Librarians of Color Meet in Kansas

Article excerpt

By 2015, people of color will comprise a majority of the US population. And to adapt to these changing demographics, the goal of librarians will be twofold: Address the needs of these diverse communities and have the profession better reflect them.

That was the message at the second national Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC), where more than 800 librarians and exhibitors gathered September 19-23 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The conference--last held in Dallas, in 2006--centered on the theme "Gathering at the Waters: Celebrating Stories, Embracing Communities." Sonia Manzano, best known for playing Maria on Sesame Street, was the keynote speaker at the opening general session, where she told of growing up in the South Bronx and conveyed the importance of libraries in the lives of children. Author and activist Jamal Joseph spoke at the closing session and discussed his stint as a Black Panther in his youth.

Engagement

At the plenary session, leaders of the five ethnic caucus associations--representing African Americans, American Indians, Asian/Pacific Americans, Chinese Americans, and Latinos--discussed diversity, community engagement, and leadership with ALA President Maureen Sullivan, who moderated the event.

During the conversation, Jerome Offord Jr. of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association said librarians of color need to engage with students at a younger age to recruit them into the profession.

This idea of providing support for the next generation of librarians was a common one throughout the conference. Also prevalent was the message of embracing diverse patrons.

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At a program called "Welcome, Newcomers! Using Demographic Data to Better Serve Your Immigrant Communities," Fred Gitner and Wai Sze Chan, librarians at the New Americans Program at Queens (N.Y.) Library, focused on ways to identify local demographic shifts, build collections, develop programming for multilingual patrons, and promote services. …