Magazine article American Libraries

Eyeing the New Diversity: An Emerging Paradigm for Recruitment and Retention

Magazine article American Libraries

Eyeing the New Diversity: An Emerging Paradigm for Recruitment and Retention

Article excerpt

Workplace diversity management in our field has primarily focused on increasing the number of underrepresented populations among our ranks. Yet, an emerging paradigm shift that elevates values as a critical diversity factor is currently taking place in the global market.

Many of today's workers are seeking more than visual representations of diversity as proof that an employer offers an inclusive work environment. Potential employees desire meritocratic workplaces where the totality of an individual's diverse contributions and lifestyle choices matters as much as demographic differences.

This article examines the rise of values-based diversity as the next evolutionary step in workplace diversity management and the implications of this new approach for librarianship.

"Values-based diversity has a valid place in libraries' strategic thinking," says Robert C. Harris, human resources manager at Pennsylvania State University Libraries. "It's an appreciation of diversity that's not just based on visible characteristics and demographics. It is also about diversity in thought, diversity in approach, and diversity in ideas."

Values-based diversity is defined as a management philosophy in which the values that individuals bring into the workplace (such as differences in communication styles, work ethics, and motivational factors) are elevated as diversity issues. For example, the value of "face time" exposes new dimensions and challenges associated with successfully working together in a team environment, depending on one's generational and/or technological orientation.

In the May/June 2013 issue of Technicalities, Editor Peggy Johnson described workers born before 1964 as tending to value face-to-face meetings, long workdays, printed documentation, and lecture-style continuing education, while Gen X and Y (those born between 1965 and 2000) workers favor meeting-free environments that nurture their independence, cater to work/life balance, and offer online training.

"Stereotypes abound," Johnson wrote. "Gen X and Y tend to see boomers as self-righteous workaholics who don't have a life. Boomers may view members of the younger generations as slackers who do not understand how to work hard." She added, "This clash point over work/life balance may be one of the more divisive issues in today's workplace, especially in academic libraries, where most professionals cannot advance or obtain tenure if they consider their workday finished at 5 p.m., Monday through Friday."

Libraries and values-based diversity

"For years, when Penn State talked about diversity, we would pull out our charts and look at the demographic percentiles," says Harris. "But now we look, at how values and generational differences are going to impact how we assess performance and provide feedback."

Although the discussion of values-based diversity is new to librarianship, there already are library diversity policies that embrace the concept of inclusiveness. "Diversity is woven into the fabric of our structure," declares the University of Arizona Libraries on its "About Us" web page. "Diversity in our environment embraces the acceptance of a multiplicity of cultural heritage, lifestyles, and worldviews. It acknowledges the elimination of discrimination and the acceptance of difference."

Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library (OPPL), located in a progressive Chicago suburb, emphasizes in its diversity statement that "Ours is a dynamic community that encourages the contributions of all its citizens regardless of race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital and/or familial status, mental and/or physical impairment and/or disability, military status, economic class, political affiliation, or any of the other distinguishing characteristics that all too often divide people in society." It goes on to say that "the library aspires to reflect the traditions and values of Oak Park in our relationship to the residents of Oak Park and the staff of the library. …

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