canada. By discussing the various challenges and successes experienced by collections staff as they seek to supplement this part of their collections, library staff have had the opportunity to see how traditional classification and outdated materials (that focus on mainly negative issues like addictions and incarceration) can prevent discovery by promoting the narrative of the majority over that of the minority. To this end, the author devotes a considerable amount of space to advising on various available resources and providing connections to those resources for further exploration. This paper is Canadian, and though it is speaking directly to Canadian library professionals, because of the proximity between countries the author reminds us that any proposed collection must take into account the experience of Indigenous groups in both Canada and the U.S. The United States and Canada share a border, but these borders are not the same as the Indigenous nations that came before it. Therefore, many of the Indigenous people struggling in Canada are from the same tribes as those struggling in the United States. Essentially, public libraries must establish themselves as spaces of inclusion- all users should see themselves represented in the library and this takes acknowledgement and commitment on part of the LIS professional and the institution they represent.

Core Research Questions
This articles attempts to answer three core research questions:
How can Canadian libraries provide a better understanding of the lives of Aboriginal women in Canada?
How can Canadian libraries develop a core collection of materials by, for, and about Aboriginal women that “accurately reflects and affirms their lived experiences,” (2010, P. 2)?
How can Canadian libraries become more inclusive and welcoming for Aboriginal women?

Methods
The author conducted research to find credible sources that provide information about Aboriginal women in Canada, which is listed in Table 1 (2010, P.4-6). These sources were used to create some recommended resources that Canadian libraries could include in their collection. The authors resources contain a list of major authors, key nonfiction titles, and important journals and magazines. The author notes that these lists are only meant to be starting points. Over time, new authors and works will need to be added to library collections.

Findings and Conclusions
It is important to develop a library collection that reflects the “diversity and complexity of Aboriginal women in Canada,” (2010, P. 26). One of the most important roles of public libraries is to provide their communities with access to accurate, credible information. Developing a library collection that is accurate and respectful of Aboriginal women will help dispel racist stereotypes and expand the community’s understanding of Aboriginal people. While libraries have started to include works that more accurately reflect the lives and perspectives of Aboriginal women, the author finds that more work needs to be done. Some steps Kelly notes still need to be taken include: “compiling a representation of resources and works being used and created by Inuit women… and most importantly a better understanding of how libraries engage with Aboriginal women so that any changes made truly reflect what they want and expect from their public libraries,” (2010, P.25-26). In short, people want to see themselves reflected in the libraries collection.

What Can American Libraries Learn?
The population of the United States is incredibly diverse, and each community has unique needs that libraries must identify to be able to serve their community effectively. By assessing global practices and tailoring them to the needs of their community, American libraries have the opportunity to design services for their diverse populations. This can be achieved through efforts to develop culturally sensitive collections and programs, especially in consideration of celebrating minorities; not just identifying problems, shortcomings, or stereotypes. The demographics of marginalized groups are different for each library’s community, but the practice of representing minority voices in a collection can be applied universally. Libraries in the United States can take cues from countries like Canada, which is pushing to not only preserve indigenous knowledge, but also to make that knowledge more broadly available to indigenous and non-indigenous community members alike. This practice can be further expanded to the collection of materials representative of any minority group.
Creating a welcoming environment for all community members, especially those belonging to a minority group, is also a universal concern for libraries to address. Libraries should be for the entire community, not just certain parts of it; unfortunately, past and present institutionalized practices can instill a sense of exclusion for marginalized groups. As global efforts seek to become more inclusive in their materials and services, American libraries can also actively engage their minority community members to let them know they are welcomed in, and valued at, their facilities.

Works Cited
Kelly, B. (2011). Reflecting the Lives of Aboriginal Women in Canadian Public Library
Collection Development. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and
Information Practice and Research, 5(2). Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v5i2.1245