Diversity: So How Is AALL Doing?

44 Pages Posted: 13 May 2016

See all articles by James M. Donovan

James M. Donovan

University of Kentucky College of Law Library

Date Written: May 12, 2016


This paper describes the possible approaches to encouraging diversity within the workplace that are available to all professional organizations, including the American Association of Law Libraries [AALL]. Part I reviews the basic terms: discrimination, bias, and diversity. Reasons for pursuing diversity in the workplace are discussed in Part II. Two instrumental justifications and one intrinsic rationale reveal the range of motivations behind these projects. Each rationale supports its characteristic form of diversity: reflective, substantive, and cognitive. Because the kind of diversity determines the anticipated outcome, disagreement over progress may be the result of expecting different kinds of diversity. Clarity on goals and means will lead to better communication about results and progress.

The data in Part III demonstrate, however, that if reflective diversity is the appropriate standard AALL not only falls short of the goal but is farther behind in 2014 than it was in 2000. Although evaluating AALL in absolute terms shows that it is becoming less diverse with time, that conclusion does not tell us what we should do about it. Part IV compares AALL’s diversity record with those of similar professions of law, general librarianship, and postsecondary teaching. The purpose is to identify to what extent AALL’s performance suggests an unusual obstacle to entering law librarianship, and to what extent it is symptomatic of the society-wide lack of a sizeable pool of suitable candidates for professions of this type.

The thesis is that to judge AALL’s diversity efforts we must place law librarianship into broader social contexts so that patterns can be meaningfully interpreted. In order to devise effective remedies we need to know how much of any demonstrated lack of diversity arises out of the intrinsic features of law librarianship. These should be separated from the difficulties situated elsewhere, such as from libraries and library education generally, or in the legal profession with which we are allied. Recognizing these wider patterns will allow us to target limited resources toward factors under our immediate control before moving on to address general societal shortcomings.

Suggested Citation

Donovan, James M., Diversity: So How Is AALL Doing? (May 12, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2779269

James M. Donovan (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky College of Law Library ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States

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