Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Beyond Diversity - Multiculturalism

I am really surprised at how fast this semester has passed. Ashley and I began working as Fellows at the beginning of October....and it is already the middle of December.

I am very proud to be one of the first Fellows at the UL, and the title seems to hold very important values and responsibilities. I am, however, a little disappointed with how disorganized the fellowship is - thus far. But, I know that because this is a NEW job, a NEW initiative within the UL, that these kinks have to be worked out...and Ash and I need patience and to do the best we can. We have to set an example and lay the foundation for this new initiative. Of course, as time goes by and new Fellows come and go, this will grow into something more set into stone.

I think because this is so new....and with the implications of the title "Diversity Fellows," that we should really be promoting the education of multi-culturalism and cross cultural interaction, especially within the library. I don't think we should be promoting "diversity." I will tell you why. Ed Gonzalez said something SO intelligent and true: Diversity is difference. Knowing you and I are different from each other. defines diversity as: "the condition of being diverse" and "an instance of being diverse."

Does the UL really want us to promote DIFFERENCES? Or do they want us to promote how our differences contribute to a GREATER cause? How distinct cultures contribute to the country, and in a more personal perspective, our campus? How the different, diverse people in the library work as teams to run this institution? How IUPUI's ever-growing diverse campus continues to thrive - because of the different contributions of faculty, staff, student, visitor's (etc.) different cultures and qualities?

We (Fellows) need to set the goal of showing that we, and the school, welcome diversity (different cultures, ethnicities, religions, careers, goals, appearances, studies, people, environments, knowledge..). We (Fellows) need to set the goal that we will immerse ourselves in all types of cultures, in order to learn and understand, and then share that experience with our audience. Hopefully, we will be great role models so that others - regardless if you are of the IUPUI community or from another state or country - will be motivated to reach out and educate yourself of cultures outside of your comfort zone, or your own cultural environment. I hope we will motivate you to learn that the only barriers that exist are the ones you create.

I am very hopeful for the project/campaign that Ash and I would like to engage in. Our initiative to partner with To Mexico w/ Love has been approved by Dean Lewis! Now, I feel that this will be a great project that will allow us to work and show that our fellowship can entail independence, imagination and ambition. I think this fellowship can be a wonderful opportunity for students to learn and demonstrate how to responsibly be a part of the "real world," and contribute to it by leaving a positive impression (works of good). Promoting multi culturalism goes beyond reading, talking or setting displays. You must live it!

P.S. Merriam-webster defines multicultural as: of, relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures.


What is it Good For?

Monday I had the opportunity to attend a Indiana State Library Diversity Initiatives Task Force meeting at the Indiana State Library. It was a nice opportunity to see the different ways librarians from across the state are working to promote diversity in their own libraries and in library professions as a whole. Most of the meeting centered around a discussion about a program that the Task Force wants to build to encourage graduate students to consider entering the field.

This discussions triggered my own thoughts about the field of library sciences and my new awareness of all of the different opportunities within library science.
Before I became a Diversity Fellow at UL, I was a library assistant at an elementary school. In that position I gained a greater appreciation for the inner workings of the library. Though the elementary school library was much, much, much smaller than UL it faced many of the same problems that the Task Force addressed in their meeting. The librarian at the elementary school wore many hats. Not only did she do the traditional school librarian duties (checking in and out books, making sure that people stayed quiet) she also spent a lot of time working on grants and developing the library's collection.

As the Task Force members debated I thought about what ways the issue of diversity effects libraries from elementary schools to large public libraries to academic libraries. Through this fellowship I have had an opportunity to work with or collaborate with people who work in all different parts of UL. Recently I have spent some time working on a digital collections project, and after the holiday I will be working with archives. I tried to think of ways that diversity effects these types of library projects also. I came up with this conclusion: after all is said and done, it boils down to representation.

Librarians are the keepers of history and information. Diversity is important in library science because librarians have an obligation to do their best to represent the world around them. During the meeting several people mentioned that they did not want the Task Force to be seen as another "affirmative action program". While I believe that affirmative action, in many cases, opens doors for minorities, when we think about diversity it should not be limited to quotas. Libraries should be concerned about the diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and ideas in the library profession. This exchange will enhance the quality of Indiana libraries in every way. Even elementary school libraries should reflect their patrons, inviting everyone to come and join the fun.

Until next time...make it work,