April 20, 2018

The MLS and the Race Line | Editorial

Many efforts to diversify the ranks of librarians focus on well-intentioned but expensive projects to recruit a small number of aspiring students who may, or may not, become long-term members of the profession.

For example, in April the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) gave a grant of $487,652 to support a joint diversity recruitment program of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) that targets 15 students. It’s a laudable program; it deserves support, as do other similar programs.

But that averages about $33,000 a student (if the matching non-IMLS money is included, it comes to $56,000 a head). These are students who, despite the expenditure, may decide librarianship and/or archival work isn’t for them, or they may work at it for a while and then leave the field.

If the library world wants to create more quickly a persistently diverse workforce of librarians, it should devote more of such grant money to minorities who already are committed library workers but who remain at a lower level because they may lack the wherewithal to attend graduate school.

These are the 32,775 library assistants [PDF] who either are African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, Native American, or biracial. These workers, 27 percent of the 122,768 assistants overall according to the American Library Association (ALA), have duties and abilities that can overlap and even surpass those of MLS staff in key service areas (including speaking Spanish and other languages).

More effort should be made to promote these library assistants to librarians, where the ranks are now overwhelmingly credentialed, white, monolingual females. When merited, these assistants should receive expanded responsibilities, training, and higher salaries without requiring a master’s degree. In such deserving cases, the MLS credential is a hindrance to diversity. Face it, the degree is sometimes unnecessary for the work at hand (or the work to be learned), and it costs too much money.

Fully 84 percent of the participants in the ARL’s Initiative To Recruit a Diverse Workforce said that the most attractive feature of the program by far was the $10,000 stipend. No other program elements—such as mentoring or career resources—ranked close to the stipend, which addressed a crying need and a major obstacle.

Diversity is one of ALA’s “five key action areas to ensure high-quality library services to all constituents.” But there is a tension between the desire to accredit the profession and the wish to diversify it. Exceptions to the costly MLS can be made without a dilution of librarianship, and these exceptions should be made in fairness to groups already disproportionately burdened by financial inequities. In fact, promoting more qualified library assistants would invigorate the ranks of librarians by more tightly embracing many competencies already on the ground.

So what if one year, to change the debate and better acknowledge these competencies, the IMLS made a radical declaration that it is a crisis that only 563 black males are credentialed librarians (out of a totaled credentialed population of 118,666)? What if the IMLS took the full annual appropriation of the Laura Bush 21st Century Library Program ($6.1 million in FY13) and divided it into three-year, $10,000 microgrants to increase the salaries of 600 newly promoted minority library assistants? What if the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did the same?

Recruit students and bet on their future at $56,000 a head? OK. But such programs really are not having an impact on overall numbers. Let’s also bet on the nonwhite, possibly bilingual person already in the library, whose dedication deserves more credit and whose talents could bolster the relevance of libraries.

Michael Kelley, Editor-in-Chief

LJ121002mikesig008 Can We Talk About the MLS? | Editorial

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Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley (mkelley@mediasourceinc.com) is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.

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  1. Marisol Ramos says:

    Dear Michael, good points in your article. My co-author, Alma Ortega and I made a similar suggestion in a recent book chapter, “Proactive Mentoring: Attracting Hispanic/Latino Students into Information Studies” in Pathways to Progress: Issues and Advances in Latino Librarianship (2011). The experience that many library assistants (many of them members of a minority group) possess should be tapped by helping them to go ahead and apply for the MLIS. Although, your idea of promoting them to librarians based on experience without getting the MLIS is going to be a hard pill to swallow by ALA since the MLIS is so highly promoted. Archivists have the option to hire people with a MLIS or who has the ACA certification but most library jobs required the MLIS (although there is a new trend in academic libraries, where PhD with no MLIS are being hired for many subject librarians positions which makes the MLIS more irrelevant). But, I agree with you that we can’t depend only on giving grants to a few amount of students that we hope may stay in the profession after all that schooling is done.

    Also, we need to be honest with the reality that there is not enough jobs to go around even for regular graduated students from the many MLIS programs in the country, so even if the students recruits in these programs decide to stay and try to get a job in a library or archives, that job may not even exist for them.

    Diversity is important and we need to apply a multi-tier approach to address all these challenges to make sure our profession reflects the broader society.

  2. Michael Baird says:

    Our field is not currently experiencing a shortage of librarians. In fact, we have far too many MLS/MLIS credentialed librarians in the US working in other fields or paraprofessional positions who have simply been unable to get any traction in the professional arena. It seems irresponsible to cultivate even more candidates for the shrinking number of librarian positions across the US, when the drive should be to direct these dollars at retaining existing positions, resurrecting culled positions, funding new positions, or helping underfunded libraries to stand on their own rather than increasing the pool of job-seekers.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more Michael. Especially when Kelley is the person who just recently told us how useless the MLS is for most people in the field. But, now we should try to get more people the MLS?

      What we need to do is make the field more competitive. Increase the requirements of the MLS. Require an entrance exam no matter what (I had the GRE waived due to my undergraduate GPA, I don’t think any other graduate degree does that), and make the program more rigorous. Preferably with something equivalent to a Praxis to achieve certification.

  3. Rob Spindler says:

    IMLS granted a half million dollars to help diversify our professions? What a great thing! Can we please celebrate our good efforts instead of saying, oh there’s a better way? How about there’s *another* way.

    We need *many* paths to professional appointments for individuals with many skills and life experiences. The applicant pool for one of our recent positions had many people with substantial professional work experience that made it impossible to hire a recent graduate. Conversely, when language and social media skills were needed in another opportunity, that pool was a very small group and we were able to hire a recent graduate of diverse ethnicity. I think much of the challenge rests with employers thinking differently about global reach, community involvement and collecting materials of diverse cultures, and then making job descriptions that enable real diversity in our workforces. We have to diversify the work while we diversify the workforce!

  4. Dear Sir,
    With all due respect but using casual language:

    1) Not ALL library assistants aspire to be professional librarians. It would be great for minority library assistants to receive support for that path if they so choose, but to make an assumption that a library assistant enters with an undying wish to be a librarian is unfair.

    2) A fair number of MLS students ARE already working as library assistants/other library paraprofessionals when they start their program.

    3) In any field, it is too overwhelming for students receiving funding to have to enter that particular field. Life happens. Jobs don’t open up in a particular city or someone discovers that their MLS is useful in a non-library setting.

    As someone who received financial support from various diversity initiatives, I can honestly say that I don’t think I would have received the jobs that I did without the opportunities that they provided. However, it was still very competitive – my cohorts included first generation immigrants, Ivy League graduates, and former engineers. Money isn’t handed out on race or financial status only, they look at your achievements and potential first. And to be honest, we have a lot of minority applicants with impressive credentials. To simply say that “oh, library assistants deserve that money more just because of their professional status” undermines both minorities and library assistants alike.

    So again, with all due respect, recipients of diversity financial aid come from all sorts of places for a reason – diversity.

  5. Correction to my statement: when referring to “library assistants” and “students” I am referring “minority library assistants”. My apologies for any confusion.

  6. This makes a big assumption that minority library assistants want to be librarians. As someone that is an alumni of some of these diversity initiatives, I find the premise odd. Why not encourage the minority assistants to seek higher education? It seems to me that this argues that they need a exception from the MLS requirement based on the fact that they’re minorities? In my opinion that undermines both the profession and the minority assistants. At a time where any sort of affirmative action programs are under attack, I don’t think the whole “promote and give minority library assistants just because they’re minorities” is realistic, especially in the public sector. I was a library clerk and realized that I wanted to become a librarian, so I worked hard to get through a bachelor’s program and the MLS (both of which could be done online these days.) Simply put, in my experience there are minority library clerks and assistants that are happy and are not looking to be librarians. As librarians we shouldn’t always assume that library paraprofessional are just dying to join our ranks.

    • I don’t think anyone meant to say that every library assistant wants to be a librarian. But if we are looking for a more diverse profession, the obvious place to look is at people who already have library experience, who like working at a library. Sure, many of them have no interest in promotion to some presumably exalted “librarian” title. But those who do want that promotion should be encouraged and assisted. A non-very-small proportion of these people are financially challenged. Hey, they’re working in a library; of course they’re financially challenged. My MLIS was financed mainly by our inheritance from my late mother-in-law. Many don’t have such family resources. I would like to see financial assistance concentrated on candidates with a higher probability of a long-term library career, and I think that current paraprofessionals with an interest in the profession fit that description quite well.

    • alibrarian says:

      Jim S.,

      You imply here that because your MLIS was “financed mainly by our inheritance from my late mother-in-law” and that “Many [minorities] don’t have such family resources” that most non-minorities have such family resources. Most people, minority and nonminority do not have inheritances to pay for an MLIS degree, or other types of cash-on-hand to pay for MLIS degrees.

      Furthermore, I have to agree with ARB that the minority paraprofessionals in my library are not interested in becoming librarians or getting a college degree. One of the biggest determining factors that someone might be in librarianship for the long haul is if they have initiative to seek out the means to finance the degree on their own (through financial aid, loans, etc.) and complete coursework on their own time (off hours).

  7. baxtyre says:

    Can someone explain to me why racial/ethnic diversity in the library workforce is so important?

    • I’m still trying to figure this out to baxtyre. Aren’t we trying to pull minorities out of poverty not stick them with a librarian’s salary :)

    • Cheylon Woods says:

      Racial/ ethnic diversity is important in the library workforce because you are missing an entire portion of your patron base that you are missing. You are missing this patron base because there is a lack of trust based in history and often times personal experiences. You will always struggle to understand the underlying needs of these patrons because they will rarely open up to you. People who feel that they have been oppressed by the system do not trust the system, and libraries are a part of the system. They will trust someone who looks like them much more than they will trust you, there is an almost instant connection because there is a kinship that you can never establish. Why do you need minorities in libraries? You dont. Your patrons do. Why do you need, minorities in your archives as archivists? Because we can get the collections that you cant. We can build a relationship that you will never be able to establish. We can get the stories from our people that they will never tell you. That is why you need us. Its the same reason why it would be best to have a southerner working with southern donors. They get each other on a level that a northerner or westerner cannot.

      And to Me: minorities do not need you or anyone else to pull them out of poverty. Even as a joke it is incredibly insensitive.

    • It’s “we” as in us as a society. Considering the poverty rates among minorities, it is clear that they need help via social programs, whether you think so or not. It’s a fact. There is nothing insensitive about it. I, and many other librarians have great relationships with our patrons regardless of race or other factors. Would you say the same thing about blind or deaf people? They can only trust or be helped by people that fit that same minority group?

      No matter how much you rant about how only said race can help their own race, it just isn’t true. Unless you would like to provide some evidence of this, that is beyond anecdotal. You know, considering we’re librarians. Also, as an aside the joke was about librarian’s low salaries and that we should encourage minorities to pursue higher paying jobs. Get a grip.

  8. OK, so I’m a “minority”, multilingual librarian with an MLIS. I’m not finding it any easier to find a job than my non-minority counterparts. Of course part of it is the economy, but in my experiece all the talk about the need to diversify, is in many parts just talk. You could shove us monority folk through the MLIS pipeline, that doesn’t mean that recruiters will suddenly become our eager employers. To think so is naive and only addresses part of the problem.

  9. Christina says:

    While I would be the first to admit that current diversity initiatives could be better (increased mentorship, better recruitment at the undergraduate level, etc.), I find it troubling that Mr. Kelley seems to think that cutting funding programs and redistributing the money to library assistants (who as one commenter noted may not want to be MLS librarians), is the best strategy to increase diversity within the profession. In particular, I am unclear how promoting people who are library assistants to a librarian position without an MLS is in any way beneficial to them or our profession (as an aside, others in the education profession face similar problems in low funding that those in others careers such as law or medicine do not–which is symptomatic of a larger problem and discussion on the value that society places on educators). It is not surprising to me as someone who was the recipient of an ALA diversity initiative that 89 percent of the participants cited the $10,000 stipend as being an attractive feature of the program. Statistically speaking it is more likely that minority students come from poorer or disadvantage neighborhoods, so having access to funding may be the primary reason keeping these students from pursuing advanced degrees in any field. The best way to diversify the profession is not by making exceptions to minorities, which if we are being frank, is essentially like saying that because you’re a minority you don’t have to meet the same requirements that others do. As a minority librarian (who is employed as a librarian), I worked just as hard as my white counterparts to get to where I am. No one gave me any breaks or said that I didn’t need the same credentials just because I am a minority—and for that I am glad. Because to me, that says that I am worthy to be called a professional librarian. It means that when I sit in meetings with the rest of the library staff (who are white), that my opinions–my voice, is not only respected, but it matters.

  10. Mr. Kelley raises a good point, however to radically change the profession you have to hit them from all sides. I think dropping that chunk of change on a head and increasing the salary of library assistants is one of the many ways to go, it can’t be an either/or situation.

    But I have to ask, what are the demographics of Library Journal’s paid staff? Does the library journal have similar policies or initiatives? If so, what has been discovered to work?

    The editorial piece is written from a very third person perspective. Data is good, but you don’t get the full story from the data alone. For example, the money offered is not the only highlight. The community built from the leadership institute and research library visit is important as well. The point being that offering up an increase in salary would last only for so long — there’s an infrastructure of support that is needed.

  11. Having frequently served on a number of diversity scholarship committees I can attest that majority of applicants are paraprofessionals and/or undergraduates with librarianship experience. This makes the selection process that much harder. These persons from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds recognize the importance of obtaining the graduate degree from an ALA-accredited program. Given the current job market and economy it is often NECESSARY in order to obtain a professional position or promotion.

    Any money that helps alleviate the pressure of student loans or paying out of pocket is attractive. But beyond the financial assistance, programs such as ARL/SAA and Spectrum afford opportunities to build a network of colleagues from across the country and gain experience that will enhance their skills sets. If anything we as a profession should encourage those that have some library/archival experience, but lack the degree, to apply to these programs.

  12. Joneser says:

    Fulltime jobs with attractive salaries and chances for promotion and growth are essential. Library “leadership” needs to be in the forefront of this, instead of chopping jobs up and getting rid of the benefits. As a late baby boomer I have been watching the “I’ve got mine screw you” mentality at work in l ibraries for almost three decades

    There are certainly many other proactive things which can be done (several mentioned above). But, bottom line, the jobs and the future have to be there, and it can’t discriminate against non-non-whites either.

  13. Mark A Puente says:

    Mr. Kelley provides some interesting and provocative comments about the effectiveness of diversity recruitment programs such as the collaboration between the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) recently funded by IMLS. But as previous commenters have pointed out to him, no one strategy is going to be effective for every recruit and a variety of approaches should be used. ARL’s approach should be seen within a larger context of attempts to ameliorate this vexing problem.

    ARL member libraries in the US have 14.2% minority representation of MLIS credentialed staff. Within the last decade, over 40% of all minority hires in those US member libraries have been recruits supported by ARL’s own IMLS funded scholarship programs. If the concern about the return on this investment is predicated on doubts about retention within the LIS profession, ARL’s record is exceptional, with over 86% of all past participants still employed in academic and research libraries, specifically, and another 8% in related career paths such as pursuing doctorates in LIS education, working in corporate libraries, for library associations, etc. Speaking only for ARL efforts, attrition has been minimal and our placement statistics are exceptional, even with a flooded market. Moreover, the comprehensive strategy that is deployed in these programs makes most sense for the ARL community where almost 50% of our membership employs LIS professionals in tenure-track, and/or faculty status positions. Of course, it stands to reason that tuition or other financial support will be rated, consistently, the most favorable component of the program as that is the one that is easiest to facilitate.

    ARL has ample evidence that the complementary developmental components, while not perfect and always evolving, have a positive effect on the diversity recruits. This is most evident from the qualitative data collected in the study, the results of which form the basis of the poster that Mr. Kelley cites. A statistic that is not represented in the cited poster (from data collected from the same study) is that 67.3% of all past program participants were, in fact, employed in libraries (as student and graduate assistants or staff) prior to pursuing MLIS degrees, so this strategy is very much in place. Last I would point out that Mr. Kelley’s formula for determining the actual cost of the program per student must be understood within a proper context. First of all, the program he cites (the ARL Initiative to Recruit a Diverse Workforce) has a much lower cost per student ratio than the SAA collaboration because it has no paid internship component. However, the value of paid internships is well documented in the LIS literature as well as in summative evaluations of ARL and other programs that use that strategy. There very well could be a correlation between quality practical work experiences and job placement. It should also be noted that for almost every ARL IMLS-supported diversity recruitment program, project outcomes (i.e. the number of students supported through successful completion of MLIS studies) have been exceeded, further reducing the per-student cost.

    Although we have much work to do in this area, it is difficult to imagine where ARL member organizations or the profession writ large would be in the diversity recruitment arena without these and similar, successful programs.

  14. You’re arguing that people should be promoted to the position of librarian without a masters, but you’re not answering the standard objections to doing this. While it is clear how a track of promotion from paraprofessional to professional without having to go to graduate school would be desirable for a lot of the people who would be given that opportunity, there would be a cost to the profession. I think you need to address the question of why the MLIS is supposedly not needed, according to your suggestion.

  15. Michael Kelley Michael Kelley says:

    Just to clarify a couple of points for some of the commenters:
    1. I am not advocating eliminating other diversity programs. I wrote about the ARL program: “It’s a laudable program; it deserves support, as do other similar programs.” I do suggest that in order to move the overall numbers in a significant way a radical step is needed beyond the traditional approaches.
    2. I am not advocating promoting people based solely on race or ethnicity. But when it comes time to promote, consider qualified minorities already working in the library—even if they do not have an MLS (http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/04/opinion/editorial/can-we-talk-about-the-mls/)
    3. This article is about people who already work in libraries, not about people looking for jobs in libraries.
    4. I am not suggesting that all paraprofessionals want to be librarians.

  16. Karen Downing says:

    Why is diversity important? Increasingly, we are living in a global society where intercultural competencies will mean the difference between thriving and becoming irrelevant. We are also living in an increasingly multicultural society within the U.S., and all we have to do is look to other cultural institutions (historical societies, philharmonics, ballet, etc.) to see who is thriving and who is not. Those who understand diversity’s vital importance (its importance to societal relevancy, customer service, cultural knowledge, etc.) are thriving, and those who are indifferent to it are withering on the vine. Do libraries (of all types) want to thrive in a highly diverse society? If so, we need to start caring about diversity a whole lot more than we do right now or we will go the way of many other cultural institutions. There is plenty of literature out there on the benefits of diversity to individuals and institutions. The library literature points to correlations between diversity and improved customer satisfaction, stronger collections, better mentoring, and higher levels of user engagement, to name but a few benefits. There are *many* more.

    Programs such as the ARL/SAA and other recruitment programs need to be doubled, not discontinued, and quickly.. The lack of progress in numbers of underrepresented librarians tells us we need to redouble our efforts at recruitment, and point to the need for better bridging programs from graduate school to first library job, as well as retention strategies to insure underrepresented librarians are retained within the profession.

  17. Rolando Milian says:

    I cannot find a single interesting or provocative argument in this editorial. I agree with Myrna, there is no need to use the library assistants’ argument against the ARL’s Initiative To Recruit a Diverse Workforce program. This editorial is a frontal attack “from a position of strength” to the ARL’s program. Mr. Kelly’s tactics consist of using the most valuable resource of the program (the stipend funding) to criticize it. In this regard he is not only sloppy in terms of the data presented to support his weak argument – it is 84% not 89% for the stipend http://www.arl.org/storage/documents/publications/lcdp-2012-poster-moore-alanna.pdf . Anyone can see that the stipend percentage is indeed higher than the other variables but unless we perform a statistical analysis we cannot exaggerate the difference as Mr. Kelly does. Anyone could say that th 67% scored by the leadership institute could be considered almost 70% (which is closer to 84%). Another variable with high score (63%) is the research library visit. In summary, anyone could write: Eighty four percent of the participants in the ARL IRDW said that the most attractive feature of the program was the $10,000 stipend followed by the also valuables leadership institute (67%), and the visit to a research library (63%).
    It is also misleading the way Mr. Kelly presents his argument as if the ARL diversity program were only recruiting individuals from outside the library (excluding library assistants), however, I was precisely one of those library assistants benefited from the ARL diversity program and I am pretty sure I am not the exception.
    If the intention of this editorial was to create controversy, there are better ways to do this without attacking this ARL successful program – over 75% of program participants, currently hold library positions in ARL or academic libraries.

    • Michael Kelley Michael Kelley says:

      Thanks for pointing out the number error. My mistake. I corrected it in the text. It also may be worthwhile, rather than dealing in percentages, to point out that since “2000 almost 200 diverse students have been supported through this recruitment program [IRDW] with retention rates within the LIS profession at well over 90%.” I’m not saying stop these recruiting efforts; I am asking are a dozen or so new recruits each year really enough to make an overall difference (i.e., not just ARL)? If not, can we think bigger. http://www.arl.org/leadership-recruitment/diversity-recruitment/initiative-to-recruit-a-diverse-workforce-irdw

  18. I am confused about the point of this editorial. You write that many minority librarians lack the “wherewithal” to pursue the MLS. Isn’t that exactly what these programs provide? You offer that you are not advocating eliminating these programs. As the editorial is currently written, it seems to suggests that money is basically going down the drain “But that averages about $33,000 a student (if the matching non-IMLS money is included, it comes to $56,000 a head). These are students who, despite the expenditure, may decide librarianship and/or archival work isn’t for them, or they may work at it for a while and then leave the field.” So what was the point of this editorial but to suggest that these programs are excessive? because some students “may” not stay in the profession seems like a weak argument. I do agree that there should be other programs and they should be adequately funded, but to suggest that there should be some sort of promoting or exemption for minorities from the MLS is unrealistic at best.

  19. BluntLibrarian says:

    The lack of substance in this editorial is a bit surprising for LJ. It is exactly this type of rhetoric by often well intentioned non minority librarians that undermines diversity initiatives in information agencies. While I am sure Mr. Kelly is well intentioned, what he offers is a little laughable. Not only does it undermine the profession and the actual minority staff, but it would be sure to create a work environment were the MLS exempt minority librarians are unofficially inferior to the credentialed librarians, and attitude of “you’re there to fill a quota not because of merit.” Mr.Kelly responds in the comments by saying that he is not suggesting eliminating the diversity programs–then why throw out big numbers and suggest that it is excessive. Surely I am not the only one who thought 56k was a lot of money (in a negative way), but that should have been put into context of current tuition demands.

    • Michael Kelley Michael Kelley says:

      Are the many non-MLS staff who run rural libraries all over this country undermining the profession? Yes they may not get the respect they deserve, but is that a reason to not advocate for a greater recognition and appreciation of their skills? That is the logic I am applying here, particularly for a profession that makes so much noise about diversity but in fact has little progress to show in overall numbers. And I applaud the ARL work and want it to continue, but I also do believe that it is possible to imagine additional ways to target grant money that could possibly have a broader impact. Why is that so outrageous a suggestion?

    • BluntLibrarian says:

      I wonder how your plan would work in states that have laws requiring public librarians to have an MLS? Is it really realistic to overturn state statues and laws? My point is that minority librarians should be encouraged to pursue higher education not be subject to a victim mentality by being given a exception to the standard. I am a minority librarian that came from low means and still managed to get through a public undergraduate and graduate program with the help of diversity initiatives. Our library has programs to help clerk through library school and maybe 10% of them have taken advantage of it. It is the individual’s responsibility to seek better opportunities. Would your plan of giving exemptions from the MLS apply to white library clerks too? If not then its a form of affirmative action that in our current political environment is very unpopular. (supreme court case pending)

    • Michael Kelley Michael Kelley says:

      Yes, I believe in affirmative action, anachronistic as that may seem in this day and age. Yes, everyone should be encouraged to educate themselves and work to the best of their abilities. But can we please acknowledge that not everyone has the time and the money to afford an expensive graduate degree whose relevancy does not apply to every circumstance and may not always be a necessity. And if we are less rigid about insisting upon it at all times it may do some good? http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/04/opinion/editorial/can-we-talk-about-the-mls/
      And can we also acknowledge that, regardless of all the programs and talk, diversity is not happening in the library profession in a meaningful way. And I am not just talking about research libraries. I find the fact that there are only 563 black males who are credentialed librarians a shocking number. http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/02/opinion/editorial/diversity-never-happens-the-story-of-minority-hiring-doesnt-seem-to-change-much/
      As far as state laws go, good point. but fight to change them if it’s a good thing to do.

  20. While I do not fully agree with Mr. Kelly assertion regarding library assistants, I think that his editorial touches on a key area that has been woefully neglected in our efforts to diversify the profession…Retention. Our singular focus on recruitment for the past two or more decades has done very little to help us make any significant inroads in this area. The ethnic composition of the profession remains largely unchanged (in some cases we have lost ground), yet no one asks whatever happened to all of those new librarians of color? Why did we leave? Why do we stay? What can we learn from their professional experiences to help us not only bring them in, but keep them. Until we place as much effort into retention as we do recruitment, the diversity question is merely rhetorical.

  21. You can throw all the money you like at recruiting initiatives for LIS programs-after graduation then what? As someone in a management position in a library (and yes, I am a member of a minority group) I’ve seen numerous qualified minority applicants not get hired because of nebulous, non objective reasons, such as “organizational fit” “he/she wasn’t enthusiastic” and “we just like her better.” While I can’t dispute the importance of organizational and cultural fit, let’s not pretend that many hiring managers aren’t short sighted, and only want to hire someone that thinks like they think, and had has similar experiences. Add that to the fact that many hiring managers only want to hire “known” candidates-meaning the person worked in the library during undergraduate, grad school (especially if they had an LIS program at the school) and did an internship at the library. A candidate fresh off the street has very little chance of getting hired. How many minority candidates have these experiences? I didn’t and it took me years after graduation to find a full time job.