News from the Dean: Diversity Counts!

September 19-24, 2012 Kansas City Librarians rolled out the red carpet for over 800 librarians from all over the United States for the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color. And what a splash we made for all of the attendees! Starting with a fabulous opening reception at the beautiful Kansas City Public Library’s Central Branch, librarians got to mingle among an array of the wonderful ethnic entertainment we have in Kansas City while enjoying on tasty BBQ and Chinese, Mexican, American Indian and Polynesian foods. 

The conference is put on by the American Library Association’s (ALA) five caucuses which include the Black Caucus of ALA (BCALA), Reforma (Latina/Latino librarians), American Indian Library Association, Chinese American Library Association, and the Asia-Pacific American Library Association.

UMKC Librarians and library staff voluntarily participated extensively, many serving on the local arrangements committee to make the stay in Kansas City memorable.  Six UMKC librarians and staff gave 2 presentations and many volunteered throughout the conference. Why? Because we value having a diverse staff to serve our diverse UMKC community. Gloria Tibbs, our Diversity Liaison Librarian, not only served as the co-chair of the Local Arrangements Committee but became the  local conference spokesperson. Steve Kraske interviewed Gloria and the ALA President Maureen Sullivan, and American Indian author David Treuer for KCUR's "Up to date". Listen to the interview online.

Gloria is also an Avanzando mentor to UMKC student Patricia Barra who shadowed Gloria throughout the conference and the two were interviewed on Kansas City' s Fox 4 News talking about how mentoring helps attract new librarians of color.  Patricia is currently an Education undergraduate and now plans on pursuing a library degree after graduation. This UMKC mentoring program was a celebrated idea at the conference. Watch the interview online.

The conference addressed many issues for libraries as we all compete for the few librarians of color to work in our organizations which increasingly are serving a diverse community. Library users feel most welcome when they encounter library staff that reflect themselves. ALA has just published a demographic analysis of the US population in relation to the demographics of libraries including age, gender, race/ethnicity called Diversity Counts!. These studies show that librarianship is not attracting people of color to the profession fast enough. How do we interest people in this exciting profession?

Many programs at the conference addressed how we effectively serve a diverse community which is equally important. Are our collections reflecting what the community wants to read or providing the diverse aspects of a research area? Do we meet the needs of immigrants and foreign library users? Do our programs and exhibits draw in people of all backgrounds?  

UMKC Libraries understand the value of an academic experience that is rich in perspectives from people of many backgrounds. Diversity does count when it comes to creating a learning environment with a rich tapestry of different ideas, cultures, and perspectives. How can the University Libraries enhance this experience for you?

Let us know what you like that we already to and what you would like to see us do as we move forward.