First off: I ask all of those who have responded to Kathleen McCook's story on diversity in the library profession as well as all other critics or detractors of PLG/SRRT etc. NOT to respond to this journal entry. I am interested only in the responses of Prof. McCook or of someone sympathetic to to her position, which I am still trying to be sure I understand. I can't prevent you from responding, but if you wish to comment, please do so in your own LISNews journal or blog, and we'll read it there. Thank you.
In her Brown v. Board of Education story, Kathleen McCook writes:
In librarianship the profession's efforts to reflect the people we serve among our own numbers have been recently analyzed in the LJ study,"The Diversity Mandate" by Denice Adkins & Isabel Espinal(4/15/2004) ...
So the profession is making an effort to reflect the diversity of the population they serve. "Diversity" here seems to be understood to mean that the demographic makeup of the library profession reflects the demographic makeup of the population. I think even those who disagree in some way with this definition, or with some of the means by which the effort is made, will still agree that the goal of having a profession that is (in some meaningful sense) diverse is laudable.
However, I also note that Rory Litwin seems to hold that there is at least one respect in which is not necessary that the library profession reflect the diversity of the people it serves:
It seems to me that Blake might
naively assume that the political center within the library profession should be the same as the political center in American society at large,
and if it is not, that there is an adjustment to be made, and that he is the guy to do it by providing a new vehicle for these "underrepresented" conservative librarians to voice their profound opinions.
("LISNews Veers Right", Library Juice 7:10)
I think one of two things must be the case: either Prof. McCook and Mr. Litwin agree that it is not necessary (and indeed not desirable) that the library profession reflect the diversity of political opinion of the people they serve (however much other kinds of diversity are to be pursued), or Prof. McCook and Mr. Litwin disagree on this point. Based on what little I know of this matter, the former seems more likely. Would it be fair to say that you don't believe that the library profession should reflect the diversity of political opinion of the population served?
As I thought through the above, some further questions occurred to me. The first set: how is it that we determine in exactly what ways the profession should reflect the diversity people it serves, and in what ways it shouldn't? How do we conclude, e.g., that the profession should reflect the ethnic makeup, or the racial makeup, or the linguistic makeup, or the gender makeup, or the sexual preference makeup, of the general population, but not e.g. the political makeup? Should political views be considered at all when recruiting for the profession? Should white conservatives be discouraged from joining the profession, or should they simply be encouraged less strenuously than minorities and women? Should political views be considered when the prospective recruits are people of color?
Was socio-economic status considered as a factor in the LJ study? Do you consider it important that the profession reflect the socio-economic makeup of the general population as a facet of the necessary diversity?
What about educational level? Should the profession mirror the people it serves with respect to education? I suspect that socio-economic status and level of education are two of the best indicators of advantage and disadvantage. I suppose that if a profession has minimum educational requirements it can't very well mirror the population as to education, but should it not do so as to socio-economic status?
Ostensibly the library profession is less diverse than the general population because proportionately more whites than people of color chose to pursue LIS careers, and proportionately more people of color than whites chose to pursue something other than LIS. There could be many kinds of reasons why people choose the way they do: personal interest, income prospects, a sense that a profession is more hostile or more inviting in some way to persons of the sort one is (whether demographically or otherwise), ethical concerns, values imbibed from family, values imbibed from cultural context, etc. When you analyze the reasons for the problem of lack of diversity in the profession, are there any types of reason you exclude from consideration systematically (leaving aside something really wacko like alleged gender- or race-based differences in intelligence)? What are your starting assumptions about how and why people choose as they do?
It took me long enough to write this entry that I certainly can't very well expect anyone to answer all of it. Any responses from those in the know would be welcome.