A new report on diversity among library employees at America’s four-year colleges and universities has concluded that there are entirely too many white librarians.
Ithaka S+R, an academic research firm, released the “Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity” report on Wednesday.
As a group, librarians “are over three quarters white and nearly 90 percent white in leadership roles,” the Ithaka S+R report reveals.
The lack of “library employees of color” is a “shortcoming” in the academic library industry, the report also says.
“The library community considers diversity to be a core value. But the academic library sector has struggled with addressing equity, diversity and inclusion.”
Academic libraries have struggled with an excess of white employees for decades, notes Inside Higher Ed.
A co-author of the library diversity report, Roger C. Schonfeld, noted that the small percentage of minority employees who work in academic libraries tend to work in secondary roles such as technical services and acquisitions. These jobs are disappearing at libraries as holdings become more and more digital.
“It seems employees of color face a steeper incline toward advancement than their white colleagues do,” Schonfeld told Inside Higher Ed. “One could wonder if there is, in fact, a risk that libraries will become not more diverse in the future, but potentially less diverse in the future if action isn’t taken.”
Skin color is a critically important characteristic for library employees, Schonfeld added.
“It’s essential that the fundamental organizations responsible for the creation, selection, preservation and dissemination of knowledge match the diversity of the society that they seek to serve,” he said.
As an anecdote about the situation, Inside Higher Ed recalls a speaker’s remark at the Association of College and Research Libraries conference in May. The speaker, black bisexual writer Roxane Gay, told the audience: “Wow, there’s a lot of white folks out here.”
The Ithaka S+R report focuses solely on race and gender. It finds that staffers at academic library tend to be almost all white regardless of geography. The difference between rural and urban areas is negligible.
The report does not dwell nearly as much on the fact that all levels of staffs at academic libraries in the United States — except for technical employees — are overwhelmingly female.
Toni Anaya, a multicultural studies librarian at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, told Inside Higher Ed that it’s hard to maintain a diverse workforce because the definition of diversity is perpetually changing.