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Martin Garnar's picture

Update and Definitions

Dear colleagues,

ALA’s Task Force for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, co-chaired by Martin Garnar and Trevor A. Dawes, has begun its work to ensure committed and sustained attention to equity, inclusion, and diversity issues within ALA, in the profession, and in our communities.  The Task Force was formed earlier in 2014 when members of the Black Caucus (BCALA) raised serious concerns about the scheduling of ALA’s 2016 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, a state where the implementation of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been critically flawed.

After some discussion with several concerned members, the ALA and the affiliated Ethnic Caucuses issued a joint statement, available at http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blog/joint-statement-presidents-ethnic-caucuses-ala-aila-apala-bcala-cala-reforma-and-american.   In the joint statement, we shared our concern about the reasons there was a call to change the conference location; affirmed our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion; and recognized that moving the conference at that point was not possible.

Task Force members have heard that there is still some concern being expressed about the fact that the American Library Association will hold its 2016 annual conference in Orlando, FL.  We believe that moving forward with the conference in Orlando presents us with opportunities to engage with the communities in Florida in ways clearly not possible if we are not there.   The Task Force will be developing plans for the association not only to address actions at the 2016 conference, but also to plan more generally for how we can be a more inclusive association and profession.

The Task Force members will be reaching out to ALA members and non-members in the coming months to gather information and feedback and we all hope you will share your thoughts.  The first piece where we would appreciate your feedback is to the definitions of equity, diversity, and inclusion that will frame our work.  The definitions are below.  You are, of course, welcome to contact the task force members (http://www.ala.org/groups/node/4471) at any time if you have questions or concerns.

Preface to the definitions:

In framing the definitions of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for our work as a task force, wanting to change the world by and beyond the Annual 2016 Conference, and realizing we *may* fall short of that  goal, we offer the following definitions  for consideration. We have decided to maintain a fairly global perspective in these definitions, i.e. not to attempt an exhaustive list of descriptors or qualities of disenfranchised groups comprising ALA membership and by extension our various stakeholders and patron populations. We are striving for social justice for *All* - and with these definitions desire to achieve a larger rather than smaller common and inclusive denominator.


Equity is not the same as formal equality. Formal equality implies sameness. Equity, on the other hand, assumes difference and takes difference into account to ensure a fair process and, ultimately, a fair (or equitable) outcome. Equity recognizes that some groups were (and are) disadvantaged in accessing educational and employment opportunities and are, therefore, underrepresented or marginalized in many organizations and institutions. The effects of that exclusion often linger systemically within organizational policies, practices and procedures. Equity, therefore, means increasing diversity by ameliorating conditions of disadvantaged groups. . 

(Adapted from University of British Columbia: http://diversity.ubc.ca/valuing-difference/equity-and-diversity-%E2%80%93-definitions-and-philosophy/)

The Task Force believes that everyone deserves equitable rights and opportunities.  Our goal is to create a just and equitable Association, profession, and society where everyone has access to social power, resources, and physical and psychological safety.

(Adapted from ALA Office for Diversity “Strategic Planning for Diversity”: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/workplace/diversityplanning , and National Association of Social Workers: http://www.socialworkers.org/practice/standards/cultural_competence.asp)


Diversity can be defined as the sum of the ways that people are both alike and different.  Visible diversity is generally those things we cannot change and are external.  However, diversity goes beyond this to what we call ‘invisible’ diversity.  Invisible diversity includes those attributes that are not readily seen. So, when we recognize, value, and embrace diversity, we are recognizing, valuing, and embracing the uniqueness of each individual. 

The Task Force has chosen to define “diversity” in all its complexity in order to recognize and honor the uniqueness of each ALA member, all members of our profession, and our very diverse communities.  The Task Force also agrees with the National Education Association that, “While diversity itself is not a value-laden term, the way that people react to diversity is driven by values, attitudes, beliefs, and so on.  Full acceptance of diversity is a major principle of social justice.” 

(Adapted from National Education Association): http://www.nea.org/tools/diversity-toolkit-introduction.html


Inclusion means an environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully; are valued for their distinctive skills, experiences, and perspectives; have equal access to resources and opportunities; and can contribute fully to the organization’s success. 

(Adapted from Society for Human Resources Management http://www.shrm.org/diversity  and Hewlett Packard: http://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-information/about-hp/diversity/meaning.html)

The Task Force believes that, to be inclusive, our association, profession, and society must recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every member of the community; involve and empower all members to participate and contribute; promote and sustain a sense of belonging; and value and practice respect for the talents, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of living of all members.

(Adapted from Ferris State University: http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/administration/president/DiversityOffice/Definitions.htm)


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