Competency C

Demographics. Each graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program is able to recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity.

Introduction

Diversity is one of the librarianship’s core values: “We value our nation’s diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve” (American Library Association, 2004). Aimed at serving their core mission within society, libraries need to be responsive to the demographic changes in information user community and the increased diversity of its cultural, social, and economic makeup. The same is equally important when libraries address diversity within their own organizations.

Cultural diversity

The projected population growth to 440 million by the year 2050, along with the anticipated shift in the ethnic composition of the country—with the people of European descent declining to 47% in 2050, the increasing life expectancy with the disproportionately large ratio of children and elderly as compared to working-age Americans (Rubin, 2010, pp. 2-3)—will change the way American libraries operate in the future. In addition, the new generation of learners—the 21st century learners—has brought about new expectations as to the nature of the information sought and the way this information is delivered. The areas of librarianship impacted by diversity include collection development, programs, services, recruitment, and professional development—to name a few.

As a result, in order to effectively address the demographic diversity of users, libraries need to shift their focus to the increasing demand of services tailored to the growing ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, army veterans, as well as senior and children services. “By including diversity in its programs and collections, the library has the potential for helping children make cross-cultural connections and develop the skills necessary to function in a culturally pluralistic society,” Naidoo points out (2014). To foster the ethnic diversity, libraries must work on allocating resources for developing multicultural collections, programs, and services for non-English speakers. The services geared towards diverse population groups in my local library, for example, include Limited English Proficiency program, Citizenship Resource Center for new immigrants, the Kids Path program for children, Online Learning resources, and others. Spanish being the top non-English language spoken in Los Angeles, the LAPL hosts the Spanish version of its website and celebrates Latino Heritage Month.

By enhancing online programs and services and ensuring organizational presence in social media, libraries accommodate the information seeking behaviors of the new generation of information users—the Millennials, known for their lifetime attachment to technology and social networks (Barna, 1995).

Recruiting a diverse workforce has presented libraries with several challenges, the ALA reports: “According to the 2012 “Diversity Counts” report, ethnic minorities account for just over 12% of the total population of credentialed librarians.  Individuals who identify as having a disability account for less than 4% of the total population of credentialed librarians” (American Library Association, 2016). To overcome these challenges, the ALA develops strategies including, but not limited to, providing appropriate language when advertising job opportunities, advertising to diverse constituencies, and engaging future generations of diverse professionals (ibid.).

Professional training of librarians needs to adapt to the new needs, as well. “Like the learner of the 21st century, the information professional of the mid-21st century needs to be equipped with attitude, outlook, and analytic capabilities that position him or her for problem solving, and constant adaptation, for independent work and to collaborate effectively in teams,” Chute predicts (2012, p. 48).

Economic diversity

The socioeconomic status plays an important role in the library users’ information needs and the quality of tools they use to seek and access information. While high and middle-income population’s information needs can be adequately met through the resources they have, the needs of low-income population groups remain underserved.  “Tonya Badillo, director of the Long Branch (N.J.) Free Public Library, defines underserved communities as “groups that do not have equal access to programs and services, or have not been identified as a key audience for library services,” the ALA reports. “These include single-parent households, second-generation caregivers, veterans/former military personnel, the physically or mentally disabled, the homeless or displaced, ex-offenders, disconnected youth, virtual patrons, the unemployed and underemployed, low-income people, immigrant populations, and the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, and intersexed) populations” (American Library Association, 2014).

Public libraries address the economic diversity-driven challenges by providing free services, such as adult literacy service programs, computer classes, free computer sessions, resources for veterans, etc. Academic institutions provide scholarships and stipends for qualified low-income students. By ensuring the low-income groups’ information needs are met, libraries help bridge the digital divide between the digitally equipped population and the economically disadvantaged users.

Evidence

To support my skills in this competency, I present the following examples of my work:

  1. The Reference and Cultural Diversity discussion post from LIBR 210 (Reference and Information Services)
  2. The Communication case study from LIBR 204 (Information Organizations and Management)
  3. The Digital Divide: Access to Information Technology discussion post from LIBR 200 (Information and Society)
  4. The technology adoption paper from INFO 241-12 (Automated Library Systems – Topic: Emerging Technologies), Proposal to Adopt SirsiDynix Social Library at Rutgers University Libraries

LIBR 220 Reference and Cultural Diversity discussion

The first piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency C is a discussion post from LIBR 210 (Reference and Information Services), Reference and Cultural Diversity. In this discussion, I reflect on how library users’ social, cultural, and economic statuses affect their information use. I then look into the guidelines of professional library associations, such as the ALA Code of Ethics and the Bill of Rights, and the Reference and User Services Association guidelines—addressing the topic of diversity in library services in general, and in library reference, in particular. This assignment helped me not only better understand the professional diversity guidelines, but also realize that librarians should  consider patron’ s social, cultural, and economic diversity when designing programs and services.

Click here to read the paper.

LIBR 204 Communication case study

The second piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency C is the Communication case study from LIBR 204 (Information Organizations and Management). In this assignment, I review the communication challenges in a public library that has been caught off guard by the demographic changes in the local community, and then provide practical solutions, based on the professional associations’ guidelines. This piece of evidence shows my acknowledgement of the importance of diversity in public libraries, as well as proactive strategic planning by library management in anticipating increased cultural diversity, and building a diverse workforce into the libraries’ recruiting strategy.

Click here to read the paper.

LIBR 200 Digital Divide: Access to Information Technology discussion

The third piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency C is a discussion post from LIBR 200 (Information and Society), Digital Divide: Access to Information Technology. In this discussion, I explore several digital divide trends, as well as the shifting nature of the digital divide concept. During my work on this assignment, I gained knowledge of the negative impact of digital divide on equitable access to information, social inclusion, education, and health. This knowledge helped me understand the importance of including the digital divide issues on the strategic planning agenda, making efforts to bridge the divide a top priority for libraries, educational institutions, and information professionals.

Click here to read the paper.

INFO 241-12 technology adoption paper, Proposal to Adopt SirsiDynix Social Library at Rutgers University Libraries

The fourth piece of evidence to demonstrate my mastery of competency C is a technology adoption paper from INFO 241-12 (Automated Library Systems – Topic: Emerging Technologies), Proposal to Adopt SirsiDynix Social Library at Rutgers University Libraries. This proposal is tailored to the new generation of academic library users—the Millennials.

In 2012, SirsiDynix—the ILS provider at Rutgers—released Social Library, the industry’s first fully native Facebook application. Social Library integrates OPAC functionality into library Facebook pages. With the new technology in place, users will be able to search the catalog, place holds, log into their accounts, and pay fines—all from within the social network. Aimed at addressing the Millennial users’ information seeking behaviors, leveraging the Libraries’ automated technology and Facebook presence, and with the social media communication strategies in mind, this paper proposes to adopt SirsiDynix Social Library at Rutgers.

This piece of evidence showcases my understanding of the ways in which academic libraries, in order to address the information needs of the 21st century learners, can integrate new and emerging library technologies into the users’ native habitats—online social networks.

Click here to read the paper.

Conclusion

As a future information professional, I feel strongly about the issues related to diversity in libraries. Meeting the needs of underserved communities helps libraries fulfill their purpose in a democratic society. In order to be successful in my future career, I understand the importance of embracing all diversity-risen challenges the libraries face today. I believe, in particular, that issues related to technology-driven change—the digital divide—call for immediate concern of library and information professionals. “The digital age is creating an information and communications renaissance. But it is not serving all Americans and their local communities equally. It is not yet serving democracy fully,” the Knight Commission reports. “How we react, individually and collectively, to this democratic shortfall will affect the quality of our lives and the very nature of our communities,” (Knight Commission, 2009, p. xi). Libraries and information professionals need to address this trend by maximizing the information-access capacity across all cultural and socioeconomic strata of the community.

References

American Library Association. (Adopted 2004, June 29). Core Values of Librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/corevalues

American Library Association. (2014). State of America’s Libraries Report 2014: Outreach and Diversity. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/news/state-americas-libraries-report-2014/diversity

Barna, G. (1995). Generation next: What you need to know about today’s youth. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.

Chute, M. L. (2012). A core for flexibility. In G. Marchionini and B. B. Moran (Eds.), Information Professionals 2050: Educational Possibilities and Pathways. School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 46-50. Retrieved from http://sils.unc.edu/sites/default/files/news/Information%20Professionals%202050_0.pdf

Knight Commission. (2009, October 2). Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age. Retrieved from https://production.aspeninstitute.org/publications/informing-communities-sustaining-democracy-digital-age/

Naidoo, J. C. (2014, April 5). The Importance of Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children. Adopted by the Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/ALSCwhitepaper_importance%20of%20diversity_with%20graphics_FINAL.pdf

Rubin, R. E. (2010). Foundations of Library and Information Science. New York: Neal-Schuman.