Thursday, January 3, 2008

Highlights of the October 2007 ILA "Reporter"

In the October 2007 edition of the Illinois Library Association publication Reporter, Committee Member Barbara Adrianopoli of the Schaumburg Township District Library wrote an excellent summary of why your library needs to hire a diverse staff, which is found below. She is also interviewed along with Committee Member Vandella Brown in an article by Suzanne Arist entitled "Success in Diversity: How Three Illinois Libraries Embrace Multiculturalism." The full text of the article by Arist can be found in the October 2007 issue archived at:

October 2007 Reporter Forum & Committee News
Cultural and Racial Diversity Committee

Barbara Adrianopoli
Schaumburg Township District Library


Diversity is not only a buzzword now but also a reality. We are a nation and a state where in many counties the “minority is now the majority.” That should be reason enough to have a diverse staff. But, there are many other advantages. I spoke with staff who are the picture of this new society. Their responses are included in this “ten reasons for hiring a diverse staff.”

1) Claudia Manriquez Baranowski gives this feedback: “A cultural and diverse staff would benefit policy decision makers in deciding on services and materials needed to benefit specific groups who use the library.”

2) Claudia and others, like Sangeeta Bhargava and Kathy Tourtelot, all said that staff that speak their native language along with English can help non-English speakers who are limited in their verbal English skills with all the services of the library.

3) The staff member who wears the hijab (Muslim woman’s scarf ) offers a comfort level to fellow Muslim women.

4) Hiring staff who reflect the community often brings in an increase of users. It is often good for staff to test this statement by walking into a completely different community’s
business establishment or public building and feel the hesitancy that comes over you.

5) Helen Stewart, a British national, says, “It’s hard to get taken seriously in reference interviews when you aren’t American.”

6) Helen adds that “diverse hiring practices allow you to think outside the box.”

7) The staff and the public both benefit from hiring people from various ethnicities, nationalities, personalities, and ages. We learn from each other. A teen who is into the 2.0 era teaches us the virtual world. The teen is next year’s referendum voter.

8) Some of the older staff members probably marched in the civil rights movement or anti-war marches or fought in the war or fought for breaks in the glass ceilings. This
time it is just a different march, but one for freedom and equality.

9) “Different cultures and races have different mannerisms and different ways of conducting themselves in a given situation,” says Sangeeta. Learning these differences helps us in our interaction and expectations.

10) And on a lighter note, Sangeeta says, “If you are fortunate, you may get to sample ethnic food and receive gifts from a foreign country.”

At the end of each day, the only important matter is that we have helped bring the library’s mission to those we met. The library is truly the place everyone should find refuge, knowledge, and enrichment.

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