Outreach Resources for Services to People of Color

As the nation’s population changes, libraries are serving increasingly diverse communities.  Access to library and information resources, services, and technologies is essential for all people, especially racially and ethnically diverse people, who may experience language barriers; cultural isolation; racism or discrimination on the basis of appearance, ethnicity or immigrant status; or barriers to equal education, employment, and housing.    

People of Color in the U.S. 

Over the past several decades, the United States has become a more diverse nation, with what were once termed “minorities” growing into emerging populations.

  • According to the 2010 U.S. Census, over 50 million people identify as Hispanic or Latino (16% of the U.S. population); 38 million people identify as African American (13% of the U.S. population); nearly 3 million people identify as American Indian and Alaska Native (1% of the U.S. population); over 14 million people identify as Asian (5% of the U.S. population); and .5 million people identify as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (.2% of the U.S. population).
  • 9 million people (nearly 3% of the U.S. population) identify as belonging to two or more racial groups—a 32% growth from 2000. 
  • Racially and ethnically diverse groups saw higher percentage growth rates than white populations from 2000-2010 and will continue to experience higher percentage growth rates than the white population for each decade through 2050.

Despite the growing population of ethnically and racially diverse communities, racially and ethnically diverse people still account for disproportionate shares in several key demographics.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 Current Population Survey, 25.3% of the Hispanic population, 12.5% of the Asian population, and 25.8% of the Black population live below the poverty level—versus 9.4% of the white, non Hispanic, population.
  • According to the same survey, 79.9% of white Non-Hispanics report using the internet compared to 68.1% of African Americans and 63.9% of Hispanics.
  • Among adults 25 and over, just 19.3% of the Black population and 13.2% of the Hispanic population have attained a Bachelor’s degree or higher level of education—versus 32.9% of the White, non Hispanic, population   

Equity of Access Issues for People of Color

People of color may experience several issues which limit their full, beneficial use of the library.  Many of these issues may stem from a lack of representation in the services, staff, and collections of libraries.  For many people, having never seen their perspectives represented in library staff and services, the library may be an unknown element in their day-to-day lives. 

Libraries can work to bring the library to these communities through outreach and partnership efforts at cultural events, through community based organizations, or through local media.

Libraries can help eliminate barriers to access for people of color by:

  • Providing collections and programs which accurately and authentically reflect the cultural perspectives of communities of color.
  • Promoting library services through the communication channels and community events organized by people of color. 
  • Developing and providing services which address the unique needs of people of color.
  • Investing in recruitment strategies that build a diverse staff so that all people see themselves represented in the administration, management, and delivery of library services.

Selected ALA Resources for Serving People of Color

ALA Member Groups

Selected ALA Policies for Serving People of Color

Contact and Questions

Questions?  Comments?  If you would like to share questions or comments on ALA’s resources for people of color, please contact ALA’s Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services at 800.545.2433, ext. 4294, or diversity@ala.org.