Diversity: The Heart of the Profession

Article excerpt

In my day job, I serve as the director of the El Paso (Tex.) Public Library--in a unique community of approximately 750,000 people living on the U.S.-Mexico border. El Paso represents everything that I celebrate as a person and as a librarian. I love our diverse multicultural, multilingual, and binational community, and believe it is a microcosm of what our nation will soon become.

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Diversity is at the heart of our nation today and, for that reason, must be at the heart of the library profession as well. Library personnel, collections, programs, and services should reflect our communities. As a public library administrator with 25 years of experience, I am intrigued by the differences reflected in each community that I've served and the challenges of finding ways to meet the unique needs of their populations.

My first experience was at the age of 22 when, as a Chicago native who had just accepted the position of bookmobile services librarian at Ozark Regional Library in Ironton, Missouri, I found myself serving a rural clientele for the first time in my life. Traveling through our four-county region nestled in the Ozark Hills, I learned that listening to those you serve and taking the initiative to meet their needs will build bridges across any cultural, ethnic, or language difference.

In El Paso, this challenge takes on a new dimension. Serving a Hispanic population of nearly 80% and a majority who speak Spanish as their primary language at home, our library system has recognized the need to promote reading at all levels and in any language. Over 25% of our collection is available in Spanish and we are also adding German, French, and Asian languages to serve our patrons. We are dedicated, as I am sure you are, to providing books and resources that will improve the lives of all the people--toda la gente.

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One world, many cultures

I am excited about a new initiative created by my Presidential Advisory Committee called "Many Voices, One Nation. …