Statement of Competency 3
Competency 3: Recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity.
The library and information profession thrives on diversity among patrons, organizations, and colleagues. The ALA identifies diversity as one of the Core Values that guides professional practice (ALA, 2004). Modern librarianship addresses the needs of patrons of various races, ages, genders, physical and mental abilities, social and economic status, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and linguistic skills. The term diversity acknowledges that “exclusion, prejudice, and discrimination still exist,” and that “information organizations and information professionals can actively work to upend these realities” (Wong & Figueroa, 2015, p. 28). Diversity work and diversity efforts in librarianship address these issues in programs, services, and collection development.
A commitment to intellectual freedom and equitable access compels librarians to “develop a diverse set of services to actively provide information to the many different people who need it” (Wong & Figueroa, 2015, p. 30). To this end, information organizations develop programs for patrons who are typically underserved, such as adult emerging readers, the poor, homeless, elderly, disabled, and isolated or homebound members of the community. Information organizations must undertake efforts to provide equitable access to ethically and culturally diverse communities. It is therefore critical for information professionals to be familiar with the “linguistic preferences, social customs, and cultural norms” of the communities they serve (p. 30). Outreach efforts must include intercultural communication and collaboration.
Diversity is reflected in the materials included in library collections. Our field of work is dedicated to offering information from a range of perspectives, and is founded on a strong belief in the freedom to express and explore diverse viewpoints. The belief in the right to intellectual freedom is explicitly expressed in the ALA Core Values of Librarianship (2004). Patrons should have the choice to explore works that examine topics and issues from diverse angles. Library collections must include materials that appeal to the interests of our patrons. Our mission includes promoting and celebrating cultural and individual identity, addressing the needs of patrons of various races, ages, genders, physical and mental abilities, social and economic status, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, and linguistic skills.
Goals involving inclusiveness, diversity, multiculturalism, and equitable access are dependent on cultural competency among information professionals. Cultural competency relies on “the acceptance and respect for diversity, continuing self-assessment regarding culture, and the ongoing development of knowledge, resources, and service models that work towards effectively meeting the needs of diverse populations” (ALA, 2013). This invests all library professionals with the responsibility of ongoing education and training that raises the awareness of and sensitivity towards issues of diversity.
The following examples of my work demonstrate my skills in Competency 3:
- International school library website, an INFO 298 independent project
- Serving special, diverse, and underserved populations, an assignment from INFO 210 (Reference and Information Services)
- Diversity in librarianship, a reflection from INFO 210 (Reference and Information Services)
- Here Comes Everybody, a book review from INFO 202 (Information Communities)
INFO 298 International school library website
This school library website was created as an INFO 298 independent project. I came up with the idea during an assignment for INFO 210, for which I created a simple school library LibGuide. The LibGuide assignment led me to envision a more comprehensive information tool for students in an international school environment in Switzerland. (I am familiar with the information needs of these students, my children having been students at this school for the past 10 years.) I proposed the creation of a library website to the school administration in Autumn 2016, as part of a strategic plan to modernize and improve the school library. The plan was approved by the administration, and I obtained permission from the MLIS program to gain credit as an independent project.
My library website is a portal to relevant and reliable information sources for a culturally diverse group of students. The project required the incorporation of the school’s mission and educational philosophy, curriculum knowledge, an understanding of the needs of families new to Switzerland, and a sensitivity to the culturally diverse school community, which consists of students from over 60 countries. The learning language is English, all students study French at varying levels, and many students speak at least one additional language. The administration specified that school library website information should mainly consist of English language resources, but should also reflect the local community and its French language resources.
The development of this resource demonstrates my sensitivity to issues of diversity. The website is designed for children aged 11 to 18, and offers materials geared toward differing levels of maturity and reading ability. English language resources include links to US, UK, Canadian, and Australian based information. I worked with the school’s French department to develop links to general resources in French. Unfortunately, the university guidance resources are focused mainly on US, UK, and Swiss universities. I continue my efforts to obtain useful information for applying to universities in other countries around the world. A diverse range of local activities presents ideas to families who are new to the area. The project is open to feedback, and the website provides a form, which students, teachers, and parents are welcome to submit. I have been able to make improvements, modifications, and additions in response to these suggestions.
The website was completed and launched in March 2017, but is continually evolving to reflect the needs of and incorporate input from the school community. I was hired by the school in April 2017, and have initiated an information literacy instruction program in September 2017. I have since had the opportunity to observe user experience firsthand, and have modified website language, navigation tools, and resources accordingly. This project clearly demonstrates my understanding and mastery of Competency 3.
This contribution to an INFO 210 class discussion describes library programs for senior citizens. The paper is grounded on ALA guidelines regarding services to older adults. I examine the information needs of the elderly population, and the positive impact of library services and programs that respond to these needs. This discussion is evidence of my awareness of ways in which information professionals promote diversity.
INFO 210 Diversity in librarianship
INFO 210 required class members to share news articles concerning reference and information services. I offered links to two articles depicting diversity work in librarianship. The first article relates the story of a former schoolteacher who established a library for children in a refugee camp in Calais, France. The article is an example of the importance of libraries in the lives of poor, displaced, and underserved communities. The second article is an account of the appointment of Dr. Carla Hayden, and African American woman, as Librarian of Congress. My summary and analysis demonstrate my awareness that information organizations benefit from leadership that reflects the diversity of the populations they serve.
INFO 202 Here Comes Everybody review
I reviewed the book Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirkey, for an INFO 200 assignment. I was not a fan of the book. My analysis addresses Shirkey’s negligence of the gaping “digital divide,” into which fall those who lack internet access and/or information literacy. The paper demonstrates my concern for sectors of the world population who are left behind in the rapidly advancing age of technology. This is a situation addressed by public libraries that often provide the only internet access and training to underserved members of society.
Our mission as information professionals includes the provision of equitable access, the promotion of intellectual freedom, and a commitment to developing lifelong learners who are equipped to participate as members of a democratic society. The provision of programs, services, and materials that reflect our core values demands ongoing efforts to understand the diverse needs and experiences of the patrons we serve. By the evidence of my course work above, I have demonstrated my understanding and mastery of this competency.
American Library Association (2004). Core Values of Librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/corevalues
American Library Association (2013). Diversity. Online Policy Manual: Section B. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aboutala/b3-diversity-old-number-60
Wong, P. & Figueroa, M. (2015). Diversity, cultures, and equity of access. In Hirsch, S. (Ed.), Information Services Today: An Introduction (Chapter 4). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.