Vol. V, Issue 3, June 28, 2007
Diversity Resources Project @ the Central Michigan University Libraries
Aparna Zambare, Reference Librarian/English Bibliographer, Central Michigan University. firstname.lastname@example.org
Joining in Central Michigan University (CMU)’s efforts to foster understanding, appreciation, and respect for diversity, reference librarians at CMU’s University Library have developed a Web site called the Diversity Resources Project1, a site that highlights the library’s holdings on diversity-related issues and topics. Although most academic libraries collect resources and prepare research guides on diversity-related topics, only few of them have pulled together those resources and developed Web sites, especially devoted to diversity. Examining Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)2 libraries’ Web sites to find out how diversity-related collections are represented, Young (2006) asserts in her article, “While the parent institutions of these academic libraries have demonstrated their commitment to diversity and provide access to that information with a link from their home pages, most libraries fail to demonstrate diversity’s importance on their Web sites” (p. 376). The author of the present article is happy to note that CMU’s University Library is among the few to demonstrate diversity’s importance on its Web site. In this article, the author will discuss the library’s Diversity Resources Project focusing on its development, growth, and significance.
Developed in the fall of 1998, the Project primarily aims at supporting and enhancing research and teaching related to diversity and multicultural issues and topics. The concept of diversity is quite comprehensive in this context since it includes diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and physical and learning disabilities. Along with drawing attention to the library’s diversity collection, this site also provides information on diversity services offered by the library as well as links to outside resources relevant to the issues of diversity and multiculturalism. The reference librarians at the time selected resources, compiled bibliographies, and developed this site. These librarians also chose sources that were newly added to the collection, wrote reviews on those sources, and published the reviews on the site each month. The librarians who initiated the Project and maintained it in the beginning are no longer at CMU, but the Project has continued to grow. The current teams of reference librarians and also subject bibliographers3 have continued to compile bibliographies and write reviews. For the last five years, the author has been maintaining this site and enjoying the work.
Overview of the Project
The Project has received a prominent place on the library’s site. Within two clicks from the library’s homepage,4 a visitor is able to reach the Project site. To get to the Project, one can click on the “Virtual Reference Collection” link from the CMU Libraries’ main page and then on the “Diversity” link. The homepage of the Project contains the purpose of the site and basic contact information. The homepage also has links to various areas of the Project, such as diversity bibliographies, diversity collections, and diversity related services along with the names and contact information of the librarians who provide those services; to other diversity forums on CMU campus, such as the offices of Multicultural Education, Institutional Diversity, and International Education; and lastly, to diversity-related resources outside CMU. In the following pages, the author will mainly speak about the two areas of the Project, “Bibliographies” and “Collections,” where the librarians put in a good deal of efforts.
“Bibliographies” is perhaps one of the most frequently visited areas of the Project. Reference librarians and subject bibliographers compile these bibliographies or research guides in their areas of expertise. They select sources from books, journals, and the Internet keeping in view the relevancy, authoritativeness, and significance of these sources, and their potential for providing educational support to the students and faculty of CMU. Although the target audience of the Project is the CMU community, the resources are out there on the Internet for anyone interested in diversity-related topics and issues.
The area of bibliographies has now grown considerably. It contains bibliographies on a wide range of diversity topics, such as “African-Americans in the Southwest,” “Diversity in Art,” “Diversity and Business,” “Diversity in Higher Education,” “[Government] Documents on Diversity,” “The Early Years of the Civil Rights Movement,” “Hispanic Heritage,” “Images of Human Rights,” “Lesbian and Gay Families,” “Learning Disabilities Resources,” “Martin Luther King Jr. and Non-violent Protest,” “Minority Health,” “Multicultural Young Adult and Children's Literature,” “Music and Diversity,” “Native Americans,” “Photojournalism and Women,” “Race Issues in the Criminal Justice System,” “Racial Diversity and Mass Media,” “Recreation for the Disabled,” “Women's History: A Guide to Unpublished Resources in the Clarke Historical Library,” and “Woodland Indian Art.” The librarians update these research guides from time to time. If a librarian leaves CMU, his or her replacement continues the work of revising the bibliographies. For example, when the previous health sciences librarian left CMU, the librarian who replaced her continued the work and updated the bibliography on “Minority Health.”
Sometimes, the librarians wonder if anyone ever looks at the Project and at the bibliographies that they prepare with such great care. But from time to time they receive emails from unknown users who find the bibliographies helpful. For example, a couple of years ago, she received an appreciative note on the “Woodland Indian Art” bibliography that she prepared. A librarian from Indiana emailed the author with complimentary words on her “Drama and Diversity” bibliography. Some users want to seek the author’s advice on particular areas of diversity and on the issues of their concern. Sometimes they also suggest more resources to add to the bibliographies. Responses such as these encourage the author and she gets back to the Project with renewed enthusiasm.
Although “Bibliographies” seem to be more popular with users, the area of the Project that requires more regular updating is “Collections.” This area holds reviews written and published on diversity resources that are in the library’s collection. In general, the resources are chosen for review from a variety of formats, such as books, reference works, government documents, music CDs, videos or DVDs, journals, and even databases or indexes. The purpose of publishing reviews is to introduce select diversity resources to the users and provide them with helpful commentary on those resources. In the past, reference librarians used to review only new arrivals. With new project leadership, the team of librarians started reviewing significant diversity resources regardless of their date of publication or arrival at the library. As Project administrator, the author also invited subject bibliographers, who were not in the Reference Department, to write reviews for the Project. It worked out well and allowed for a wider spectrum of reviewers and resources chosen for review.
Since various reference librarians and subject bibliographers choose resources from their areas of expertise, their reviews display a remarkable variety of topics, such as American immigrant cultures, multicultural medicine, East Indian classical music, Latin American music, Latin American women artists, ethnic groups in Hollywood, Bollywood movies, Victorian women’s narratives, Chinese women, population diversity in the U. S. army, geography of U. S. diversity, affirmative action and the constitution of the U. S., Islam and the Muslim World, postcolonial theory and fiction, Supreme Court decisions and women's rights, encyclopedias of food and culture, women and technology, African American women playwrights, genre fiction criticism, recreation for people with disabilities, and lesbian and gay histories and cultures, to name just a few. It indeed is an interesting mix of diversity topics and expertise.
The Author’s Role
The author has volunteered to coordinate and oversee the Project. She solicits reviews from her colleagues, updates the “Collections” page with a new diversity review, writes reviews, prepares bibliographies, publishes bibliographies and updates sent by colleagues, adds links to outside sources, updates the links from time to time, seeks input from colleagues, and incorporates their ideas into the work of the Project.
The author wishes to expand upon the Project by including resource guides on various religious festivals and scriptures, art forms from all over the world, and indigenous sports. She has started adding pictures to the resource guides to make them visually attractive. Taking advantage of the multimedia environment, she is also exploring the idea of incorporating audio files and adding yet another dimension to this multicultural resources site.
Significance of the Project
The Diversity Resources Project is a significant contribution to the CMU community as it provides better access to diversity-related resources. The Project is significant also for the librarians because it speaks for their respect and appreciation for diversity and enables them to contribute to the University’s efforts to promote diversity and multiculturalism on campus. Lastly, the Project articulates their firm faith in diversity and multiculturalism, especially now when the issue is surrounded by much controversy.
1 Visit the project located at http://www.lib.cmich.edu/departments/reference/diversity/ (return to text)
Young, C. L. (2006). Collection development and diversity on CIC academic library web sites. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32 (4), 370-376.