Everyone’s Work

One plus one often exceeds two

January 15, 2015

Courtney L. Young

Diversity, one focus of my campaign for ALA president, is a programmatic priority of ALA. It includes not only fostering the diversity of the profession but also working to ensure that we are serving all segments of our populations.

I believe diversity is an essential value for everyone working in a library or pursuing a degree in library and information science or a related field. Libraries that have the most significant impact on their communities understand and embrace the importance of diversity. They showcase their librarians, staff, and volunteers as members of a vibrant community and their library as a place where difference is welcome.

One of our greatest resources is embracing and celebrating the diversity of voices within our Association. To build a symphony of voices committed to diversity, I invite each of you to join me in the new Diversity Membership Initiative Group (MIG) that I will be cochairing with Melissa Cardenas-Dow. The MIG was created through the efforts of 100 petition-signing members and Alexandra Rivera, past chair of the ALA Council Committee on Diversity.

This MIG provides an organizational home for members dedicated to fostering an improved climate for diversity within their institutions and professional organizations. Its mission is to provide:

  • A space for success stories and best practices and broadly highlight examples of activities that have improved services and fostered organizational change;
  • A community of practice for members to discuss ideas, concepts, and methods to positively impact library services to increasingly diverse populations;
  • A base for deepening our discussion and collective understanding of diversity and inclusion issues across our professional organizations.

It is up to us to collectively determine what shape our efforts will take. Some activities I’ve considered are collecting success stories and sharing them on the ALA website; launching a journal club; identifying training topics and facilitators to enhance ALA’s online learning offerings; connecting members around topics of mutual interest for research, publishing, and presenting; identifying best practices from member organizations and implementing them in new places; supporting efforts to make ALA more welcoming; and providing feedback to the ALA Council Committee on Diversity and the Special Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. I hope you will add your voice and ideas by joining the diversity community at connect.ala.org/node/229994.

By harnessing the diversity within our Association, we increase our opportunities to be successful at building professional organizations that best serve our growth and libraries that will never lose relevancy. As Scott Page notes in The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, “When a collection of people work together, and one person makes an improvement, the others can often improve on this new solution even further: improvements build on improvements. Diverse perspectives and diverse heuristics apply sequentially: one gets applied after the other, and in combination. One plus one often exceeds two” (2007, p. 340).

I plan to use the MIG community to reflect on strides I have seen groups like ALA make on the national level, and share some of the local stories of success I encounter in my travels as ALA president. I hope you will contribute your unique take on these tales and showcase your own contributions to diversity work. Together we can build more visibility for the improvements we’ve already made. Together we can tap the power of our groups and collaborate on what’s next. Together we can make some real progress on diversity.