While reflecting on Module #5: Hyperlinked Communities, I began to think crucially about one particular section within an article in our readings. The article, “Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond” by Christian Laurensen discusses the importance of diversity in the library profession in order to bring about inclusion within all libraries. Laurensen states that ” a uniform white library workforce is most likely not to create diverse and inclusive libraries to serve their communities because we think alike”.
This profound statement truly resonated with me as I thought back to the beginning of my career within the field of librarianship and the lack of diversity there is among my fellow staff members. Other research has been done on the issue of diversity within the field of librarianship, and the results show that White (non-Hispanic) people are overwhelmingly represented in the field of librarianship.
The only way to make changes within the communities are to in fact invest in diverse employees and implement policies that actively work towards a more inclusive library that provides equitable access of information to marginalized communities. Also, libraries must strive to place people of color in leadership roles so all voices of the community are heard all the way up to administration, where change can truly occur within the library system. Only by devoting the time, energy, and staff involvement, will these actions for inclusion and diversity become a reality.
While thinking back to my own personal experiences as a solo Library Associate, I quickly became aware of the marginalized communities within the town of Knights Landing. Prior to my employment, I became aware that all programs and activities were only offered in English because the previous staff members did not speak Spanish. By not making accommodations for those who are not English speakers, this reflected how noninclusive the Yolo County Library was. I knew there were changes that needed to be made. The first change needed to a more inclusive programming method.
I began making all library programs and activities bilingual and created all program flyers in both English and Spanish. I did not want to divide the community simply because of linguistic differences, but wanted to merge community members together. As Dr. Michael Stephens states, “Hyperlinked communities are people”. I myself believe this statement as well.
I soon offered bilingual programs such as “Loteria” (a popular Latin American game similar to Bingo) and welcomed non-Spanish speakers as well as non-English speakers to these events. By focusing on the game of Loteria and sharing the similar experience at one table, community members who were afraid to practice their English speaking skills with native English speakers began to muster up the courage to talk to their neighbor at the table and conversations began occurring in both English and Spanish. I knew that by bringing two communities together, this was the way to enact change and inclusion within my library.
After seeing the success of my Loteria nights at the library, I began to try new programs that may be of interest to the community, such as “Cafecito y Crafts” (Coffee and Crafts). The library provided all materials and I would facilitate the program. I always made sure to emphasize that every program would be in English and Spanish. This became of relief to families who were Spanish speaking, but still wanted to learn the English language. I also believe this trust within the library grew because I was the second bilingual Latina librarian to work in this particular branch. This allowed me to relate to the community on numerous levels and understand their needs. Below, I have added a photo from on of the “Cafecito y Crafts” nights where the women made paper flowers, a common craft within the Mexican culture.
As a woman of color passionate about the field of librarianship, I have been able to see how important diversity is within this profession. It is much more than being able to communicate with various community members in a particular language, it is about having their needs heard and actively finding ways to reduce barriers. Hyperlinked communities can only be successful if we as librarians work towards making the library an inclusive space for all.
Laurensen, C. (2018, June 7). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Christian Laurensen.net. https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/