Maggie Farrell - 2019 ALA Treasurer Candidate​

Thank you for providing an opportunity to address issues of concern to REFORMA and our profession. As a member of REFORMA and Dean of Libraries at our nation’s most diverse university (U.S. World & News Report), that is also an HSI, majority-minority university, I am deeply committed to developing collections, instruction, spaces, and services that are inclusive supporting all of our students. This commitment must be complemented by our efforts to increase the diversity of our librarians and library workers to reflect the community we serve. This is the foundation for my service to ALA in creating a vibrant library association to advance professional development, advocate for librarians and libraries, and build our library community.

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 Treasurer?

I agree that our library profession does not reflect the diversity of our population - despite the values and efforts of many librarians; we are not making the progress we need in our profession.  The ALA 2012 Diversity Counts study reports12% racial or ethnic credential librarians while other studies show a higher percentage of racial or ethnic library workers yet these statistics do not equate to our community demographics.  There are a number of issues contributing to the lack of diversity in our profession including recruitment, advancement of library workers to librarians, socio-economic factors, pay, and retention. Improvement on these areas will not succeed unless we critically examine the underlying implicit bias within our profession, libraries, and even our professional associations.  

As ALA treasurer, my first priority would be to ensure the long term financial stability of ALA because if ALA is to address diversity issues, it must be a sustainable organization.  As the current chair of BARC, I am striving to improve the financial transparency of ALA while also encouraging more frequent and clear communication. We need to have a full understanding of our revenue sources and expenditures in order to examine operations and to make difficult choices in funding priorities.  ALA has a complex budget structure including overhead contributions from conferences, publishing, and divisions in addition to a multifaceted membership structure. In addition, we have core mission activities such as advocacy and legislative funding and policies, which must support every ALA member and by extension, the library profession.  We must find new ways to fund our activities and create an inclusive environment that supports individual engagement and professional growth. Diversity goals must be weaved throughout our activities – not a separate initiative but integral to our work.

As a leader serving on the Executive Board, I would encourage board members as well as the leaders of our divisions, roundtables, committees, and Council to participate in cultural competency training as we want to be sure our leaders are aware of implicit bias in their service work.  At UNLV Libraries, our Inclusion and Equity Committee is examining our position advertisements and hiring processes to eliminate possible biases or subtle messages that would deter diverse candidates from applying for or accepting a position. I would encourage ALA to undertake similar examinations of marketing, website, and communication to remove possible barriers in our association.

I would continue to support the development of policies and Council resolutions that reflect an inclusive profession that advances diversity.  Initiatives such as the Spectrum scholarships and mentoring programs have been successful but need to be expanded. Particularly the programs that provide a network of peers and career development for librarians are critical to address retention of diverse librarians.  

There is so much potential for us to advance librarianship through diversity of our librarians and library workers.  I am committed to this effort at my library, university, and profession and will continue to work determinedly to achieve our inclusion and equity goals.

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

I would first mention that at UNLV Libraries, it is a team that promotes an ethnically diverse work environment.  I chose to be at UNLV because of its commitment to diversity and my desire to work in an environment that reflects our society.  The Libraries work within a broader team that strives to create an inclusive environment for our students and employees. And within the Libraries, the leadership team in concert with our Inclusion and Equity Committee work together to examine our operations and services. Our new strategic planning process will include consultation and review by our Inclusion and Equity Committee to develop diversity goals at the departmental level stressing inclusion is the responsibility of everyone and every department.  The diversity attainments we have made are due to the values and efforts of many within the UNLV Libraries. The following are some activities that demonstrate our commitment to diversity:

  • Cultural competency training for all library employees

  • New LGBTQ juvenile collection in our Education Library

  • Examination of Libraries’ Values Statement

  • Inclusion and Equity Committee central to strategic planning process

  • Student instruction programs directed toward first generation, transfer, and veteran students

  • Four of the five new board members are diverse individuals from the community on a previous homogeneous board with a commitment to further increase the diversity of a 12-15 member board

  • Creation of a Latinx Advisory Board to provide direction on a Mellon Grant oral history project

  • Commitment of Special Collections and Archives to tell the full story of Southern Nevada including the African American Experience, Latinx Voices, and Jewish Heritage projects

This is a sampling of our efforts requiring the entire library to be engaged in diversity initiatives and I am proud to work with a dedicated team who share the vision of inclusion and equity in the work to make this a reality.

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

I am pleased to see ALA’s support of associated professional development such as the recent Joint Conference of Librarians of Color and the close association with ethnic affiliates.  I would encourage ALA to work with the ethnic associations to develop joint goals and programs. This might include shared professional and leadership development. I suggested that ALA Publishing become the publisher for JCLC papers and diversify their publishing.  Within the current membership study, I hope ALA examines joint membership of ALA and affiliates as a way to expand efforts – not compete but work together for our shared vision. The effort to examine ALA conferences holds the potential to reach more librarians with focused conferences in smaller cities reducing travel costs for many librarians and attracting individuals who may not have had the opportunity to be engaged with ALA.  We need to continue our leadership and scholarship programs with encouragement to take on a leadership role within ALA upon completion. These efforts, combined with my previous comments on cultural competencies may increase more underrepresented groups in ALA. As Treasurer, I would be open to the ideas of our members and willing to try creative approaches in order to achieve our diversity vision. 

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

 The pipeline for library school enrollment continues to be a challenge and we need to examine the broader context beyond recruiting BA/BS students.  ALA needs to consider marketing to a younger audience and recruiting efforts may need to begin at the high school level. For university libraries, there has been some success of attracting graduate assistants who work in a library to librarianship.  At UNLV, we have an undergraduate peer mentoring program which we hope will attract minority students into the profession. Internship programs may lead to more interest in librarianship but typically individual libraries are not connected with library schools so library schools may want to partner with libraries beyond their home institution.  A good recruiting method is to recruit library workers into degree programs but library schools must figure out better programs that support employees who are unable to move to a library school and/or stronger online programs that include internships and practicums as part of the curriculum. Another option is robust scholarship programs that support students attending school full time.  As an employer, I would like to see more options for our employees who want to become librarians and a confidence in the program to prepare individuals to transition to a degreed librarian position.

For library school alumni, I would like to see an ongoing commitment to professional development and networks.  Universities and colleges are being held accountable for job placement and tracking success beyond the degree. Library schools similarly could develop professional development and career enhancement programs for their graduates.  The formation of networks and connecting new graduates with alums would strengthen mentoring and career opportunities. There is value not only in the education but the ongoing relationship of a graduate with their library program that may enhance retention of diverse librarians in our profession.

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

Cultural competency training should be a required skill with an understanding of microaggressions and implicit bias.  As librarians, we seek to have collections that reflect broad thinking from a variety of perspectives. We should reflect this same value in teaching library services and operations and that diversity of ideas and cultures are essential in our library school core curriculum.  Within collection development courses, we should strive to build collections of underrepresented voices to fully realize the diversity of our society. ALA Council has been an advocate for more inclusive terminology in our cataloging subject headings and such issues should be discussed within library schools beyond the mechanics of how to catalog.  As with our library operations, diversity should not be considered as an additional aspect but it needs to be woven throughout the curriculum.

Thank you again for the opportunity to reflect on diversity issues and initiatives in librarianship.  I am proud to be a REFORMA member and part of the community work to build inclusive libraries. I hope to have the opportunity to serve as the ALA Treasurer and appreciate your consideration of my service and leadership.