Trevor Dawes discussed diversity in libraries at a joint meeting of the New Jersey and Princeton-Trenton chapters of SLA on October 7 at the Rutgers Club in New Brunswick. At the center of his message was the idea that libraries should be communities where staff members, whether or not they represent the demographics of their library community, offer programs of relevance to the population they serve.
Dawes is the Circulation Services Director at the Princeton University Library and a founding member of the New Jersey Chapter of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and past chair of the American Library Association’s Committee on Diversity.
Dawes emphasized the importance of building a sense of community in all types of libraries, whether public, academic or corporate. He mentioned the mission statement on the Princeton Public Library web site as a good example of community orientation.
Some tips from Dawes on programs to encourage diversity among users: invite and include everyone in the library community by offering newsletters, Facebook groups, tours to notable places in the area, workshops and other relevant programs.
To gain a more diverse staff, Dawes suggested working with library schools and associations such as SLA to find out about scholarships and programs. Larger libraries can appoint diversity advocates and committees. Whatever your situation, Dawes said, a good place to start is to challenge your own assumptions about diversity by taking the Implicit Association Test.