Diversity and inclusion are often mistakenly used interchangeably in various contexts and settings including academia, libraries, and workplaces. This section will take a look at these two terms and attempt to understand their differences, similarities, and use in relation to libraries and materials for children.
In 2014, the former President of the American Libraries Association (ALA) Barbara Stripling, formed the “Special Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion”. The development of this task force delineates how important alleviating discrimination and injustice should be valued in not only libraries, but also its surrounding communities. The “Special Presidential Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” (also known as Task Force (TF)) defines diversity and inclusion as follows:
Diversity: Sum of the ways that people are both alike and different. Diversity goes beyond this through “invisible” diversity, which is when diversity is recognized, valued, and embraced. Diversity is recognizing, valuing, and embracing the uniqueness of each individual.
Inclusion: 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.
Compare this with this with Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of both terms:
Diversity: The condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety. An instance of being composed of different elements or qualities.
Inclusion: The act of including: the state of being included.
The ALA TF definitions of diversity and inclusion focus on the importance of using diversity and inclusion as tools to create, understand, and support change needed to promote equality to everyone. This notion is also present in Roberson’s Disentangling the Meaning of Diversity and Inclusion in Organizations (2006). Roberson researches the danger of using diversity and inclusion interchangeably–specifically in organizational and workplace settings. Roberson highlights conceptual distinctions between diversity and inclusion, as well as the different means through which organizations can facilitate and support an environment that will allow workers to thrive. It can be thought that clearly depicting, highlighting, and differentiating the value of diversity and inclusion will allow employees to showcase their full skillsets and talents in a safe and inclusive environment.
Diversity is not merely recognizing and valuing literature that embraces uniqueness of each individual, but the acceptance and awareness of social justice for all, (ALA, 2015). Inclusion is not just treating everyone equally, but also the practice of recognizing and empowering each member of the community.
Libraries and especially librarians in charge of collection management for children’s materials, need to understand that diversity and inclusion must go hand-in-hand in order to create a safe and understanding environment for everyone.
Libraries should strive to represent material and offer resources that feature issues concerning equity and empowerment for a collection to be truly considered diverse and inclusive.