Notes from a meeting of charter school founders and presidents (and others)

1. When telling your peers why they should vote for you (for whatever position/title you think you’re good enough for) include in your speech the kind of expensive luxuries you consider imperative. This should include boats and planes. If you don’t own either, please do not consider running. (No seriously, how is that important to your work as a charter school administrator or president?)

2. It is perfectly acceptable to wear an off-white and blue checkered shirt underneath a seersucker suit. NOT!!

So I am currently taking a class titled Diverse Populations in Libraries (or something like that). We discuss diverse populations (disabilities, race, gender, age, etc.), how they are discriminated against and how libraries can overcome their history of contributing to the lack of diversity. One of the big topics in libraries is that among librarians, only 2% are Hispanic, 6% are black, 1% is American Indian/Alaskan Native, 1% is Asian/Pacific Islander…which leaves *drumroll, please** 90% white. That, my friends, is one severely un-diverse profession. (Cited statistics can be found at this ALA page.) And the notion is that minorities do not become librarians because they do not see themselves in librarians. Enter any library and you will see a predominantly white staff. Why would someone of a minority race want to work amongst people they do not associate with?

This is a big problem for library science schools, as well. For example the University of Maryland is the 2nd most diverse university in the United States, but its Library Science program is the 2nd least diverse major. So it’s like a catch-22; we don’t have many minority students in MLS programs because we don’t have many minority librarians in libraries, and vice versa. How do we fix this?!!
I digress…

But this is also what I am seeing at the charter school at which I currently work. The Board of Trustees met last week and at a table of 12 there were only 2 African Americans. The student population here is 99% black, yet the Board is only 20% black? What’s wrong with this picture, you ask? Where are the black community leaders and benefactors and board members?! I, by no means, believe that only blacks should help blacks. We are a society as a whole and should work together to encourage and support everyone else. But in a city where the line between black and white residents is drawn so thick, how is it that the white community members have crossed that line to do all they can to encourage the success of 390 black children? Or have their been, but they didn’t “win” the Board of trustee election? (If there is one, because the website, staff handbook, etc. do not have guidelines for how to become a Trustee.

The following is a map of diversity (or, lack thereof) of DC neighborhoods. Red means white residents, blue means black residents. You can see how undiverse the city really is:

Source: Infographic of the day: how segregated is your city?

This is not over. I have a lot more thinking on this to do, but I wanted to raise a few questions that are relevant to me both professionally and academically. I look forward to comments and any dialogue that may come from this.

One thought

  1. I also noticed the extreme lack of diversity in race and gender in the UMD library program. I'm really glad they have a class in Diversity on the rosters. When I volunteered for the Hyattsville Public Library I did notice that the staff was predominantly African American, and my supervisor was Hispanic, so I think there's hope. At least hope for small town public libraries

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