In order to address competency C students in the masters of library and information science at San Jose State University need to provide evidence to demonstrate ability to “recognize the diversity (such as cultural and economic) in the clientele and employees of an information organization and be familiar with actions the organization should take to address this diversity”. I interpret this statement to mean that as information professionals we need to recognize diversity in the form of diverse opinions in research, serving a diverse client base, and employing a diverse staff. For the purpose of this discussion, I will rely on Evans & Alire’s (2013) reference to Miriam Brewer (2011), definition of diversity:
D-different styles, disabilities
V- variety, veteran status
E-education, economic status, ethnicity
R- Race, Religion
S- sexual orientation, social class
T- thought processes, traits
Y- youth, years
Diversity exists in a plethora of contexts and this definition does not encompass all types of diversity, but it gives a basis to discuss diversity. This definition leaves multiple types of diverse populations such as gender as a form of diversity and gender identity. However, it difficult to define comprehensively diversity in all its forms, but this definition is a thought-provoking list that reminds us of the complexity that exists when we are discussing diversity. Addressing diversity in information setting and in information work is important in order to uphold the core value of librarianship as determined by the American Library Association (ALA). As stated recently by the ALA, “Regardless of the type of library, constituency or represented region, our nation’s library community continues efforts to provide community members with free access to diverse collections, multicultural staff and diverse resources” (Cho, 2017).
In order to serve the communities in which information professionals work, we must strive to encompass a diverse body of patrons. Our services and resources must be reflective of the diverse communities in which information organization operate. The services and resources provided by information professional must be accessible and representative of as many types of diverse populations that can be found within the environments or service populations that information organizations operate. Information professionals must endeavor to ensure that their organizations provide access, inclusion, representation, and most importantly equity to all types of patrons. We must also be conscious of diversity as it exists within our staffs and provides a culturally aware work environment for a diverse workforce.
Providing access can mean offering services such as story hours told in American Sign Language (ASL) and ASL courses for all ages. It can mean providing a bookmobile for economically disadvantaged populations or for elderly populations that may be housebound or nursing home bound. It can mean providing eBooks and many types of technologies to increase access to information. Providing databases that have multilingual articles, audio features or providing a sensory friendly environment. Having facilities that are accessible by wheelchairs and provide enough space between stacks for wheelchairs to navigate is important to ensure your library is accessible to physically handicapped individuals. It can mean employing a staff member who is multilingual in order to provide service to immigrant populations or ESL students. It can mean educating and training staff members to meet the needs of various types of individuals with such as individual’s disabilities or mental health issues. It can mean having IPad that have speech to text capabilities so that non-verbal patrons can communicate with employees or so non-verbal employees can assist patrons. It can mean as Evans & Alire’s (2013) site that, “multilingual OPAC’s allow users to work in the language in which they are most comfortable. The use of different languages to describe how to search the catalog and the collections help uses to increase their skills”. Changing or ensuring that services, technology, staff, and facilities that are accessible to diverse patronage are essential to actions that can be taken to address diversity among our clientele and employees.
Inclusion is another important aspect of recognizing the needs of a diverse clientele. Resources must be accessible for all as well as library events. This can mean that information professionals working in acquisitions need to seek out materials and create collections that reflect the diverse patron base that is served. It requires information professionals to understand the diverse types of patrons that exist within their communities and provide needed information services to those community members or special populations. It means that for example if a library is in a community with many Spanish-speaking residents that the library provides library materials such books, eBooks, movies, and audio tapes in Spanish as well as English. The book talks and story hours are multilingual or bilingual to enhance access and improve language skills. If there are community members that cannot utilize reading materials because they are visually impaired or dyslexic then there need to be resources that these patrons can utilize. Making our resources inclusive is an important part of addressing diversity. These types of patrons can be included by adding materials in braille or having a database that has features that can read the article to a patron.
These changes to a collection can be implemented with minimal effort, but they can deeply impact the lives of members of special populations such as vision impaired or individuals with reading disabilities. Including services that reach out to the special populations in your communities such as individuals with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly it’s about ensuring access to these communities and providing services that can dissipate the isolation that can occur in these communities. Veteran populations can be isolated due to frequent relocation and deployments which can make it difficult to establish connections in their communities. Veterans can also suffer from issues related to combat-related deployments so having a staff that can be sensitive to these concerns and can recognize the signs of issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder can be imperative to these individuals’ success within society. Another example of address diversity could be recruiting and employing veterans that are familiar with these issues and being well trained to assist any veteran employees is an important action to take to address diversity. Recruiting multilingual personnel and ensuring that your working environment is accessible to employees with disabilities whether they be physical or mental is important as well as adopting more diverse hiring practices to ensure that your personnel is as diverse as your clientele. As suggested by Evans & Alire’s (2013), “Having a diverse selection committee will also assist you in achieving the library’s diversity goals”. Many institutions that information professionals work in such as university have positions for diversity officers to ensure all hiring practices are compliant with legal laws related to diversity and that hiring practices employed are not discriminatory and that they are as encompassing of diversity as possible.
Representation within information settings is an important part of serving our patrons, for example, children’s book that reflects multiple type’s Hispanic heritage and cultures. In addition, having a collection that includes non-fiction and fictional representations of LGBT community members is an example of providing a representation of diverse community members within a library environment. Having a collection that includes books authored by an LGBT community member can be representative of the LGBT and books on subjects that are relevant to this community. Surveying community members about their diverse need and having events such as book talks that include various authors and topics that are multicultural and multi-ethnic. Representation also includes acquiring and housing a library collection that encompasses the views of the diverse society that we live in and by having literature that is representative of multiple types of individuals including individuals that live within our communities such as individuals with disabilities, veterans, elderly, religions, races, and ethnicity.
This can include authors from these groups or library materials on topics of interest to varying groups, or that represent these groups through various types of depictions. Representation also means having a collections, settings, and employees that include multiple viewpoints on any given topic. It is important for information professionals to develop relationships with their community to understand the needs and wants of individuals within their communities. Then adopting services to assist under serve populations or fill gaps in their collections basis on feedback, surveys, or environmental scans by purchasing materials that fill those gaps.
Equity in the treatment of individuals from diverse backgrounds is creating a diverse environment and addressing diversity in our clientele and staff. Many stigmas exist in this society based on race, gender, economic status, religion, ethnicity, and age. These biases can influence our working environments negatively and our interactions with patrons. Treating all individuals with respect, kindness, and fairness is the essence of equity. Whether it is to an employee, a patron, volunteer, or an idea impartial and equal treatment needs to be reflected in our training, actions, policies, practices, and services. For example, if a hiring committee assumes that a potential candidate lacks technical skills because they are elderly instead of asking the candidate about their technological skill set. This is treating this candidate unfairly. This can also be true for potential employees that are younger they can be dismissed as inexperience due to their age. There are many ways to begin to combat these biases such as in altering hiring practices, for example, having a hiring committee made up of diverse members that agree upon questions that represent the skill set required to perform the job. Offering potential employees or current employees reasonable accommodations for any disabilities such as hearing, vision, sensory, or physical limitations that can be addressed while still employing a capable individual is important to have a diverse workforce. Being open-minded about the possibility of accommodations for an employee can allow you to have inclusive hiring practices. There are many cost-effective and easy way to accommodate employees with disabilities. Adding preferences to your job description such as language skills or requirements such as experience working with diverse groups can help ensure that your staffing individuals who are prepared to work in a diverse environment and meet the needs of diverse individuals. Having strategic plans that include a mission, vision, and goals that reflect an understanding of diversity and address the needs of diverse patrons are important to information organizations taking action to create environments that are more diverse.
Impartiality and equity in ideas and opinions is also something that needs to reflect the collections of information organizations and through the service provided by information professionals. Regardless of personal opinions or dislikes for any particular opinion information professionals must assist patrons in finding materials that meet the patron’s information needs or wants. This can be through databases that reflect multiple opinions such as CQ Research or Opposing Viewpoints in Context. It can also be done through find materials that reflect the patron’s ideas and beliefs. The library needs a collection that reflects a diversity of opinion on topics that are relevant to their community. Information professionals need to be prepared to address diverse opinions on social issues, politics, economics, gender, sexuality, and many other controversial topics with impartiality and kindness. Information professional’s personal beliefs or opinions must not affect their treatment of patrons seeking information and judgment of the diverse types of opinions that information professional encounter is not acceptable. Providing kind, fair, and respectful services to individuals of all backgrounds and opinions is essential to recognizing and addressing diversity in our profession.
In order to provide evidence of my competence in issues related to diversity, I have assembled the following collection of my work
- Info 204 Strategic plan presentation
- Info 200 Blog Assignment #5 Special populations in libraries
- INFO 200 Blog assignment #1
My first piece of evidence is my strategic plan presentation from INFO 204 Information Professionals class. This assignment had us chose an information organization and survey that organization for strength and weakness than create a plan that addressed those areas of weakness. One of the areas of weakness that we addressed in our strategic plan was taking action to provide services that are more inclusive to diverse groups of library users. My group also created mission, vision, values, and goals that reflected the need for inclusion and diversity. According to Evans & Alire (2013), the main purpose of managers in relation to diversity is to:
- Create an organizational culture that values diversity in all its manifestations’
- ensure that everyone has and demonstrated respect for the views and experiences of other
- Implement practices based on sound policies so that diversity brings benefits to the library for both staff members and users.
My group created goals to address these gaps in services, the collection, and facilities. The goals also include measurable assessment to ensure that the library is meeting the needs of its patronage. Changing the organizational structure of the library to reflect the diverse needs of its community members and altering organizational management practice to recognize diverse needs. Creating policies, practices, and services that benefit staff and users is an important part of recognizing diversity and taking action to address diverse needs and populations. Continuously assessing the needs of your organization and your community can help organizations to cultivate an institutional structure that promotes diversity. The strategic plan presentation that combined our first and second assignments in a presentation format that gave a visual representation of all the information we gathered and the strategic plan that we created to implement change in our library organization. The presentation included an environmental scan of the community surrounding the library chosen by my group reveal some underrepresented groups that the libraries current services and collection did not reflect. Information was collected to gain a better understanding of the populations that exist within the community. Information was gathered on the labor trends of the area, the economic status, ethnicity, political trends, funding trends, legal trends, and socioeconomic trends. This information was used to gain a better understanding of the needs and the environment in which the library was operating. Understanding these trends helped my group to create a plan that addressed the diverse needs of its community. This presentation also includes the SWOT analysis performed for our library organization and the goals that we implemented to address the weakness revealed by this analysis.
My second piece of information is a blog assignment #5 for Information communities. This assignment was to discuss a special population that exists in information communities. I chose individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as my special population since I have strong background knowledge in this area and with working with this population. The assignment asked us to describe issues concerning special populations and give various way information organizations can address the needs of these special populations. This assignment to describe any specialized needs that may exist within an information community and how libraries can address their needs. My blog post describes how misunderstandings can occur or prevent individuals with ASD from accessing libraries services and how library facilities can thwart individuals with ASD attempts to utilize the library. Aspects and features of this disorder can be impacted negatively by environmental factors such as sound or light. Understanding needs of special populations can help libraries to recognize and address the needs of this population. Recognizing these needs, implementing policies, practices, and understanding effective approaches to assisting members of this population can help create a more diversity-friendly atmosphere while helping members of special population thrive.
My course assignment asks to describe any issues concern special populations related to my community. My information community is parents with children on the Autism spectrum. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder are considered special populations. Serving parents of individuals with ASD can come with similar issues to serving the ASD population. Autism is a lifelong disorder that has no known cause and presents itself differently in every individual. ASD is a developmental disorder that
The needs of individuals with ASD are specialized. Many individuals with ASD have aversions to noise, lights, touch, and smells. They also have sensory needs that are different from those of neurotypical individuals. Individuals with ASD neurological functions in the brain are different from those individuals who are non-autistic, “Imaging studies have revealed that autistic children have too many nerve fibers, but that they’re not working well enough to facilitate communication between the various parts of the brain” (Watson, 2007). These differences in the brain cause individuals with ASD to be more sensitive to sounds, touch, light, and smells. They have an over-reactive fight or flight responses that can produce meltdowns and sensory overload. Their brains cannot handle all the sensory input they are receiving.
My son has ASD and he often describes it as being stung by bees coming from you in all directions. This can make bright lights painful for individuals with ASD. Fluorescent lights with the buzzing and the brightness are terribly uncomfortable for individuals with ASD. My son tends to blink uncontrollably in rooms with bright noisy fluorescent lights and the sound is almost unbearable to him. Individuals with ASD are often very repetitive and socially awkward. They are unable to read social cues and making eye contact with people can be painful. My son says that other people’s eyes look creepy like alien’s eyes they make him feel uncomfortable to the point he cannot keep looking at them. Individuals with ASD often have a hard time reading other people’s emotions. My son once said to me after we saw the children’s movie home that he wished all people would turn the color of their feelings so that he could understand when they were mad, sad, or happy. Many individuals with ASD also avoid touch and just small touches can really make them feel uncomfortable or even be painful. Individuals with ASD can be extreme schedule orientated and repetitive. They can wear the same clothes every Monday for the past 3 years and changes to their routine can be extremely difficult for them to process.
When working with individuals with it is important to not force eye contact or assume they are not listening because they are not making eye contact. Understanding that an individual with ASD maybe social awkward and not taking their awkward or inappropriate statements as being rude but help guide them to responses that are more appropriate. It is also important not to touch individuals with ASD because this can cause extreme and poor responses. Walking an individual with ASD through each thing you are going to do before you do it or storyboarding can be extremely helpful. It can also take individuals with ASD longer to respond to questions it is important to be patient and give them up to 3 to 5 minutes to respond per questions. Even though many individuals with ASD our average or above average intelligence, it can take their brains longer to process verbal communications. There is high and low functioning autistic on the low-functioning end of the spectrum individuals with ASD might have severe language delays or be unable to communicate verbally. IPad can be very helpful as well as texting or other forms of technological communication.
Having an environment that is sensory friendly is also helpful just a small area that has dim lighting, minimal noises, and sensory toys to help individuals with ASD recharge so they can prevent becoming overwhelming by sensory information. Having these spaces available to children in the library would be a lot to allow parents of individuals with ASD to have access to the library as well as sensory friend hours that are open to individuals with ASD before or after the library’s regular operating hours or special sensory friendly times such as sensory friendly story times or book groups for YA readers. Having these spaces can open access to this special population who are often isolated due to their social deficiencies. Even though individuals with ASD are socially awkward and avoid touch, they do want to have friends as well as interact with others. They just like the social skills and are often limited due to the sensory issues that often can make it uncomfortable to leave their homes. This can lead to the isolation of not only children with ASD but to the isolation of their parents. These small changes in service can mean a lot to these parents, children, and their family members.
My final piece of evidence is my blog from INFO 200 assignment number 1 on Information communities. Our assignment was to choose an information community to research. I chose individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their parents as an information community. I researched and became more familiar with this diverse information group in order to describe the community and them as clients. I described in my blog post common traits and features related to ASD. I also described some of the difficulties that individuals with ASD face especially since it is an “invisible” disorder that is not easily identified just by looking at individuals. Understanding the issues related to a diverse information group allows us as information professionals to better address their information needs. Understanding the features that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder present helps us to identify these traits in clients and adjust our service accordingly. Becoming familiar with the adversities that individuals with ASD face in a library environment makes us better able to welcome this diverse group into our libraries and address their information needs thus making libraries better able to meet the needs of diverse populations.
According to the five definitional characteristics of information communities provided by Karen E. Fisher and Joan C. Durrance in their article “Information Communities,” Information Communities can consist of a group of individuals that have a shared set of interests in common or a shared set of circumstances. In my Library course 200 for my master’s program in Library and Information Science at San Jose State University. In this class, our assignment requires us to explore an information community.
The information community that I can have chosen to explore is the community of parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This group of people comes from diverse backgrounds, but share common circumstances and informational needs. Fisher and Durrance (2003) explain that one of the characteristics of information communities is that they collaborate with diverse groups. They also come together on social media to discuss this information need in a multitude of ways. They form Networks such as the Autism Network or through nonprofit organization’s boards such as Autism Speaks.Fisher and Durrance (2003) notes that information communities utilize technology to share information to benefit the information community. Parents of individuals of with Autism Spectrum Disorder to share parenting tips and centralize information access. Websites for an organization like Autism Speak have collected their own library of resources to help members of this information community to access information. Organizations such as Autism Society of America which was started by parents and family members of individuals with ASD.
This information group has a collective information need in order to assist and advocate for their children. Children with ASD come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, and racial backgrounds. According to Center for Disease Control (2016), children with ASD have social, emotional, and often communication difficulties. These children frequently have sensitivities to light, sound, smells, noises, and touch. The Center for Disease Control (2016), state that ASD presents itself differently in every individual, but that some of the signs that an individual may have ASD are the following:
- not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
- not look at objects when another person points at them
- have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
- avoid eye contact and want to be alone
- have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they want to
- appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
- be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
- repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
- have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
- not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
- repeat actions over and over again
- have trouble adapting when routine changes
- have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
- lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)
This group needs medical information regarding the research surrounding the causes of ASD, educational research techniques to schools assist them in addressing the specialized needs of their children, legal understanding of laws surrounding individuals with ASD, parenting strategies for assisting individuals with ASD, and a myriad of other informational needs. Fisher and Durrance (2003) suggest that information communities form because of the collective needs of potential members. This community has formed due to the collective needs of these parents to assist their children and to understand their children’s specialized needs. This is a major information need and drives this information community to explore therapies, strategies, laws, and services for their children.
This information community exists due to overcoming boundaries to information related to parenting an individual with ASD. Since parenting needs cross the boundaries various fields of studies the information can be so spread out that it can be difficult to gather and find the necessary information to educate themselves and find the research related to their circumstance. As Fisher and Durrance( 2003), argue that information communities help overcome boundaries to gathering information and remove barriers to information about needed services. Parents with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder have an information need that can be difficult to gather due to the rapidly evolving information related to ASD in order to stay up to date on current trends and information including new therapies, services, and strategies that can help assist individuals with ASD.
You can read the blog assignment here: INFO 200 Blog assignment #1
Cho, H. (2017, August 03). ALA and affiliates issue joint statement on libraries and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2017/08/ala-and-affiliates-issue-joint-statement-libraries-and-equity-diversity-and
Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.) [Kindle Fire version]. Available from Amazon.com