The element of diversity in a library has many shapes. The recognition of diverse communities and therefor diverse libraries; the provision of diverse information in different media; and the encouragement of diversity in library workers. These three types of diversity are all intertwined, and each play an important role in the strength and health of a library.
The Diverse Community
David Carr presented the idea of libraries as a reflection of their communities in his 2002 piece, A Community Mind. 1)
To fulfill the concept of the community mind, it is important for a collection and its programs to capture many things. An active and responsive cultural institution, such as a library, will actually tell its community the story of its own evolution and offer information useful for its further evolution.
The importance of a library mirroring its community cannot be understated. A library is an invaluable resource to its community, acting as a lightning rod for information that can be properly dispersed throughout the community it serves. The library is not only responsible for reminding a neighborhood of its history, but also of nurturing its present and encouraging exploration for its future.
The Diverse Collection
A library best serves its community when provides resources that are exactly what the community needs. Rarely is a community so homogeneous that every library patron has the exact needs as their neighbor. With this in mind, it's important that the library contain books, newspapers, movies, music, and article access that is as well-rounded and diverse as the community it serves.
This does not only work to fulfill Carr's idea of a library reflecting its community. By providing access to diverse media, a library can help diversify its patrons. Those who come to browse the shelves may pick up a book on a topic that at one time seemed overwhelming, but find that through that particular delivery it is not only digestible, but enjoyable. A controversial topic that is the subject of a documentary on DVD may find its way into the hands of someone who once was ill-informed but now finds themselves enlightened.
A diverse collection serves to not only keep its community happy, but to also help them on their way to bettering themselves through education. Again, Carr:
Great cultural institutions are institutions of mind as much as they are institutions of service. Their collections are informed by the implicit narratives of human contexts. They are dynamic. They think. They cause thinking. They absorb and reflect the thinking of others as though thought were a form of light.
The Diverse Librarian
Finally, there is the fact of diversity within the library. As the library reflects its community, so to can the body of librarians reflect that same community. As with the importance of diverse media in a collection, a diverse collection of librarians can work to better serve the population at hand. By building a library that is operated by many different walks of life, a library has the opportunity to be an institution of relatability and a cultivator of open-minded thinking.
As Tamara Lincoln writes in her 2009 article Cultural Reassertion of Alaska Native Languages and Cultures: Libraries' Responses 2):
…the greater and deeper the diversity in a society, the greater the unity and cohesion it requires to hold itself together and nurture diversity. A weakly fused society feels threatened by differences and thus lacks the courage, confidence, and, above all, willingness to welcome and be enriched by them.