|Photo by Fahrul Azmi on Unsplash|
As a Canadian-born Chinese (CBC), I have personally experienced and seen some of the barriers that visible minority librarians face entering the library profession. Like most ethnic minority librarians, I have faced challenges of misperceptions and biases that are attached to librarians of colour, and like most, I strive to as professional as possible in dealing with and learning from cultural barriers in the workplace. Oftentimes, I have heard from mentors and colleagues that librarians such as myself need to be more outgoing and sociable or to “break out of the shell” and engage them more. Research studies have supported these conceptions of certain Asian groups as a “model minority” with labels “conservative,” and “lacking in interpersonal skills."
In fact, one case study found that supervisors can evaluate the performances differently for different ethnic groups because of preconceived biases. This is especially problematic as librarianship is a social profession. Without opportunities for social expression, the career of an individual is at a severe disadvantage. But that's just the way things are, and librarians such as myself do our best to listen and empathize with visible minorities breaking into the profession. It's emotional labour, and physical toll on one's psyche when hearing stories of not racial or gender discrimination. It demands time and creates emotional fatigue. I often come out of it tearing up on the inside, but remaining calm on the outside. It's important work, unpaid and unrecognized, but work I am proud to do on my own time if it helps another individual and advances my profession in the future.
Thanks to some great mentors and relationships with colleagues, I have for the most part experienced positive and rewarding experiences as a librarian, but it has not been without its rocky moments. Perfecting the craft of reference work, collection development techniques, and best practices for information literacy instruction classes is challenging as it is with vast amounts of time and dedication required, but in addition to that, visible minority librarians must also learn the nuances of fitting into a particular organizational culture firmly while still feeling comfortable in one’s own skin. I've written about this in the past and will be sharing my thoughts and research at the Saskatchewan Libraries Association in May 2019. One of the proudest initiatives that I'll be talking about is one that I've been a part for many years, the Visible Minority Librarians Network of Canada (ViMLoC), which offers advice and guidance to visible minority librarians in the areas of education, training, and mentorship. The panel will also be examining the Census of Canadian Academic Librarians of 2016 and 2018, the panel will share its view of the censuses of the two years and discuss how much we have progressed with diversity as a profession in light of the recent controversy at the ALA Midwinter in Seattle. I look forward to reporting back. Stay tuned.