Ethnic Minorities in Librarianship: A Selected Bibliography

By Jones-Quartey, Theo S.; Byunn, Kit S. | Special Libraries, Spring 1993 | Go to article overview

Ethnic Minorities in Librarianship: A Selected Bibliography


Jones-Quartey, Theo S., Byunn, Kit S., Special Libraries


A primary role of libraries is to meet the information needs of the communities which they serve. The demographics of the United States show that these communities are becoming increasingly culturally and racially diverse. It is important therefore, that libraries respond to this fact by reflecting diversity in both their collections and their professional staff. Unfortunately, ethnic minority librarians continue to be almost nonexistent. This bibliography focuses on the librarian or library service provider who is an ethnic minority. It is aimed at providing information on research and literature that is immediately relevant to ethnic minority librarians.

American demographic statistical projections clearly exhibit the increasing diversity of the population. African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans now make up approximately 21% of the population of the Unites States and it has been projected that by the year 2000 these ethnic groups will make up approximately a third of the population. Sometime in the next century, this group may become a majority in the United States. Clearly, libraries must respond to this demographic reality in order to effectively serve their increasingly diverse users. Some efforts to adapt can be witnessed in the programs, collections and services of many libraries, especially those located in cities with large ethnic populations. These attempts to remove barriers to ethnic minorities and develop services sensitive to the needs of multiethnic users are recognized by most as fundamentally important and necessary responses. Yet it is vital that we do not overlook the crucial need to reflect the society's diversity by including, accepting, and retaining representatives of all the society's ethnic groups in the professional work force of our library institutions.

Diversity within a library's workforce should be viewed as a source of strength and richness. Librarians of color can bring unique insight and "perspective to the development of programs, services, and collections designed to meet the needs of varied users. Kravitz, et al, provide an excellent overview of the need to adjust library services to the "emerging majority." They point out that "a person of color walking into a library rarely sees a professional person of color and the collections often do not reflect his or her cultural and life experiences." Their paper concludes that the long term future of libraries as institutions depends in part on the "recruitment, retention, and advancement of people of color to the profession."|1~

Unfortunately, surveys conducted by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1980 and 1985 confirmed that librarians of color continue to be rare. In 1980, ethnic minorities made up only 11.8% of the professional library staff reported.|2~ Even more discouraging was ALA's 1985 finding that there had been no increase in ethnic minority librarians but in fact a slight decrease to 11.5% of professional staff in libraries.|3~ According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, in 1988, Hispanics comprised a mere 2% of the library workforce and African Americans only 8%.|4~ The 1990 Association of Research Libraries (ARL) survey reported that minorities had only 10% of all ARL positions.|5~

As the American population and individual communities become more multiethnic, the survival of a library will be dependent on its acceptance of ethnic minorities both as providers and users of library services.

By assembling source information research and literature focusing on the ethnic minority librarian, this bibliography should aid in the identification of the many issues involved in adapting library services to diverse populations by including more people of color in the professional library workforce.

The first section lists documents providing statistics and data of immediate relevance to ethnic minority librarians. The second section deals with the subject of library education. The relatively small number of ethnic minority graduate students in library and information science programs cannot be disputed. …

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