Strategic Planning for Diversity

ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services is pleased to provide an ever-growing collection of resources to help you plan for diversity. If you have materials and resources you feel should appear on this page, please email your suggestions to!

The framework on building a diversity plan was developed by Jody Gray, Diversity Outreach Librarian/American Indian Studies Librarian, University of Minnesota Libraries in October 2011.

Building a Diversity Plan

Creating a Diversity Plan for the library is one of the most important actions we can take to ensure that diversity and inclusion become integral to the way our institutions function, both internally and externally. 

Creating a diversity plans involves several steps to ensure that the institution is prepared to create a diversity plan, recognizes its role within a diverse community, and addresses diversity in a meaningful and relevant way.

For the purposes of this resource, we consider six elements essential for a successful diversity plan.  Those elements include:

  • A definition of diversity for the organization
  • An assessment of need or justification for the diversity plan
  • A mission or vision for the diversity of the organization
  • A statement of priorities or goals
  •  A delegation of responsibilities towards achievement of the plan
  • A statement of accountability

Building Support

When crafting a resonant and viable Diversity Plan it is critically important that buy-in exists at all levels of the library--from the library director to the front-line library staff.  Buy-in across the organization makes the success of the diversity plan viable and meaningful. 

Among the most important first steps towards building cross-organizational support is the alignment of an organization’s strategic priorities with diversity.  Consider exploring the library’s mission or vision statement to identify terms or clauses that can be connected back to issues of diversity.  In many libraries, diversity may already be specifically articulated.  In other libraries, the mission or vision statement might make mention of “the larger community” or “all members of the community,” which, by using Census data to demonstrate a diverse community, can be leveraged as evidence of the need for diversity.

As many libraries exist as part of a larger city government, school district, academic environment, or other organization, you may consult the mission or vision statement for the larger structure under which the library exists.  Here again, by making the connection to a pre-existing diversity mandate, you will be better positioned to make the case for diversity within the library.

Among the most important support to be garnered is from the executive management of the library.  Much of the literature and research on diversity in organizations points to the importance of executive-level support.  Support from management can ensure that the message is delivered broadly throughout the organization, that staff take the plan seriously, and that time and resources are put behind the plan.  Managers will likely respond to diversity plans which are derived from our support the organization’s mission and strategic goals.  Providing evidence or plans for a demonstrable return on the investment—increased organizational performance, enhanced customer use or satisfaction, or improved recruitment and retention—can increase manager’s desire to support diversity.  As discussed later, including compelling, achievable, and beneficial goals in the diversity plan can help articulate the return on investment that the library will receive.

Defining Diversity

The language that we use to do diversity work is important and may vary from region to region or institution to institution.  There are many terms that are sometimes used interchangeably when developing diversity programming.  To help your organization make the most of their diversity plans, it is helpful to make clear what your organization means by diversity and to distinguish that from other terms. 

Listed below are definitions to help organize and clarify your organization’s diversity plan.

Diversity – The focus on the appreciation and understanding for people with different backgrounds and cultures (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge 2007); the condition of being diverse; especially the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization (Merriam Webster); diversity is "otherness," or those human qualities that are different from our own and outside the groups to which we belong, yet are present in other individuals and groups (University of Maryland, “Moving Towards Community”); Diversity takes many forms.  It is usually thought of in terms of obvious attributes—age differences, race, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, religion, and language.  Diversity in terms of background professional experience, skills and specializations, values and culture, as well as social class is a prevailing pattern (United Nations, “Managing Diversity in the Civil Service”).

Multiculturalism - The preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation. (

Inclusivity – an intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as the handicapped, learning-disabled, or racial and sexual minorities. (

Additionally, several terms are often used within the context of diversity.  It is important to note the meaning and potential application of these terms.

Ethnicity – A social construct that divides people into social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavior, characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavior, patterns, language, political, and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical location (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge 2007).

Ally – A person who actively works to eliminate and interrupt all forms of oppression, such as ableism, ageism, anti-Semitism, biphobia, classism, homophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia, and xenophobia among others.  An ally is motivated by self interest, a sense of moral obligation, and/or a commitment to foster social justice. (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge 2007).

Cultural Competency – Ability to interact effectively with those from different backgrounds and cultures.  (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge, 2007).

Social Justice –  The focus on creating a just and equitable society where everyone has access to social power, resources, and physical and psychological safety.  Power dynamics result in social inequality. (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge 2007).

As stated earlier, many libraries may be affiliated with organizations (city government, school district, university, etc.) which already have a definition for diversity or inclusion.  Keeping the plan’s definition of diversity in line with the larger organization will help make the case for diversity and connect it to the mission of the organization and the larger community. 

The plan’s definition of diversity should make clear with either specific examples or clear explanations what is included in the organizations concept of “diversity.”  It should also strive to clarify what diversity can contribute to the organization and the individuals within the organization.


University of Nebraska-Lincoln “President’s Statement on Diversity”:
“We, the people of the State of Nebraska, are a mosaic of ethnicities, languages, and lifestyles. We live in an age when we must treat the various cultures and languages in our state as assets, not as weaknesses. At this point in our history, we would do a great disservice to our future generations if we were to encourage people to think that knowing only one culture and speaking only one language would be enough to remain competitive in an age when technology and the internet have brought us all closer together as a world-wide family.”

University of Michigan “Diversity Matters”:
“Diversity” as used here refers to human attributes that are different from your own and from those of groups to which you belong…. Visible diversity is generally those things we cannot change and are external, such as age, race, ethnicity, gender, and physical attributes. However, diversity goes beyond this to what we call “invisible” diversity. Invisible diversity includes those attributes that are not readily seen, such as work experience, marital status, educational background, parental status, income, religious beliefs and affiliations, geographic location, or socioeconomic status…. So, when we recognize, value, and embrace diversity, we are recognizing, valuing, and embracing the uniqueness of each individual.
University of California, Los Angeles “Principles of Community”:
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is an institution that is firmly rooted in its land-grant mission of teaching, research, and public service. The campus community is committed to discovery and innovation, creative and collaborative achievements, debate and critical inquiry, in an open and inclusive environment that nurtures the growth and development of all faculty, students, administration and staff. These Principles of Community are vital for ensuring a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of the campus community and for serving as a guide for our personal and collective behavior.

Yale University “Promoting Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Yale University: Policies, Resources, and Procedures”:
Yale’s diversity-of race, ethnicity, and gender-is among the University’s greatest assets. It infuses this campus with vitality and helps us to attract the most capable and promising individuals from around the world. The Yale community is made much richer by its diversity.

University of Minnesota “Reimagining Equity and Diversity”:
Diversity is not just numeric representation. Nor is it just an institutional asset or benefit. Far from just enriching or enhancing campus life or the academic enterprise, it is fundamental to everything we do at the University of Minnesota.  It is our responsibility as an institution to serve and support the following individuals and groups at the University of Minnesota—people of color, including underrepresented groups and new immigrant populations; people with both visible and hidden disabilities; women; people of various gender and sexual identities and expressions; first-generation students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. We also address issues of access and climate for individuals who might encounter barriers based on their religious expression, age, national origin, ethnicity, or veteran status.

Once you have found a common language, be sure to structure all discussion, materials, and communications using the common language. 

Assessing Need—The Environmental Scan

Diversity planning can vary depending on location, population, resources and climate.  It is helpful to review what similar institutions have developed, but it is also important to assess the internal climate of your organization and the external environment in which you exist. An environmental scan will help identify allies, gaps and resource availability.

An environmental scan may be intimidating, so before embarking on one, you may wish to consult examples of other organization’s environmental scan to take note of the items surveyed, the methods of collection and organization, and the final products.

There are several resources that can help you easily identify demographic data and estimates for your community. 

U.S. Census (link:  The U.S. Census can provide some of the most useful information for assessing the demographics of a given community.  In addition to race and ethnicity, information on people with disabilities, age, gender, educational attainment, and marriage status can be found in the various reports published by the Census.  Data from the 2010 Census is still being released (, but many reports from the 2000 Census ( can prove useful in shaping diversity plans. One of the most useful data sets available from the Census are the future projections ( for age, race and ethnicity, and sex for both national and state populations.  

U.S Department of Education Institution of Educational Sciences (link:  The Department of Education’s Institution of Education Statistics (IES) collects and analyzes data related to education.  The IES provides the School District Demographic System (, which contains demographic information for K-12 students by state and school district.  IES also has several reports that examine postsecondary education (  

State Demographic, Population, or Data Centers:  Many states have state demographic, population, or data centers which provide detailed information for state populations, including at the city, county, or district level. 

In addition to gaining factual data to support the need for diversity within your organization, it is also useful to explore similar or supporting programs in your environment that might help with your work.  Within an academic setting this might include offices for student support, ethnic or gender studies departments, or student organizations.  Within the public library setting this may include Equal Opportunity Services, chamber of commerce units, or community based organizations. 

Assessing the diversity of your organization’s internal environment is just as important as surveying the community in which your organization exists.  An internal scan can include many things, but among the most obvious are a review of existing policies or statements (mission, vision, strategic plan) that address diversity; library staff demographics; library programs, activities, or collections that address diversity; and library stakeholder or partner demographics.

Review Other Plans

Certainly the most expedient way to get started crafting the Diversity Plan after completing the environmental scan and settling on a definition of diversity for your environment is to review the plans of other institutions both within and outside the field.

It may be that no one plan meets all of your institutional needs, thus making it necessary to borrow various approaches from different, existing plans. Undoubtedly as important is making contact with relevant staff members at libraries and other institutions to inquire about both crafting and living with the plan. There are many Diversity Plans that look impressive on paper but fall flat during implementation.

Provided below are several diversity plans:

Additional academic library plans can be found on Diversity Resources for Academic Librarians, a site developed by Jody Gray, Diversity Outreach Librarian at the University of Minnesota.

Mission and Vision

The mission or vision statement for the diversity plan usually distills the organization’s diversity definition and the environmental scan into a direct statement of how the library currently operates within the community and what it strives to achieve and contribute as a diverse institution.  The mission and vision statement may re-state the organization’s definition of diversity and expand with several notes on the high-level strategies it will undertake to create or enhance a diverse environment.

Priorities and Goals

An integral part of the diversity plan will be the establishment of priorities and goals.  Derived from the definition of diversity, priorities should articulate those areas where the plan hopes to see change within the organization—awareness of diversity, recruitment of diverse candidates, and communication and sharing among staff—and the goals and strategies which will be utilized.  As is often suggested, goals should utilize a S.M.A.R.T approach—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely—and contribute to key priorities.


Priority—Increase awareness of diversity within the organization.
Goal #1—Upon completion of the diversity plan, the library director will announce the plan at all-staff meeting with three weeks of the plan’s completion. 
Goal #2—Human resources will include a copy of the diversity plan in all orientation packets for new hires.
Goal #3—At least three diversity educational opportunities will be provided to all staff within the next year. 

Priority—Improve recruitment of diverse candidates for available positions
Goal #1—A taskforce will be formed to create a communications plan for promoting employment opportunities to diverse audiences.
Goal #2—Human resources will be charged with using the communications plan for each new opening and provide applicants with the option of indicating how they learned about open positions.

Accountability—Evaluating and Assessing the Plan

Whether a Diversity Committee appointed by the library director or a portion of the annual library staff in-service devoted to review, personnel time should be formally allocated for the ongoing assessment and evaluation of Diversity Plan performance. Also necessary is a mechanism for reporting back to library leadership and for holding staff members at every level accountable for both successes and breaches. 

In addition to measuring performance in each priority area based on achievement of stated goals, libraries can also utilize an activity grid to document specific activities which contribute to specific priorities and which address specific audiences or constituencies within the diversity plan.

Examples of assessment:

Additional Resources

You may also want to take advantage of these resources:

  • ALA Online Learning Opportunities on issues of diversity
  • Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries (2012)
    Standards developed by the Racial and Ethnic Diversity Committee of ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries), based on the 2001 National Association of Social Workers Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice.
  • Diversity Climate Surveys: Worth the Effort 
    By Pat Disterhoft, associate professor of education; Debbie Giunta, director, Center for Cultural Fluency; and Arianne Walker, director, Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, all of Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles, California.
  • ClimateQUAL®: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment
    An assessment of library staff perceptions concerning (a) their library's commitment to the principles of diversity, (b) organizational policies and procedures, and (c) staff attitudes. It is an online survey with questions designed to understand the impact perceptions have on service quality in a library setting.
  • ARL SPEC Kit 319: Diversity Plans and Programs (October 2010)
    This SPEC Kit explores what progress has been made in ARL member libraries to recruit and retain a diverse workforce; the strategies they use to increase the number of ethnically/culturally diverse librarians in the profession and in their libraries; the elements of programs that successfully support an inclusive workplace; the people, groups, and/or committees responsible for overseeing the programs; and how libraries are assessing the effectiveness and success of such programs.