February 27, 2021

ALA Posts Final Report of the ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

The Final Report of the ALA Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (50 pages; PDF) is now available online.

From the Background Section

Embracing and celebrating diversity, and creating a more inclusive profession have been long-standing goals of the American Library Association (ALA)1 . The Association, its divisions, roundtables and other groups have long had committees or other member groups devoted to diversity in librarianship. However, in the spring of 2014, motivated by the grave concern of some members about the association hosting its 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, the Association determined that an Association-wide Task Force was necessary. The concerns about the conference location stemmed from Florida’s application of the “Stand Your Ground” laws as it relates to the Trayvon Martin case.

Full Text of Conclusion Section

Thirty years ago, the ALA President’s Committee on Library Services to Minorities presented the report “Equity at Issue: Library Services to the Nation’s Four Major Minority Groups.”10 In the Personnel section of their report, they noted that 88.5 % of the library profession was white. By 2010, the ALA Diversity Counts study found that the percentage of credentialed white librarians stood at 88%, a rather disappointing result. 11 Throughout our work, this task force has been very conscious of racial biases and the ways in which both conscious and especially unconscious bias impact the diversity and inclusivity of our association and profession. Race profiling by the application of Stand Your Ground laws in Orlando launched this task force as a result of frustration at how a major library association can be easily swept into patterns of structural discrimination without consciously intending to do so, or at the very least feel powerless to significantly transform discrimination in the society in which it participates, such as being unable or unwilling to withstand the costs of cancelling a contract because the outcome would likely mean harsh political or fiscal consequences. More recently the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of ALA, canceled their Institute that was to be held in a state where a recently enacted law was at odds with the division’s – indeed ALA’s – stated values. This decision, made mere months before the ALSC Institute, left members of the task force wondering if there is a dollar amount above or below which cancellation of an event would be supported. We encourage the ALA executive board and the boards of all divisions to ensure that decisions are made in a manner consistent with the values of the association, even if those decisions may have financial consequences.

Looking forward, the best of intentions are not enough to create permanent change; therefore, careful review, recommended actions, and subsequent analysis must be the foundation to create a path for transformation. The results from the three TF surveys, taking into account demographic indicators for as many diverse groupings as possible, show us that marginalized groups continue to feel underrepresented and undervalued within the association and the profession, and that ALA must increase its efforts to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are confident that this list of recommendations is a step in the direction of codifying and implementing a more conscious and actionable structure toward meeting those goals of a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive library association, profession, and world. Our confidence, however, is not enough. ALA has stated its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion for decades, but has failed to completely live up to that commitment. While we have seen progress in recent years thanks to initiatives like the Spectrum Scholarships Program, our work is far from complete. Embracing equity, diversity, and inclusion as core principles matters only when sufficient resources of time, personnel, and finances are made available. We must move beyond lip service or “checking the boxes” to actual change, lest we remain a profession that continues to marginalize those outside of the majority.

Direct to Full Text Report

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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