Guys, I am angry. Angry like Bruce Banner is always angry, although I suspect it may be for different reasons…
You may already be aware, but our library and information workforce is 96.7% white.* Who am I kidding, you’ll already be aware from looking around at your colleagues, conference delegates and speakers, interview panels and regional and national bodies. I have found this to be isolating, lonely and frustrating. And deeply, volcanically enraging.
Why is nobody doing anything concrete – and if they are, why isn’t it working? I have read many policies, posts and action plans, and chatted to colleagues across the country but nobody is actually doing anything to change the status quo. Indeed, I often hear that the problem is too big to solve, that the issue is the same across HE anyway, that it’s the responsibility of HR, of CILIP**, of library schools and regular schools and y’know, society.
I’ll save the lecture on institutional and structural racism for another day – a systemic and deeply rooted problem that a few badass librarians cannot hope to solve. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay quiet and accept our lot as always being on the back foot.
Yes, I am angry that the labour always falls to the POC/BME people to speak up and to even acknowledge that we have a big problem. I am angry that I am patronised almost daily with no recourse to fight back. It saddens me that we have to take matters into our own hands but here we are…
This is where Diversity in Libraries of the North (DILON) comes in, yay!
This has been brewing for a while but after some support from my lovely colleagues, I decided to form a network to bring us together. DILON will offer support and friendship to each other (yes, let’s be friends and send each other memes), to provide a platform and a voice to our experiences and our work, and to hold institutions, workplaces, national bodies and conferences to account.
I hope that sounds reasonable and exciting to some of you?
Our membership page outlines our criteria for members and supporters but I hope you can appreciate that because DILON is currently being run by me, sitting on my bed eating fizzy sweets*** in Leeds, we are starting small and concentrating our efforts in the north of England.
No matter how you identify (white or non-white) or where you are based, please read and circulate our blog and call for members, follow and engage with us on Twitter, continue to educate yourself about race issues (this is a good place to start), and hold your workplaces, your national bodies, your groups, your conferences and your colleagues accountable.
We hope to do this in an informal and friendly environment, with no pressure to discuss theory or impenetrable research- there is no need to be an expert on race or libraries, just an open mind and respectful attitude. At the moment it’s just me and a couple of friends so come hang out with us 🙂
Join us 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽
*Based on CILIP’s Mapping the Workforce project. However, this data is limited; it is from 2014-15, the single mention of diversity is in the executive summary, there is no breakdown by sector or region, and the full results are yet to be released. There is also a disclaimer saying the contents of the fact sheets are strictly confidential and cannot be disclosed (they are openly available to me, a non-member, online) but the number 96.7% is in the non-strictly-confidential-executive-summary, just so we’re clear xoxo
**Ahh CILIP, I am honestly going to try and not complain about you all the time cos I like a bit of variety to my whinging.
***Aldi rainbow belts are my current delicacy ✌🏽
By Jen Bayjoo @epicbayj