Magazine article American Libraries

LC Minority Policies Come under Attack at House Hearings

Magazine article American Libraries

LC Minority Policies Come under Attack at House Hearings

Article excerpt

The Library of Congress's minority hiring and promotion practices came under attack by consultants, library employees, and congressmen at a pair of House subcommittee hearings held in late March.

"We have not done as well as we should to make equal opportunity a reality," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington acknowledged at a Mar. 18 hearing, but he added that LC has made "fundamental changes, particularly in recent months." However, committee members expressed skepticism: "I still feel like I'm in the time machine I talked about five years ago," said Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.). "I heard all the same reasons why they couldn't hire blacks 25 years ago." The Washington Post reported that Clay told Billington to either tell his managers to hire more qualified blacks or tell them "we'll find somebody to take your place who can."

Billington told the subcommittee that he planned to hire a deputy librarian "who will act as a chief operating officer," taking over much of LC's day-to-day management. This would be a reversal of Billingtons team management approach, which resulted in a sweeping reorganization at LC in 1989 (AL., Nov. 1989, p. 943). He added that he would create a new position of special assistant "who will help me focus continuous attention on both diversity and affirmative action."

The Post reported that the subcommittee focused on LC's apparent reluctance to implement a court dedsion from last August that found the library guilty of discrimination against black employees seeking promotions. The ruling, which called LC's promotion process excessively subjective, settled a 10-year-old class action suit (AL, Oct. 1992, p. 728-729).

Affirmative action lacking

The following week the panel heard testimony from two consultants hired by Billington to evaluate LC's hiring procedures. In regard to LC's development of an affirmative-action program, James W. Morrison, Jr., of Morrison Associates told the committee Mar. 24 that "the institutional culture at the library has not made that a high priority." He also observed that "the library as an institution was not being well managed on a day-to-day basis" and that "the management team approach that was in place for the past five years simply was not working."

The other consultant, attorney Edmund D. …

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