A career as a librarian or information professional requires knowledge of and adherence to several codes of ethics. Since information specialists have a big influence on information systems, they also ensure that diversity, privacy, intellectual freedom, and access to information are protected. Information professionals use their role in the library to serve a diverse community to the best of their ability, demonstrating their awareness of access, confidentiality, privacy, democracy, diversity, education with lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, preservation, the public good, professionalism, service, social responsibility, and sustainability.
The tasks of information specialists include providing services and setting up an environment so that people can access the resources they need. Information specialists and librarians create welcoming, secure environments to accomplish this. This knowledge is prioritized in libraries to ensure that all users are receiving the services they require and want. Because of the ethical foundational values that librarians uphold and exhibit, other information professionals can more effectively comprehend the diverse needs of the community and provide for those needs using ethical practices.
Libraries and their services should continuously assess the needs of the neighborhood in order to offer the best service possible. Libraries and information science concepts may highlight the differences between low- and high-income communities, even though financial hardships may make some services unavailable. These distinctions may also highlight the various needs of communities, which may also draw attention to the community members who are receiving services. Although libraries may offer references to educational services, other LIS subfields that may address diversity include the median educational level of a community.
Libraries in lower-income areas might not have the funding for current reference materials to offer users and might not have the capacity to reach out to local communities to share resources that may already be available. The digital divide can be correlated with a lack of accessible educational resources, such as maker spaces or computer centers, which are becoming more popular and essential services in communities. Nevertheless, this article will outline the characteristics of diverse communities, the ethical standards set by libraries and librarians, and the services offered to communities of all different sections that directly address those needs.
What is Diversity?
Libraries must ensure ethical practices and full competency in diversity and inclusion when establishing services that cater to a diverse community.
What Makes Up Diversity?
Diversity and inclusion can be broken down into various categories, but listed below are a few that are typically highlighted.
Race and Ethnicity
Is the library’s collection diverse in terms of stories written by and depicting Black people? Latinx? Indigenous and Native American folks? Asian and Pacific Islanders Are there materials that celebrate diversity? Are the library’s services available in various languages? Is there staff that may speak different languages? Are different cultures acknowledged and present?
Ability and Body Types
Does the library collection have an array of bodies, including those with disabilities and body shapes? Are there any characters who use wheelchairs, have hearing aids, or have guide dogs? Does the library building have ramps, elevators, accessible restrooms, water foundations, and lounging furniture?
Society is filled with various learning and developmental differences. Does the library’s collection provide materials for different neurodiverse and mental health topics? such as autism spectrum disorder, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder? ADHD? OCD? Learning disorders like dyslexia? Does the library have quiet zones, rooms, or spaces? Does the library have a staff member or members who specialize in mental health and disordered individuals?
Gender, Sexuality, and Family Type
Does the library collection have an array of materials that focus on gender, sexuality, and different family types? Are the spaces and departments in the library environments where individuals with different expressions and family types are safe and welcomed?
Ethics is a philosophical examination of concepts that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending right and wrong practices. When libraries and librarians become knowledgeable about the type of diverse community they are serving, they are better equipped to provide ethical services and practices. When information professionals are introduced to what professional ethics is and its correlation to their professions, they develop and uphold the responsibility to provide users with information and ethical services and support the ethical handling of information and conflicts for all diverse groups. Ethical practices are constructed for information professionals to uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and ethical principles to successfully serve their communities.
Ensuring Library Services Are Diverse and Equitable
Equitable Access to Technology
Though there are numerous ways libraries can provide services for a diverse set of communities, The most common services that library users need are those involving technology and equitable access to that technology. Alongside ethical practices, ensuring equitable access to materials and services is the main priority and foundation of libraries. Equitable access to information can be achieved through digital services, and these services are shaped based on the diverse and inclusive backgrounds of their users, such as their sex, gender identity, race, religion, and economic background. The goal of librarians and information professionals and the library as an information establishment is to be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users.
Libraries understand the needs of the communities they serve, as each community’s needs vary, as illustrated by the digital divide. The digital divide occurs when different communities have unequal access to digital technology, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the internet. The digital divide creates division and inequality around access to information and resources that may be needed in low-income and diverse communities. This problem can also present challenges for many community members in rural communities or economically disadvantaged families. Providing equitable access to technology devices to check out, utilize, and educate about through library services and information ensures the community is receiving the resources it needs to thrive together.
Libraries acquire techniques to create or adapt library programs, services, facilities, and collections so that people of various cultures and diverse needs find those programs and services valuable to them, in turn creating a more useful and welcoming place for library users. Libraries that are doing community outreach tend to have sponsored and/or partnered events and services with local schools, churches, food pantries, community clubs, local coffee shops and restaurants, community festivals, parades, large-scale community events, health fairs, and community park districts. All of these partnerships and sponsors provide users with services that directly influence community engagement as well as cater to many different community group needs.
Libraries also provide service-based outreach, including technology instruction, reader’s advisory, reference assistance, workshops, creating library cards, check-in and check-out of materials, school and teacher services, and home delivery service—all of which can be provided at locations other than the library. For instance, libraries offer home delivery services to customers who are housebound due to a disability, accident, or illness. This was a popular service during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Librarians can also visit a site regularly as a pop-up service, bringing free books to give away as well as activities such as storytimes, multicultural artifact discussions, and small crafts.
Another way libraries provide services for diverse, inclusive communities is through outreach community events organized by people of color and people of different intersectionalities. Along with partnerships, libraries also provide services where presenters will come in that correlate with the specific intersectionality and provide users with a direct connection to the topics, themes, and resources they desire.
Overall, libraries provide services to a diverse range of users in their communities that are not only inclusive to all but can also connect others to potentially new or additional information that they may not have accessed through other community-focused organizations. Libraries provide services that expand opportunities for underrepresented communities to participate in the learning environments of their communities. Libraries are meant to be safe and connecting centers; thus, they are the perfect spaces to promote equity and create a culturally responsive learning environment and services, which many libraries already do. Many states have implemented legislation to ensure that libraries align with DEI principles, including California, Colorado, and North Carolina.
- ALA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: The ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services (ODLOS) is a page that highlights the values established within the American Library Association that are replicated in numerous diverse and inclusive information organizations from libraries and librarians that serve all-inclusive communities.
- Confronting White Privilege is an article containing detailed explanations of ways to engage young learners and raise awareness without provoking guilt or anger.
- Race Talk: Engaging Young People in Conversations about Race and Racism is an article from the Anti-Defamation League that explains nine concrete ways to engage students in anti-bias education while maintaining an empathetic and critical consciousness about the context of the classroom.