The numbers are startling and the faces are dismal visually when you walk into a public, academic, special or school library – African Americans and minorities in particular are what I would like to call the discount-click in librarianship. I have interviewed for jobs since January 2017 in hopes of finding the right fit for my skill-set and want and need to be in a creative, collaborative, and scholarly environment. Does that have anything to do with the color of my skin? It many ways it does as I sit and type this blog entry today. A diversity report by the American Library Association, showed that among a total credentialed library population of 118,666, only 6,160 are black and 3,661 are Latino.
I made sure when I became a writer that I sat long and hard and thought about my brand identity and how I wanted to be revered in history. That part of my life has worked thus far in the literary world, as a librarian I believe that it has too. Yet, the question about why I never see African Americans employed as librarians in museums, cultural centers, or art institutions in this country is dismal and shameful. I for one decided to become a librarian because I believed that it was an umbrella for all of my creative and unique talents. It has been good to me – the profession. I will not deny any of my successes and accomplishments, but I do have to be fair in my assessment of what I am observing. Now do not get me wrong, there have been tireless conversations about diversity and inclusion but nothing ever comes about but more conversations, workshops, and scheduled talks.
Strategically, librarianship was designed to mirror a white world, and in the 21st century it has not changed that much. I had seven interviews this summer and 2 rejections thus far out of the potential employers. I sometimes wonder when employers or clients see my face on my CV if they have preconceived notions about my racial heritage? I think they do. And, honestly that is okay, because that lets me know that I do not want to be in a culture that does not foster my name first, gender second, and my racial background last. To be honest, I do not believe that I have not received an offer of employment because of my race entirely – though it does play a major role in the process. In like manner, I believe that being an entrepreneurial librarian, along with my faith has helped me preserver during this time and not give up.
Through experience and trial and error in these first three years of my career as a professional librarian, I have decided to continue serving, paying my dues, and being a beacon of light throughout what I am presently facing and what our world is going through in these days in times. Be as it may, I know I have what it takes to lead a room of people and believe that my existence in a library matters. I rather be patient and wait for what is right for me versus accepting a position and not be happy. It is not easy being calm, cool, and collect now. However, it is all that I have to continue in the pursuit of excellence. I will be writing about diversity, African-American women in mid-level management, and the woes of hiring practices in librarianship more in 2018 because it matters.
In closing, my barber in Texas shared something with me a couple of weeks ago that I have thought about with regard to many of the confederate statues and racist memorabilia that has been removed in the United States of America:
Now if these stories are being erased from the perils of history (and African American history is being rewritten or taken out of history and school books), where do I stand in this moment as a 21st century Black Librarian? What are our true roles as librarians in a world that does not look like or include us? How do we forge our way in this profession that only chooses to have light talks?
Leave me a comment – I would love to dialogue about this topic with you.
Until then… Read more about Diversity Hiring Practices in Librarianship:
- ‘Diversity Never Happens: The Story of Minority Hiring Doesn’t Seem To Change Much’ | Editorial, by Michael Kelley
- ‘Endangered Species’: Black Male Librarian | Heard on NPR: The Bryant Park Project
- New Haven’s rare black librarian keeps mission in mind
- Race in Librarianship: Part II | Carolyn E. Lipscomb, History Editor
- Where are All of the Librarians of Color?