Articulate the importance of designing programs and services supportive of diversity, inclusion, and equity for clientele and employees.
Diversity is one of the foundational values of the librarian profession and should be considered to inform and guide the professional practices of information professionals (American Library Association (2004), 2018). In fact, the ALA policy reads, “We value our nation’s diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve” (American Library Association (2004), 2018, p.294). This tenet of the profession manifests in different areas of the work performed by information professionals, including staffing, collection development, and marketing efforts, and is driven by the belief that our differences, and the diverse perspectives that are brought to the table, make us stronger.
Ethnic diversity often comes to mind when discussing diversity in the workplace, but it is important to remember that discussions around diversity also include the diversity of age, gender, physical ability, mental ability, economic status, educational attainment, geography, and religious beliefs. The terms that surround conversations on diversity include diversity, inclusion, and multiculturalism (Wong & Figueroa, 2015), and these terms can be used differently based on the priorities and aspirations at hand. Multiculturalism is important when developing services and programs and can be defined as, “recognition or celebration of different cultures” (Wong & Figueroa, 2015). Inclusion as a term speaks to the need for an organization to create an environment where the myriad of skills, experiences, and perspectives are valued as a means to reinforce an individuals’ dignity and sense of belonging (Wong & Figueroa, 2015). Diversity is an all-encompassing term that speaks to the need to “oppose unfair forms of exclusion, prejudice, and discrimination” (Wong & Figueroa, 2015, p.28).
In fact, diversity is a key element of the Five Essential Elements for a Culturally Competent Organization (Wong & Figueroa, 2015) that collects the attitudes and policies an organization should have at every level of their organization. These include:
Information organizations have an opportunity through its collections, programs, and services to serve their diverse communities. “By including materials ina variety of formats, featuring a diversity of authors and illustrators, and addressing subjects in all areas, information organizations can reflect the diversity of the community” (Wong & Figueroa, 2015, p.34). Also, information organizations can establish collection policies that are representative of the individuals it serves, making it a valuable asset to the whole community.
The coursework at the SJSU School of Information held a current of promoting diversity throughout all of the activities and made me more aware of the need to instill diverse perspectives throughout the collections I managed and the context by which those assets were discoverable for my users. I quickly saw when I was managing the visual resources used in an educational setting the default perspective the majority of those assets came into our collections with.
The assumption, it seemed, was that the metadata values were determined from a default white perspective for a default white audience. This realization led me to re-examine many of the visual assets and add keywords to those items that demonstrated this bias, or narrow view in which they were originally tagged. that would provide a means for the priorities of diverse perspectives. For instance, in an image of the Tuskeegee Airmen we’d pulled into our collection for a project, it was simply tagged with that group. I added tags that would provide greater discoverability if that assumption of white history was removed. Yes, the Tuskeegee Airmen were historically significant, but they were also soldiers and fighter pilots and should be discoverable as such. The default perspectives of white and English speaking are much easier to see and react to after the topics surrounding diversity throughout the MLIS program.
I am submitting these images as a demonstration of my sense of responsibility in supporting diversity and inclusion in information management. During my time working as a Digital Asset Manager, the organization I worked for had a policy that on-air talent in our educational videos should ethnically and gender diverse. They believed they were successful in their goal, but I could see that their assumption of success was purely anecdotal and not based on any data to that effect. To gain greater insights on success and to also allow for better access to the talent available, I created a talent catalog in the online database tool Airtable, and I included the ethnicity and gender of the talent as metadata elements. Each of these records was also attached to the record held for each course in production, which allowed me to create a visualization on the frequency of the different ethnicities used as talent in our courses. Leadership was surprised they were so far afield of their goal, and immediately took steps to make sure each ethnic group had better representation on screen.
I submit these screenshots as an example of my dedication to ensuring that different perspectives are considered when tagging visual resources with metadata for discoverability. It was apparent to me when curating visual assets used in a high school social studies course that the keyword tags they held from their host institutions had a level of bias and only reflected the significance of those issues in the context of civil rights history and not any terms that could serve their general aboutness outside of that context. I edited the metadata on each of those images so they could be discovered in general searches for classrooms, soldiers, or prisons, and not solely discoverable on the name of the movement they were involved in. That method of tagging objectified the subjects of the images, reducing them to their involvement in historically significant events. In an effort to draw attention to this domain of images, I created a Black History catalog, gathering all of the images used in our materials in a single portal that users could browse through.
This example demonstrates the consideration I put into diversity and inclusivity, and on the importance I feel in making collections inclusive. As I mention in the post, giving communities a sense of ownership and representation in a collection fosters a sense of being personally invested in that collection.
Information professionals, as the keepers of history and knowledge, bear a great responsibility in ensuring that the voices from every community are maintained, and in making sure that current programs reflect the needs of the different communities it serves. The Hirsh text tells us “diversity efforts strengthen the work of information professionals and ultimately improve the position and the information organization in its community” (Wong & Figueroa, 2015, p.35). As an information professional, I will continue to advocate for diversity in collections and programs and to ensure that bias doesn’t influence discoverability.
American Library Association (2004). (2018). Core Values of Librarianship. In K. Haycock & M.-J. Romaniuk (Eds.), The portable MLIS: insights from the experts (Second edition). Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Wong, P., & Figueroa, M. (2015). Diversity, Cultures, and Equity of Access. In Information Services today: An introduction. Rowman & Littlefield.