Number of black librarians drops

An Anonymous Patron writes "Reinette Jones is working to bring attention to a shortage of other blacks entering the profession in Kentucky. The problem is expected to grow worse as librarians begin retiring and efforts to recruit black librarians fall far short.
Here's The Story. Today, Jones said, library staffs still need to be as diverse as the populations they serve, in part because libraries still serve as "cultural centers" in many communities."
Also, thanks to Martha, Gary, Bob and Nat for suggesting thing one.

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Sounds good, but...

It all sounds good in practice. "...library staffs still need to be as diverse as the populations they serve." Just as in the academic world, we need encouragement for all individuals to pursue the profession, but not to favor one individual over another, regardless of any criteria. I'd be disappointed to see quotas or racial preference used to select candidates for graduate schools. If that were the case, we would have articles (and action) about the under-representation of males in the profession. Or am I off-base here? Isn't half the population of patrons male?As I whip out my handy Bowker Annual 2001, it looks like only 205 of the 1,103 reported 1999 U.S. MLS graduates were men. I'm all for a diverse libarian population, but I'm also very nervous about trying to even out the field without bringing up the point that the field is still heavily female-dominated.

"i'm afraid of librarians"

I wonder if the profession is still weighted against males because, despite efforts, it's a (relatively) low-paying, "helper" profession, one that men are less likely to settle for. There are more men in libraries these days, but I suspect many of them go into IT positions, without MLS degrees, at higher pay than entry-level degreed librarians. (Yes, this is a hunch, based merely on observation.)

I don't know how a quota system would work, in terms of racial diversity, since there's not much of a graduate pool to draw from in the first place. I think that there's something(s) about the profession that's very uninviting to many non-white students looking for careers. I suspect it's because libraries themselves are not particularly comfortable and inviting places to many non-white users. Not only non-white, but non-white collar. Despite efforts to the contrary, libraries are still seen as an exclusive, paternalistic and elitist institution by many. We, as librarians, don't always do the best job of sharing our knowledge and the information available.

I did an interview with poet and NPR commentator Andrei Codrescu. One of my questions was about how he used libraries. His response was, "I always do the [research] work myself. I'm afraid of librarians-they have whips and high heels and they cut you if you talk funny." ("I'm Afraid of Librarians". Public Libraries Jan/Feb 2002, v.41. no.1)

Re:"i'm afraid of librarians"

Good points, Rochelle.On the side note of pay...I'd recommend not trusting Bowker's or other surveys to accurately portray the high paying opportunities for MLS grads in the corporate and vendor worlds. It's true that most public and many academic jobs are low paying, but the corporate/vendor world can pay very well. Many grads may have entered the profession for the purpose (not pay), but better paying jobs are out there.

Re:"i'm afraid of librarians"

>>I think that there's something(s) about the profession that's very uninviting to many non-white students looking for careers. I suspect it's because libraries themselves are not particularly comfortable and inviting places to many non-white users. Not only non-white, but non-white collar. Despite efforts to the contrary, libraries are still seen as an exclusive, paternalistic and elitist institution by many.

Rochelle, friend, from what do you base this generalization??

This, IMHO, is a rather bold statement.

My jaw hit the floor when I read this.

Men need not apply

Recent openings for academic librarians in my state were posted to the state library association list with the tagline "women and minorities encouraged to apply." This in a profession in which men are overwhelmingly in the minority? I'm sure this was pursuant to some institutional policy, according to which university administrators probably see the library as the female ghetto that enables the rest of the university to laugh at civil rights laws.

Re:Men need not apply

Good point. So it begs the question that if men are underrepresented, should they be given a hiring advantage for these positions? Of course not. But look at all the support for such practices when the tables are turned...

Re:Men need not apply

the academic library hiring language is reflecting universities' hiring policies, not the libraries'. that statement usually appears at the bottom of any academic job announcement, whether it's in a library or any other academic department. you can't get permission to hire without it, usually.

also, the statement that men are underrepresented in the profession is somewhat misleading. they may be underrepresented in sheer numbers, but there's more to it than that. look at how many male librarians are administrators. it's probably safe to bet that a higher percentage of male librarians are in administration than the percentage of females.

not only that, comparing recruitment of people of color to recruiting males is disingenuous at best, imho. it's apples and oranges.

Re:Men need not apply

I don't disagree. But if we think that gender and ethnic equity is a good thing, we need to recruit white males as entry-level librarians and elementary school teachers even as we recruit women (all colors, including pink) and minority males as library directors and school administrators. Civil rights laws, as applied, don't let us do both.

Re:Men need not apply

> not only that, comparing recruitment of people of color to recruiting males is disingenuous at best, imho. it's apples and oranges.Well, the statement that men are underrepresented in the profession is true, cold hard fact. Pointing out that 'it's probably safe to bet' that more men are administrators is not based on fact, and does not address the issue either.>comparing recruitment of people of color to recruiting males is disingenuous at bestHow so? In this article, it makes the argument that we need more black librarians because the population is diverse and needs diverse representation. I agree from the data that there needs to be more black librarians/graduate students. However, what's more plainly diversive than the male/female ratio? Especially when men are approximately only slightly greater than 18.5% of the graduates in 1999 data.I have never seen a single MLS/MLIS scholarship, award, or acknowledgement that focuses on getting more men into the profession. Let's be candid that the data shows the profession is not diverse, either in race or sex.

Re:Men need not apply

Why not simply allow federal anti-discrimination laws regarding hiring practices suffice?

I would disagree that comparing men with "people of color" (more on this later) is non-congruent. Gender along with, color, race, ancestry, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status, veteran status, citizenship status and sexual orientation is a protected status.

Here's the rub. Affirmative action policies are inherently indefinable. And always will be.

How is one deemed, "a person of color"? Saliva swabs, blood samples, perhaps lobes measured? Well leave the issue of lineage alone.

Second, no "benchmark" is established to measure success. For example, if 25% of African Americans are librarians do we now have a glut of that minority? IOW, should each profession be a demographic reflection? If so what demographic, national, state, regional, etc.?

Let's enforce the anti-discrimination laws and may the best qualified man/woman, asian- pacific islander, latino, African American,...be hired.

Re:Men need not apply

Just on your men v. women point:The ARL Annual Salary Survey says:Women directors out number men, by just one, Associate & Assistants by 230 to 160, so if the ARL is indicative, then male admins don't outnumber female, in terms of raw numbers. And if we assume Associate & Assistants go on to be directors, then those #'s should move more towards the women. You can massage those #'s to prove anything you want, I'm just pointing out total #'s here.

Re:Men need not apply

Thanks Blake. So there we go, men do not outnumber women in administrative positions in the field (FACT), and women graduates in the field outpace men 4.4 to 1 (FACT). Since men are approximately 50% of the population...

Re:"i'm afraid of librarians"

I base this generalization on my experiences as a working public librarian, from the comments I hear from patrons, from my own wrongly elitist attitudes, and from the conversations I hear/read librarians and library workers have every day at work, at conference, and on lists like this. Never mind the ideal...I'm talking about how we really do our jobs.

If libraries really were places where everyone was welcomed and treated equally, we would not have patrons repeatedly apologizing for "bothering" us at service desks, and for not knowing how to use resources. Codrescu's comment about librarians cutting you if you talk funny, while over-the-top, obviously comes from some place. Codrescu is a highly educated, talented and brilliant guy, a tenured professor, and no shrinking violet, but still wary of seeking help from a librarian. If we can cow someone like Codrescu, what's it like to approach a librarian when you've got dirt under your nails and haven't seen the inside of a library since jr. high, have a learning disability and CAN'T make sense of our interfaces and signage, be a non-native speaker with a thick accent and have someone respond to you as if you're retarded (LOUD AND SLOW).

As I've been typing this, my 10 year old asked me to listen to a Calvin and Hobbes strip she was reading. Calvin is freaking out about an overdue book. His mom tells him all that will happen is that he'll be fined .10. Calvin's last line is: "The way some of those librarians look at you, I naturally assumed the consequences would be more dire."

Tomeboy, I certainly don't mean to indict all library workers, and I know that many people have nothing but positive library experiences to recount, but we obviously have a long way to go.

REFORMA has been very active in developing a mentoring program to get young people of color involved in libraries. They understand that the profession will never attract people of color unless there are people of color visible in libraries.

And, I gotta say, it's pretty interesting and disheartening that the original story aobut cultural diversity has spawned a thread about the lack of men in the profession. While I am not unsympathetic to that discussion, I don't think this is where it belongs.

Re:Men need not apply

yeah, but it would seem that men have the upper hand proportionately and that a higher percentage of male librarians are admins than female librarians. know what i mean, jellybean?

Re:Men need not apply

??Blake's post references a study that men do not seem to have the upper hand in this situation. Anyway, that arguement does not support the reasoning that men are still a minority in the field. So if men are 18.5% of the grads, but equal in terms of administration, then that proportion shows bias?

Re:"i'm afraid of librarians"

Thoughtful answer. And certainly sincere.

I wouldn’t and don’t question your experiences with patrons Rochelle. But I cannot say my experiences as an academic librarian are the same. Let me rephrase, I cannot say I can connect any perceived or stated trepidation of our patrons as symptoms of elitism. Uncertainty with how to find scholarly criticisms for English 132 yes, misgivings about the haughty white reference librarian who seems to know more than the average Jane no. At least not very often.

My point? Generalizations are dangerous creatures. What appears to be true is often just a perception formed by our own life experiences. Careful, this does not preclude some truth to these personal experiences. Again I certainly believe you. It’s the extrapolation part that gets dicey.

Re:"i'm afraid of librarians"

Disheartening? Not where it belongs? Rochelle, yours was the second post to the thread, and its first paragraph was all about the gender issue rather than the so-called cultural one. If you didn't like the thread, why further it?

Gender is a cultural issue. If it's representation we're after, gender representation is a goal as much as cultural representation.

Re:Sounds good, but...

Yep, it sure does sound good, Matthew! And once upon a time it was a reality without preferences or quotas or displacing or favoring students of other races. Imagine that.You are not offbase at all - why not articles about the underrepresentation of males?

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