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ALAAction No. 4 in a series


Diversity is one of five key action areas adopted by the American Library Association to fulfill its mission of providing the highest quality library and information services for all people. The association actively promotes equal access to information for all people through libraries and encourages development of library services for diverse populations.

Why Diversity

The strength of our nation is the diversity of its people. How we deal with this diversity continues to be a challenge.

As we begin a new century, the ethnic balance of our population is shifting dramatically. Demographers predict that by the year 2050, African-Americans, Asian Pacific Islanders, Latino/Hispanics, and Native Americans will constitute the majority of Americans.

But diversity applies to more than race and ethnicity. It applies to physical disabilities, sexual orientation, age, language and social class.

Democracy is rooted in respect for all people. Respect is based on understanding. Librarians believe that education is key to building communities and a nation based on understanding and respect.

Why Libraries

Libraries are an American value. They offer people of all ages and backgrounds the resources they need to learn and grow and achieve their dreams.

The strength of libraries has always been the diversity of their collections and commitment to serving all people. Libraries of all types – public, school and academic – provide a forum for diverse ideas and points of view that can help us learn about and better understand ourselves and each other.

If libraries are to be their best, their services and staff must reflect both the people they serve and the larger global community. Today's libraries provide a wide range of opportunities for people with diverse needs and interests. These include cultural heritage collections, materials in alternate formats such as large print, also multilingual Internet training, bilingual storyhours, English as Second Language classes and many other creative and resourceful programs.

As a profession, librarians are committed to providing information and resources that serve the diverse needs of their communities and reflect the diversity of human knowledge and experience. Librarians preserve, organize and make accessible the printed, oral and visual histories and experiences of people throughout time. Librarians keep libraries open and accessible to everyone.


Diversity is a fundamental value of the American Library Association. This is reflected in our commitment to recruiting people of color and people with disabilities to the profession and to developing library collections and services for all people.

ALA has a long tradition of supporting equal rights for everyone. These beliefs are embodied in policy statements that guide the association's work. They include support for equal employment opportunity, regardless of race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, individual lifestyle or national origin.

The association's mission is to provide leadership and education to promote the highest quality library and information services for all people. To do this, the association sponsors a wide range of programs that support librarians in developing staff, resources, programs and services that reflect the diversity of people who make up our nation.

In 1997, the association launched the $1.5 million Spectrum Initiative, with the goal of doubling the number of librarians of color. One hundred students received $5,000 scholarships for graduate level study in library and information science in the first two years. The initiative inspired many library schools and ALA units to contribute matching funds. A fundraising campaign is underway to establish a $1 million scholarship endowment. The project includes leadership training and mentoring for librarians of color.

Other scholarships for minority students include two scholarships sponsored by the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), a division of ALA, for students of color who wish to specialize in the technology area.

In 1998, the association appointed its first diversity officer to facilitate the association's role in identifying and addressing diversity issues. The diversity officer serves as staff liaison to the ALA Council Committee on Minority Concerns and Cultural Diversity and the Spectrum Initiative Steering Committee. Projects have included a leadership training institute and recruitment workshop at the 1999 ALA Annual Conference.

The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) provides programs, guidelines and publications to assist libraries and librarians in serving people with disabilities and other special needs. A Century Scholarship of $2,500, established in the year 2000, aims to recruit people with disabilities into the library profession.

Units throughout the association sponsor programs and publications toward the goal of developing, improving and extending library services to diverse people.

The Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) promotes equity of access to information for traditionally underserved populations, including new and nonreaders, rural and urban poor people, people living in geographically isolated locations, people with disabilities and others who may be discriminated against because of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, language or social class.

Activities such as the Diversity Fair at the ALA Annual Conference provide opportunities for all types of libraries to share their "best practices of diversity in action." OLOS is also the liaison to the Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Round Table.

The Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) designs and disseminates recruitment materials for librarianship, conducts recruiting activities at the national level and sponsors other activities to encourage recruitment of a diverse workforce at the local level. Each year, the office publishes statistics on library school graduates by ethnic group using data provided by the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). In 1998, the Office for Research and Statistics (ORS) collected and published statistics on race/ethnicity of academic and public librarians.

The ALA International Relations Office (IRO) develops and promotes conferences and other programs to promote international exchange with libraries and librarians around the world. It serves as a liaison to the ALA International Relations Committee and International Relations Round Table. The office also administers the Sister Library Program to encourage libraries to develop relationships with libraries in other countries.

The Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA), a division of ALA, sponsors a Cultural Diversity Committee to identify and develop efforts to support the association and libraries in addressing diversity issues. LAMA also sponsors a Cultural Diversity Grant of $1,000 to support a program enhancing ethnic diversity in libraries.

The Pura Belpré and Coretta Scott King Awards recognize and promote children's literature that can foster greater self-awareness and understanding among children of diverse backgrounds.

ALA Graphics publishes posters and other promotional tools to support libraries in promoting their services to diverse audiences. These include Celebrate America's Diversity, a handbook with suggestions for multicultural library programs and promotions; the "Great Minds" poster series featuring Martin Luther King, Jr., Zora Neale Hurston and Cesar Chavez; and Spanish-language posters and products.

The editors of ALA Editions urge authors preparing proposal or manuscripts to address diversity issues.

ALA affiliates include five associations of librarians of color (ethnic caucuses): the American Indian Library Association (AILA), the Asian Pacific American Library Association (APALA), the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), the Chinese American Library Association (CALA) and REFORMA—the National Association to Promote Library Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking.

What YOU Can Do

  1. Make diversity central to your library's strategic plan. Develop a communications plan to promote your library services to diverse audiences. Keep promotional materials free of homophobic, racial, disability and ethnic stereotyping. Consider options for new and non-readers and those with English as a second language.
  2. Include a full range of voices in the library's collection that speak to the experiences of diverse groups that have contributed to the history and culture of our nation. Seek to include new and diverse authors, illustrators and publishers. Invite alternative voices to tell their stories orally, in print and online.
  3. Link your library's Web page with sites designed by those representing diverse viewpoints, including multiethnic backgrounds, people with disabilities and alternative lifestyles.
  4. Clearly articulate your library's diversity vision when reviewing and renewing job announcements and recruitment materials. Personnel policies and procedures should promote the recruitment of a diverse and qualified applicant pool.
  5. Recruit community members of diverse backgrounds to serve on the boards of your library trustees and Friends.
  6. Evaluate your library's readiness to receive and incorporate diversity. How are newcomers welcomed? Are they provided with opportunities to serve on policymaking and other committees, not just those that deal with diversity?
  7. Provide customer service training for staff in how to create a welcoming atmosphere for all library patrons, including nonreaders, non-English speakers, people with disabilities and others with diverse needs and interests. If appropriate, provide multilingual signage, orientation classes and brochures.
  8. Recruit staff who are skilled and comfortable dealing with diverse people. Promote the availability of staff who are multilingual, fluent in sign language or have expertise in dealing with adult new readers and others with special needs.
  9. Sponsor programming to educate your community about the global information society and its impact. Keep multicultural programming consistent and year-round. Involve library users in the planning and evaluation.
  10. Support ALA's Spectrum Initiative. Develop a recruitment program for librarians of color in your community. Volunteer to be a mentor. Contribute to the Spectrum Scholarship Endowment.

A Sampling of ALA Resources

To order products from ALA Graphics or ALA Editions, call 800-545-2433. ALA members receive a 10% (ten percent) discount. To request a free catalog from ALA Graphics or ALA Editions, visit the ALA Online Store.

Accessible Libraries on Campus: A Practical Guide for the Creation of Disability-Friendly Libraries
Edited by Tom McNulty, Association of College and Research Libraries, 1999. A wide-ranging resource for all types of libraries and their services to all people. 223p. $31. #0-8389-7989-0

ADA Library Kit: Sample ADA-Related Documents to Help You Implement the Law
Edited by Kathleen Mayo and Ruth O'Donnell, Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies, 1994. A kit filled with library-produced items to help demystify the ADA process. $22.99. #0-8389-7765.

Adaptive Technology for the Internet: Making Electronic Resources Accessible to All
Barbara T. Mates, ALA Editions, January 2000. Recent court decisions affirm that libraries must proactively and deliberately plan for accessibility of electronic resources. 224 p. $36. # 0-8389-0752-0

Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World
Hazel Rochman. A joint ALA Editions and Booklist publication, 1994. Expanded bibliographies and essays on themes such as outsiders, friends and family. Winner of the G.K. Hall Award for outstanding library literature. 288 p. $25. #0-8389-0601-X

ALA/EMIERT Directory of Ethnic and Multicultural Publishers, Distributors, and Resource Organizations
4th edition, 1999. Contact information for more than 300 companies, with annotations of each company's publishing activities. To order, call 718-997-3626. Send fax to 718-997-3753, or see the 
EMIERT website.  

ALA Equality Award
Annual award consisting of $500 and a citation of achievement given to an individual or group for outstanding contribution toward promoting equality in the library profession. Donated by Scarecrow Press, Inc.

ALA Graphics Catalog
Select from an array of posters and products that celebrate and promote diversity, including Spanish materials. To request a free catalog, call 800-545-2433, ext. 5046.

American Libraries
American Library Association, August 1999. Special focus: Against All Odds: The Special Needs of Diverse Populations.

America's Libraries Change Lives
Videotape, Jeff Spitz Productions, 1999. Distributed by ALA Graphics. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, this video combines footage of early 20th century immigrants with today's immigrants telling how the library makes a difference in their lives. 18 min. $49. #5291-0100

Assessing Service Quality: Satisfying the Expectations of Library Customers
Peter Hernon & Ellen Altman, ALA Editions, 1999. When you are close to your customers, you will best serve the diverse people of your community. Winner of the Highsmith Award for Library Literature. 256 p. $40. #0-8389-3489-7

Associations of Librarians of Color
Links to associations of librarians of color (ethnic caucuses).

Celebrate America's Diversity
ALA Graphics, 1993. A resource book for planning programs in honor of major holidays, festivals and historical events of various ethnic groups. Includes in-depth descriptions of more than 50 holidays, program ideas, resource listings, promotion tips, tools and clip art. 63 p. $24. #5170-0100

Century Scholarship
A scholarship in the amount of $2,500 sponsored by the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) to encourage people with disabilities to pursue master's level study in librarianship.

Coretta Scott King Awards
ALA Graphics. List of award-winning children's books written and illustrated by African American authors and illustrators. Brochures are available in bulk quantities. $18/50. #5302-0299

Coretta Scott King Awards Book: 1970-1999
Edited by Henrietta M. Smith, ALA Editions, 1999. Thirty years of award-winning African American contributions to children's literature. Includes full annotations, profiles of prominent African-American authors and illustrators and more. 160 p. $32. 0-8389-3496-X

Diversity Fair Notebooks
"Best practices of diversity in action" from all types of libraries.

Enhancing Cultural Understanding through Historical Fiction: A Multicultural Bibliography for Grades 5-8
Karen P. Smith and Linda Zoppa, American Association of School Librarians, 1994. Annotated bibliography of 51 works of multicultural, historical fiction suitable for middle school students. 44 p. $15. To order, call 800-545-2433, press 7. #0-8389-07755-3

Habla Español? No But I Can Try to Help You: Practical Spanish for the Reference Desk
Patricia Promis and Maria Segura Hoopes, Reference and User Services Association, 1991. Phrases most likely to be used by Spanish-speaking patrons and possible responses by the person at the reference desk. 20 p. $10. To order, call 800-545-2433, press 7. #0-8389-7524-0

LAMA Cultural Diversity Grant
Annual grant of up to $1,000 awarded by the Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA).

LAMA Diversity Officer's Discussion Group
Electronic discussion list for individuals whose job assignments and interests include implementing diversity training and/or diversity awareness programs. Sponsored by the Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA). To subscribe, send e-mail to Leave the subject line blank or type "subscribe" if your system requires a subject. In the body of the message, type: subscribe DIVERSITY-L .

Libraries: Global Reach-Local Touch
Kathleen de la Pena McCook, Barbara J. Ford, Kate Lippincott, ALA Editions, 1998. A global perspective on libraries. 264 p. $38.80. #0-8389-9738-5

Library Service to the Deaf Forum
Electronic discussion list to communicate with, and learn about, librarians who work with the deaf. Sponsored by the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA). To subscribe, send e-mail to Leave the subject blank. In the body, type: subscribe libdeaf .

LITA/OCLC Minority Scholarship in Library and Information Technology
Awarded annually by OCLC, Inc. and the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) in the amount of $2,500.

LITA/LSSI Minority Scholarship in Library and Information Technology
Awarded annually by the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) and Library Systems and Services, Inc. in the amount of $2,500.

Pura Belpré Award
List of award-winning books by Latino/Latina writers and illustrators whose work portrays the Latino cultural experience for children and youth. Sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and REFORMA.

Racial and Ethnic Diversity Among Librarians: A Status Report
Percentages of librarians by sex and by racial/ethnic categories as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Prepared by the ALA Office for Research and Statistics.

Sister Library Program
Suggestions on how to build relationships with libraries in other cultures that can help us learn, understand and better serve our communities. Print copies are available from the ALA International Relations Office.

Spectrum Initiative
ALA initiative offering scholarships, mentoring, leadership training and recruitment to increase the number of librarians of color. Contact the ALA Diversity Officer.

Stop Talking, Starting Doing! Attracting People of Color to the Library Profession
Gregory L. Reese and Ernestine L. Hawkins, ALA Editions, 1999. A practical guide to building a diverse workforce in libraries. 176 p. $30. 0-8389-0762-8

Universal Access: Electronic Resources in Libraries
Sheryl Burgstahler, Dan Comden, Beth Fraser. Published by University of Washington DO-IT, 1998. Distributed by ALA Editions. A turnkey solution for training library staff to become more aware of the issues, needs and concerns of people with disabilities in accessing electronic resources. $75. #0-8389-3490-0


ALA Diversity Officer
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 5020
Fax: 312-280-3256

ALA International Relations Office
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 3201
Fax: 312-280-4392

ALA Office for Human Resource Developmentand Recruitment
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4277
Fax: 312-280-3256

ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext.4294
Fax: 312-280-3256

Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies
Tel: 800-545-2433, ext. 4398
Fax: 312-944-8085

American Library Association
50 E. Huron Street
Chicago, Illinois 60611
Telephone: 312-944-6780
Toll-free: 800-545-2433
TDD: 312-944-7298
Fax: 312-944-9374


50 E. Huron Chicago, IL 60611 Call Us Toll Free 1-800-545-2433

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