Being an early career library professional who also happens to be a person of colour in a field that seriously lacks diversity has its challenges, to say the least. It can be frustrating to be one of only a few visible minorities in your workplace (if that) and not feel empowered enough to address this issue out loud to my coworkers and supervisors, especially as someone who is precariously employed. Although it has been encouraging to hear topics such as diversity, inclusion and decolonization being discussed at library conferences, sometimes it feels like tangible progress within organizations is moving at a snail’s pace.
While I was in between jobs not long ago and feeling defeated, I decided to apply for the position of Features Section Editor at Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to address issues within our profession (such as the lack of diversity, precarious employment and feelings of failure, to name a few) in a way that would have broad reach. I also wanted to solicit submissions from authors who are marginalized and underrepresented within our profession, such as people of colour, the disabled, LGBTQ+ and those who don’t have the coveted MLIS degree or the word “librarian” in their official job title. To my amazement, I got the position and my first article was a roundtable featuring only people of colour working in the field, wherein I asked them to respond to the following prompt: “What is holding librarianship back from being more inclusive of visible minorities?”. This newfound ability to help shape the conversation surrounding the issue of inclusion and give underrepresented individuals the spotlight to speak their minds on an open-access platform has been truly rewarding.
However, I feel like I’m only getting started and want to collaborate with others in the profession to address issues such as diversifying hiring committees. Or confronting the fact that there tends to be more diversity among library assistants and technicians in Canada, but not so much among librarians (who make hiring decisions and earn more money). I would like to explore tangible ways to decolonize library spaces. I want to know how we can start doing these things now instead of just talking about doing them. In addition to making information more accessible, remoulding the image of the “librarian” into something historically marginalized people can identify with is something that I would like to dedicate my career to and I’m hopeful for what the future brings.
Tamara Noor is a Librarian and Editor for a Canadian open-access library journal. Here, she briefly discusses working in the library and information science field as a person of colour. She hopes to collaborate with other library and information professionals throughout her career to help make the profession more diverse and inclusive on all levels.