Thursday, September 25, 2014

Little to No Progress in Ethnic Minority Representation in ALA, and American Libraries Since 1985

Librarians are NOT representative of the current US Demographics

According to my calculations, the ALA had 88.5% White Librarians in 1985, and 87.97% in 2009-2010.

According to my calculations, the ALA had 1.8% Asian/Pacific Islander Librarians in 1985, and 2.7% in 2009-2010.

According to my calculations, the ALA had 1.8% Latino Librarians in 1985, and 3.08% in 2009-2010.

According to my calculations, the ALA had 6.1% African American Librarians in 1985, and 5.19% in 2009-2010.

In the US, the above image is linked to the image below.

Figures derived from Equity at Issue document from ALA 1985 and ALA office of diversity 2009-2010.


Celia said...

Following on Nina de Jesus' intelligent comments at, I believe the MLS (+ it's comparatively low earnings for a professional degree) presents huge barriers to ethnic and class diversity. Poor students can use limited scholarships, resources, and time more effectively to get a bachelor's or associates. A well-formed curriculum could easily teach public librarianship at that level. Minorities with access to affluent training can easily reach 'higher' into more status-based or remunerative fields like doctor, engineer, lawyer. We can't expect a flood of applicants if it requires 6+ years of higher ed to have a *chance* at a decent librarian job. Allowing alternate credentials or post-associate's certifications to count would make the field more attractive to intelligent, outgoing, and less-privileged members of our society!

ramontrane said...

Hi Lowrider:
Yeah, it's a shame, but Celia brought a good point. Who wants to be a librarian nowadays? The salaries are low compared with other professions and getting a degree is expensive (I've already have being paying mine for almost 10 years). On the other hand, with the change of demographics in this country, there are more chances for the so called "minorities" (I would call them "emergent majorities"), to get positions to work with a diverse community. I hope that one day, the numbers can reflect the ones of the population as a whole. And yes, being different is being a potential victim of the so called "law".

Max Macias said...

Even if you have access to "Affluent" training Celia--I went to a private university for my undergrad, and also have an MLS, and I still have a problem getting a job. It isn't intellect, or opportunity--it is racism--straight up White-Supremacy. I'm not a house slave, so I don't have a job plain ans simple.

Anonymous said...

In library school I read that support staff tend to more closely resemble the local community than the professional staff. I thought, well hell -- just send those folks to library school! If we're serious about reflecting our communities, we should start paying tuition to shelvers and clerks so they can move up.


Rachel said...

The comments about people of color not entering librarianship due to poor salaries is not 100% accurate. If anyone noticed, people of color are underrepresented in ALL professional fields that require graduate education.

We have to ask the following questions:

-- What are the experiences of people of color in libraries, as they are growing up, or as adults when they are in need of library services, or in the library workplace itself?
-- How many people of color have seen library employees who are people of color?
-- How many people of color, when they are college students, apply for library student employee jobs and get some work experience in their college libraries? What is their experience? Do they have opportunities to communicate with library staff and librarians, and are those positive experiences?

K-12 teachers are also paid poorly, but it seems that more people of color are entering K-12 than librarianship. Not all of them stay in the field either, which means that our society continues to have systemic problems that need major overhauls.


Max Macias said...

@ Shaun--yes!

@ Rachel,

Your questions are valid and you raise some great points here--Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What's the point of choosing a career underpaid and under the tutelage of the dominant culture.
The career of so called "library science" (science? C'mon)is just a way of taking money out of our pockets. To get the diploma is like to pay taxes for something that doesn't increase our knowledge of libraries.
I began working in libraries as a page (volunteering first). Went through circulation and technical services and then library assistance and then, to my surprise, I learned that in order to be a "librarian" you have to have a piece of paper in the wall. I learned everything and more about the library IN the library, not in school.
Now, most libraries, even the largest ones, are hiring part time or on call workers so they don't have to pay benefits. It's disgusting.
ALA is one of the architects of this unjust system. It seems that it's a forum for companies rather than for people working for libraries.
By the way, having work in every position in the library (with the exception of director or supervisor -I wonder why), I'm convinced that the so called "library staff" knows much better what's going on in the library than librarians. They are in touch constantly with everybody in the building. They know what is circulating. They know the collection. They can retrieve information with just a week of training. Same with cataloging. Get an accelerated course and save money for the bread.
Libraries do not represent the community if it's not for the "library staff" (and still is too short in terms of hiring people of color or diverse ethnic/cultural background). Until we don't change the dominant culture, there will not be changes in the libraries. The emergent majority (yes, all of us that are called minorities) is at the point of crushing the current Caucasian/White majority. In 10, 15 years we'll see the results. Unless we strengthen our current dictatorship of the corporations and our corrupt political system. In other words, unless we face the real "inconvenient" truth, which is not climate change, but capitalism (great Naomi Klein!).


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