Julius C. Jefferson - 2019 ALA Presidential Candidate

1. There have been many concerns about the persistent underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in the ranks of librarians. How do you perceive this problem and how would you address this deficiency as ALA President?

The concerns of underrepresentation are a reality. People of color (POC) make up roughly 35% of the US population and are 12% of credentialed librarians. My concern is that underrepresentation of librarians of color has an adverse effect on POC receiving equal and fair access to resources and information. It is essential that POC are trained to serve a growing population to serve their communities. As ALA President I intend to work with the ethnic caucuses to develop a focused and intentional recruitment strategy that begins with reaching out and speaking to K-12 students. I will be a staunch supporter of the Spectrum Initiative advocating to raise funds to increase the benefit to more students. I am also concerned about the challenges of retaining librarians of color. As ALA President I can collaborate with the ethnic caucuses for the best thinking on how best to address and develop an initiative to retain librarians of color.

2. In the context of your background as an employer/ administrator, what steps had you previously taken to promote an ethnically diverse work environment?

The first discussion I had when I was elected to serve on the ALA Executive Board was to add equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to our strategic directions. ALA had to be strategic about EDI which is an essential priority for the growth and organization well-being of ALA in addition to a core value of our profession. As ALA members we cannot advocate for EDI as a value and not practice EDI in our home institutions. Steps I have taken personally to support EDI begin with my service on the ALA committee on diversity and bringing the best thinking and ideas from my EDI work in ALA to my workplace. I have served on diversity committees at my home institution where I advocated making diversity part of the discussion when developing our strategic plan. I have focused on recruiting a diverse workforce by speaking to underrepresented groups about career opportunities. I have advocated for diversifying the selecting/ hiring panels; and brought attention to creating a culture of inclusion by organizing programs about diversity locally and nationally. Most recently I presented a program about the challenges of retaining librarians of color at the 3rd Joint Conference of Librarians of Color.

3. What could ALA do to involve more underrepresented groups (ethnic minorities) in the Association?

If librarians of color are going to become more involved in ALA, then ALA must be a champion for librarians of color. Involvement begins with building a culture of inclusion within ALA, where people of color feel like they are welcome to participate. This begins with continuing the work on EDI through workshops, webinars and programs that will educate our members on issues librarians of color face as ALA members. As president I can provide opportunities for POC to participate on ALA committees and task forces.

4. What can library school educators do to recruit underrepresented groups?

A major issue with LIS programs is the underrepresentation of POC on faculty. LIS programs must also build a culture of inclusion in their institutions. LIS educators can reach out to alumni POC as a resource to recruit LIS students of color. LIS programs can offer financial resources to help POC attend LIS programs. LIS programs can work with IMLS to fund programs such as the Knowledge Rivers Program. LIS programs can also work with ALA to support the Spectrum program.

5. How can these schools address the issues of diversity within the curriculum so that all graduates are better-prepared to address the needs?

So much of our professional lives will involve navigating issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. We will either be the only POC working in our institutions or find ourselves the only POC on a committee in a Library Association, which often results in not being fully included. This lack of inclusion results in an adverse outcome because all points of view are not being heard. All LIS schools should offer a core course that explores issues of equity, diversity and inclusion providing cultural competencies allowing all students an introduction to providing library services to diverse groups and developing professional relationships with POC.