About MLA:
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the threads that strengthen the fabric of the Medical Library Association, and these concepts are embedded in our planning and strategic goals,

Making MLA a More Diverse and Inclusive Association

How does MLA interpret diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Diversity: ways that people are both alike and different; understanding, accepting, and  valuing differences that include race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political beliefs, language, culture, nationality, age, (dis)ability status, and religion.

Equity: takes differences into account to ensure fair, unbiased, and impartial processes and outcomes, and equal opportunity.

Inclusion: all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully; are intentionally valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives; have equal access to resources and opportunities; feel a sense of belonging; and can contribute fully to the association’s success.

Adapted from ALA ODLOS Glossary of Terms [1], University of Michigan: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Defining DEI [2], Racial Equity Tools: Glossary [3], Built in [4].

Current MLA and DEI Committee Initiatives

Living Library Program

Why Be a Book?

As individuals, we have diverse life experiences that can lead to understanding and greater connections through sharing of those stories. Just as a physical book can broaden horizons and encourages dialogue, telling our stories as “living books” can have a positive impact. Do you have a story to tell? Would you like an opportunity to dispel some of the stereotypes by talking about your lived experiences in a safe space? When Living Library events are planned, sign up to be a living book and get the conversation started!

What can a book expect from a Living Library experience?

  • Books can participate in virtual MLA Living Library events or onsite at MLA conferences or both.
  • Books are expected to talk about their unique experiences and how it adds to the breadth of their library. For example, a book might discuss their experiences with BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and religious identities; diverse abilities, body sizes, cultural and geographic backgrounds; living with medical or mental health conditions and how these can affect their daily life and work
  • Books will share their experience based on their comfort level regarding the subject matter of their book.
  • The conversation format will be Q&A style.
    • The living book begins the loan with a five-minute introduction to their topic with a quick overview of their insights and experiences. 
    • Readers then ask questions related to what they would like to know more about. This is meant to be an interactive experience and not a presentation or lecture. Readers will have a set of questions provided by the book to get the conversation started.
  • Books can identify with and discuss multiple experiences and can have more than one title available to readers. The reader can choose which title they wish to discuss with the book.

Connecting with MLA Communities

  • MLA’s DEI Committee meets annually with MLA caucuses to provide ongoing support on DEI-related matters.
  • MLA encourages all units to identify any DEI activities in their midyear and annual reports

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resources

The following recommended resources were assembled by the MLA Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (2017-2020) and the MLA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (2020-). If there are additional resources or a category that could be included, please contact us!

Inclusive Resources for Learning and Teaching

Accessibility and Disability

Critical Librarianship


Instruction/Inclusive Pedagogies


Leadership Strategies

Recommended Reading

Maintained by the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services, this glossary of terms includes terms related to equity, diversity and inclusion.

Library Association Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Statements

Project Implicit: Test your attitudes and beliefs with the Implicit Association Test (IAT)

Previous Actions to Advance DEI in MLA

  • In August 2023, MLA members passed a codification in the MLA Bylaws of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as MLA core values along with other changes to use modern language that promotes inclusivity. The passed Bylaws amendment also allows more flexibility and inclusiveness for MLA Chapters by only requiring MLA membership for select positions, rather than all officers and committee chairs. The revised MLA Bylaws became effective January 1, 2024. 
  • Inclusive Language Guidelines for Presenters to Avoid Stigmatizing Language – assembled by MLA member Charlotte Beyer, AHIP, this guide helps presenters utilize inclusive language within their presentations to avoid stigmatizing language. These guidelines can assist presenters in using language that support MLA’s core values which include creating and sustaining an open, inclusive, and collaborative environment within and outside the profession.
  • In 2019, based on recommendations from the MLA Diversity, Inclusion Task Force (2017-2020) the association strengthened and clarified specific language on some MLA statements, specifically the MLA’s  Vision, Core Values, and Mission statements This included adopting use of the terms Latinx, underrepresented, they/them/theirs, and Mx in MLA documents, websites, awards, scholarships and fellowship descriptions, and MLA communications.
  • Established the guiding principle “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are the threads that strengthen the fabric of the Medical Library Association.”
  • Established the MLA Statement of Appropriate Conduct with the goal of ensuring that core values and professional behaviors are entwined throughout all its programs and services.
  • All MLA units (caucuses, committees, juries, chapters, task forces) are asked how their recent initiatives may have addressed DEI in MLA Midyear and Annual Reports.
  • Strategies for Diversifying MLA Leadership- One DEI committee charge is to promote and encourage diverse leadership in MLA.  The committee is gathering literature, researching best practices, and looking to collaborate with caucuses around this topic. See the article on the committee’s work and resources related to this topic in the section above.
  • The committee strives to improve diversity, inclusion and accessibility at MLA Annual Meetings (virtual and in person). This includes diverse programing in all seven practice area, insuring accessibility such as live transcription during virtual meetings, interpreter services, use of pronouns on badges, all gender bathrooms, nursing rooms, quiet rooms, and relevant religious accommodations (if during the meeting) at in person meetings.
  • MLA’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force (2017-2020) conducted a member survey in Fall 2019 to gather demographic information and ascertain how members feel about the association’s DEI efforts. Read the survey report in the July 2020 JMLA.
  • DEI volunteer leaders regularly organizes events that engage members in a constructive discourse on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility-related topics. Such events have included Living Library, DEI Open Forums, Roundtable Discussions, and Fishbowl Workshop
  • Created the #MLADiversity Twitter hashtag
  • Further operationalized DEI in MLA by asking all MLA units on MLA midyear and annual reports how their activities have addressed DEI.

MLA’s DEI Committee is currently preparing for a MLA DEI Survey for Fall 2024–5 years after the first DEI Survey