Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Achieving Diversity: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians

Edited By: Barbara I. Dewey and Loretta Parham
ISBN: 9781555705541

This book, partially inspired by the National Diversity in Libraries Conference held in Georgia (2005), intends to provide American librarians with practical solutions to increasing diversity in their employees, collections, and services and accommodating a changing and varied patron base. It also addresses the ideal of the library to provide equitable services to everyone regardless of disability, race, gender, sexual preference, age, etc. which requires an adaptable stance and multiple approaches.

This book has many contributors who address the issue of diversity from several avenues including providing diversity training to staff, increasing and expanding special collections to highlight minority needs and interests, tailoring collection development to better target minority needs, and providing opportunities that make librarianship as a career something that more diverse populations of people consider and pursue.

Partially because of the wide scope this book covers, the audience it is attempting to provide solutions for is difficult to determine. Several articles are directed primarily towards library administrators and diversity officers. Most of the case studies presented take place at large academic libraries which often have more resources than many other types of libraries where these issues might be at the forefront. Rural and public libraries, those I feel are most affected by certain diversity issues, are often left out of the discussion entirely. Some of the articles explain attempted solutions that failed. Many of the programs developed to target minority populations for a career in library science focus on small groups of people and were very resource intensive.

As far as the digital divide is concerned, this book would be of very little assistance to most librarians dealing with this issue. The case study this book uses to discuss the divide is an academic institution. The authors of the chapter of the book entitled “Diversity and the Digital Divide at an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) : The University of Maryland Eastern Shore”, define the digital divide for the purposes of this article as “those who do not have access to computers and/or the Internet.” Therefore, their solution is simply to provide more computers in the library, laptops that can be checked out, and other various technology to their students. As we know from our readings, this access issue is only a portion of the divide, and this solution does not fully address the challenges and concerns that librarians working with diverse populations are faced with.

Although this book provides some real solutions and suggestions, I would not recommend it for librarians attempting to help decrease the digital divide.

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