Yanli Li, Business and Economics Librarian at Wilfrid Laurier University
I was a teaching faculty member in China before immigration to Canada in 2012. I was told by many immigrants that it would be very hard to find a librarian job as that is a predominantly white profession. I obtained my MLIS degree from University of British Columbia and took every opportunity to move towards my goal. So far I’ve felt very blessed to be a librarian. Some things were familiar to me, such as the academic settings, instruction and research practices, interaction with students, etc., but it did take me a couple of years to adapt to the new environment and I’m sure it will be a lifelong learning process. I’ve gone through cultural shocks and various challenges throughout the journey but it has turned out to be very rewarding. This experience has enabled me to try my best to help patrons who have different cultural backgrounds. Nowadays libraries are increasingly embracing diversity. Visible minorities may have more chances to land a job in the librarian profession. However, there are still obstacles ahead. I think ViMLoC is a great platform to share our experience and to encourage more fellows to join us.
“Greetings to all ViMLoC members – my adventure as a library professional has just begun. I was inspired by my high school librarian to pursue this career. She had always encouraged me to do what I was good at, and her support has made a positive, lasting impact on my life. For example, she purchased one of my drawings and hung it up in the school library as part of the fundraising initiative for building schools in Kenya. Knowing that the library has always been a place of recharge and learning, I knew that a career in librarianship is naturally right for me. After completing my BSc and MLIS degrees at Western University, I continued working as a part-time library assistant with the Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Medicine at Western University, which is affiliated with the London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London. The department is culturally diverse with residents, fellows, and visiting scholars from all around the world. My recent additional role as a part-time librarian at a local law firm is broadening my view of special librarianship. I realize that, over time, I am becoming more of a “hybrid” librarian as my skills and responsibilities evolve. In my spare time, I volunteer with the London Public Library’s ESL conversation program and reading program for children and I interact with newcomers through these volunteer opportunities. Coming from a Korean-Canadian background, I understand the challenges of the immigrant life in Canada and I am driven to help those who are going through what I had already gone through. I look forward to the challenges to come and changing professional interests through balancing between medical and law librarianship and as a visible minority librarian.”
Kelly E. Lau, Intern Digital Curation Librarian: As an archivist, I know how important it is to have a documentary heritage that reflects and represents the diverse facets of society. As a librarian, I know how important it is to support and provide access to diverse, multicultural and multilingual collections and services.
In comparison to US initiatives to increase ethnic and racial minority representation in the profession, there has been little dialogue in Canada about recruiting and retaining librarians and archivists from diverse backgrounds. ViMLoC is a great way to jump start the conversation around what it means to be a person of colour working in the information professions.
Eva McDonald, Librarian Centennial College Libraries: Centennial College is located in an area of Toronto with many recent immigrants, and serves a diverse student population. The top five languages in the area (Woburn) are Gujarati, Tamil, Chinese, Urdu and Tagalog (source) . The local and catchment areas used to be populated by mostly Canadians of British descent, but in the last two decades, there has been a significant transition to a pan-Asian community.
This transition is not reflected in the long-serving faculty or staff, and many students have noted the discrepancy. I feel it is vital for these students to have role models with whom they can identify, to connect with faculty and staff who understand their struggles such as cultural differences and experiences with racism, and who, no less importantly, look like them.
Being Asian, I can say first-hand that there is a huge difference between dealing with a white person who is sympathetic and tolerant or even accepting, and a visible minority person who actually understands what it means to be non-white in a predominantly white society. I think ViMLoC is a positive step in promoting visible minorities in libraries and in turn, better serving our students.