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Organizational Fit, Banned or Expand?

June 7, 2019

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are hot topics right now in our profession, but perhaps it’s not just about hiring practices. To be sure, that is a good starting point, and for more than a half-century the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has monitored this. “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex and also made it illegal to retaliate against those who sought relief or assisted others in their exercise of rights secured by the law” (

Since the Civil Rights Act there have been other laws enacted such as Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). But even if we say we are an equal opportunity employer in hiring advertising, a commitment to DEI obligates us to look at even our everyday activities with a critical eye.

Librarians should examine even grunt tasks to ensure DEI. An obvious example is selection and deselection of materials. Another is signage and marketing materials. But even just basic human interactions, like the reference interview and giving directions to the restroom. Of course, “customer service” has long been on the radar of librarians, but DEI goes beyond simply being courteous. It’s about awareness. One dimension which was thought-provokingly addressed at ACRL 2019 is “organizational fit.” A great conversation starter is “Challenging the ‘Good Fit’ Narrative: Creating Inclusive Recruitment Practices in Academic Libraries” by Sojourna Cunningham, Samantha Guss, and Jennifer Stout.

We shouldn’t however just talk about axing the concept of fitness, because it’s too easy to simply say we’re against discrimination and wash our hands of it. Plus, today libraries are looking for ways to promote their value and distinctiveness and so we cannot abandon what makes them unique. Therefore, maybe we can simply grow our understanding of organizational fit with an attentiveness to DEI. One way to do this would be to establish DEI alongside other core values, so that questions of fitness are not just discussed as something to be drummed out of hiring.

An illustrative macro-level question is to ask how can we have an affirmative and a colorblind society? To celebrate pluralism and multiculturalism the metaphor was shifted from that of a melting pot to a salad. Whatever your stance, join or start a conversation in your library on whether organizational fit should expand, or be banned.

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