Thursday, April 4, 2013

In the Context of Diversity: Thoughts about a Recent Library Fellowship Application

Picture of Johnnie R. Blunt
1. Johnnie R. Blunt (Blog Author)

 Diversity Counts!

I recently applied to a very promising library diversity fellowship at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran institution in northwest Indiana.  The Lutheran tradition of intellectual and spiritual education and the university's very strong commitment to diversity as social justice attracted me. As I noted in my application, I don't think diversity in academic librarianship is solely about placing historically underrepresented candidates into the profession. It is about recognizing and remedying the discriminatory practices that are often reflected in academic librarianship. My conclusions seem to align with the University's mission, goals, and objectives.

Picture of Gerald Holmes
2. Gerald Holmes
The fellowship application consists of four documents: a letter of application, a 300-500 word essay outlining the candidates interest in and qualifications in the context of diversity, a resume, and a list of three professional references. The essay portion was the hardest part for me. I couldn't simply write "I'm an old Black Catholic dude" and call it a day.  I had to describe how my ethnic and religious status informs my professional practices and how these practices may enhance library services at Valparaiso University and beyond.
Picture of E. J. Josey
3. E. J. Josey

I described how the Catholic call to community service informs my professional practice.  I focused on information literacy instruction. Several weeks ago, I announced that I practiced an evangelical librarianship. I bring the good news to my patrons.  According to my Gospels, knowledge does not reside on an expensive proprietary database. Knowledge is not the result of a Google search. Knowledge is the active process of interpreting and questioning one's lived experiences, one's epistemology against the experiences and epistemological assumptions of others. In other words, knowledge is dialectical. It is constructed within the epistemological conflicts, agreements, and complications among people. This is my service to others: I teach patrons how to liberate themselves from mental shackles of positivist assumptions.

This liberation is especially important to me. It took me many years to no longer internalize demeaning racial and gender stereotypes.  Only after I started questioning "facts" and "authority" did I realize that these stereotypes were not apolitical or natural. I learned how to become an agent, instead of a "marked" object. I serve others by showing them how to transform themselves from object to agent. I think information literacy instruction is the medium of such transformation.

I hope that the search committee will be impressed by my statement.  I hope that I will be part of the final candidate pool. Yes--I hope that I am hired for the position. Regardless of the outcome, I know that drafting and revising a diversity statement prompted me to carefully examine my own needs and desires in terms of professional development.

It helped me find me. And that alone was worth writing and revising a 300-500 word essay.

NOTES

All images on my blog, including those in this entry, are used according to section 107 of the United States Copyright. For more information, please consult this webpage: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

1. Image from library of blog author

2. Image from ACRL Residency Interest Group. Retrieved 4 April 2013 from http://acrl.ala.org/residency/?attachment_id=3711

3. E. J. Josey Image from University of Pittsburgh Department of Library and Information Science. Retrieved 4 April 2013 from http://www.sis.pitt.edu/~ejjosey/.
      

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