Carla Hayden’s mother

Hayden spoke of the historical significance of her confirmation and the importance of having a regular outlet for her frustrations as a woman of color in a profession that is overwhelmingly white. “My poor mother knows more about everything than she ever needed to know,” she said.

ACRL Closes with Carla Hayden, American Libraries Magazine

I have written before about the Unbearable Whiteness of librarianship, but that post was mostly about the demographics. Here I want to call our attention to the fact that the most senior and the most recognized librarian in the country publicly acknowledged that the whiteness of librarianship exacts a toll on librarians of color at every level of our profession.

Think about it folks — The Librarian of Congress regularly vents to her mother about the struggles of being a person of color in our very, very white profession. I would hope that my peers (fellow library directors and white library staff in general) and I were already listening to the concerns and experiences of our non-white colleagues; but I also hope that Dr. Hayden’s comments at ACRL are a catalyst for renewed attention not just to the demographic imperative of diversifying our profession, but also to the harder and more entrenched cultural challenges of creating inclusive organizations. The whiteness of librarianship is more than just a demographic reality, it is a cultural one. Like most wicked problems, admitting you have a problem is the first step.

Thank you, Dr. Hayden, for your vulnerability in admitting that the struggles and frustrations of being a woman of color in this profession are real and pervasive. I hope your honesty spurs my peers and I to double down on a commitment to supporting people of color in our organizations, and to creating and sustaining truly diverse and inclusive cultures.


3 Responses to “Carla Hayden’s mother”

  1. 1 Laura Brown April 11, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    You both are right. Our profession is an extremely white, female profession. But the problem isn’t just at the hiring level. The library schools have to recruit a more diverse set of candidates and we a professionals have to mentor the bright high school students and college undergrads showing them what an exciting profession we have.


    • 2 Chris Bourg April 12, 2017 at 5:15 am

      Yes, recruiting and mentoring are important elements in any strategy to increase the representation of people of color at every level in libraries. And one of the other points I was trying to make is that representation, and mentoring, and retaining and promoting people of color is not enough if we don’t also address the organizational culture that is steeped in whiteness.


  1. 1 NC is a no-go: bathrooms, libraries, and the limits of welcoming | Feral Librarian Trackback on July 28, 2017 at 8:45 am

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