Friday, March 15, 2013

Promoting Librarianship to Young Black Men

NOTE: I apologize for a month long gap between posts. I've been so busy with other projects and work-related issues. I will try to not have such gaps in the future.

I am Secretary for African American Male Librarians Association (AAMLA), a relatively new organization that promotes librarianship and the information profession to Black men. I recently surveyed AAMLA members to assess how the organization can better serve them. About 33 percent of 44 members participated in the survey. I was not surprised by the results. I expected that recruiting young Black men into the would rank high among membership needs. Data supported this hypothesis.

Now I wonder how I and other current African American male librarians can actually promote librarianship to our demographics. It's no secret that librarianship is a "service" profession that pays relatively low compared to other professions that require a graduate degree. It is not secret that the profession is largely white and female. How can I convince a talented young Black man, an engineering major, for instance, to pursue a graduate degree in librarianship and possibly make less money and have less prestige than he would with just a bachelors degree in engineering?

I can't. My personal ethics will not let me. 

I suspect that many of my colleagues, especially those in administrative or management positions either cannot or do not make arguments for librarianship as a viable career option for young Black men. I want to believe that these Black library leaders would make librarianship a viable option. But I doubt that many young Black men have heard of them, just like many of them haven't heard of E. J. Josey or Robert Wedgeworth.

I also wonder how do why promote librarianship to young Black men, when college athletics and its apparent road to the promised land of fame and fortune may be perceived as the main option to personal and professional advancement within the context of a college education.  I understand that the recent re-election of Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, may encourage more young Black men to graduate from college and enter a profession. But President Obama was a lawyer, not a librarian. He graduated from Harvard Law School, worked in a prestigious Chicago law firm, before becoming a law professor at an equally prestigious Chicago law school. He then entered politics. And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history. Obama's history does not seem an incentive for college educated young Black men to enter librarianship, although he may visibly support the profession. do we promote librarianship among young Black men? I don't have a definitive answer. My colleagues and I can share our stories and hope that they inspire potential African American male librarians. I think we need to step up our game to demonstrate how our being in the profession enhances the profession. I believe we need to get out of our professional and personal comfort zones to show how being Black and male informs how we practice librarianship.

Edward Christopher Williams did it.   E. J. Josey did it. Who among the approximately 560 credentialed African American librarians will be the next?

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