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Diversity and Inclusion: Top Priorities for MLA

Diversity and inclusion are essential values for MLA, but are these values reflected in what we do and how we do it? As librarians, we have a high level of awareness of these values and we are held to high standards in upholding them in our institutions. As members of MLA and its Sections and Special Interest Groups, we are passionate about critical social issues and positions that affect us in our jobs and in our lives.

Can MLA do better as an organization? No doubt.

The Board of Directors invited Kathryn Deiss, an experienced consultant in this area, to its November 2016 meeting in Chicago. Kathryn Deiss facilitated a discussion on diversity and inclusion with the objective of defining MLA’s approach going forward.

As a first step, we identified three domains:

  • issues related to healthcare delivery, such as health disparities and social determinants of health;
  • diversity and inclusion within the profession (where MLA members work); and
  • diversity and inclusion at MLA.

Focusing on MLA, several key questions came up as immediate challenges:

  • What does diversity mean for MLA (gender and identity, ethnicity, hospital vs. academic, economics, geography, etc.)? Can we define it? Can we measure it? Should we?
  • Does our organization reflect the diversity of our membership? What are the best ways to achieve this?
  • Do we have a well established value statement that includes diversity and inclusiveness, to be used as a reference for issuing MLA position statements? What parameters should we use to determine when to issue position statements? And what process should be followed?
  • How do we balance MLA taking a position on an issue advocated by some, with the concern of others in the organization who may disagree, i.e. can we be “inclusive” without “excluding”?
  • Can we engage our members in a constructive discourse on sensitive issues through dialog and view points in MLA publications (e.g. MLA News and JMLA), while not triggering concern from other members?
  • Do we limit our actions to the definition of MLA’s vision, mission, values and code of ethics? How should those statements be updated to include wording on diversity and inclusion?

The Board decided on three main action items:

  • draft and consider an MLA strategic goal on diversity and inclusion for roll-out after the MLA’17 “Dream Dare Do” meeting in Seattle;
  • organize an open forum on diversity and inclusion during MLA’17;
  • engage our members already active in diversity and inclusion at MLA, and others who are interested in supporting MLA’s efforts.

Be sure to join us for the open forum at MLA’17 in Seattle, give us your feedback by commenting on this post, or contact a board member to share your thoughts.

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