Conducting a Statistics Survey on Visible Minority Librarians in Canada

by Maha Kumaran
Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library, University of Saskatchewan

The Visible Minority Librarians of Canada (ViMLoC) Network was established with help from the Canadian Libraries Association (CLA) in December 2011. While working on a research project on leadership among minority librarians I needed to send out a survey to all Canadian minority librarians. There was no single forum or network through which I could do this. Unfortunately CLA does not, for understandable reasons, collect information on ethnic backgrounds of librarians to determine if they identify themselves as minority librarians; and unlike the American Library Association, CLA does not have various affiliates for its different minority groups. This meant sending out the survey through CLA and all the provincial library associations.

This situation prompted me to create a common forum for Canadian visible minority librarians. After consulting with CLA, I worked closely with them on creating a Network that would not only collect statistical information about minority librarians in Canada, but also serve as a common forum for this group to discuss their concerns, share ideas and success stories, have peer mentorship support, and in the future provide continuing education options tailored to this group. An email to the CLA listserv was sent in November 2011 calling for all librarians interested in this initiative to contact me and become founding members of this initiative.

11 librarians, not all visible minorities, from all over Canada became founding members of this initiative and after approval in December 2011, the Network started to function in January 2012. Heather Cai (McGill University) and I served as co-moderators of the Network for the first two years and have passed now it off to Norda Majekodumni (York University) and Kam Teo (Weyburn Public Library) for 2013-2015.

When invited for a round table conference at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in January 2013 in Toronto, Ontario, attending conference members expressed an interest in ViMLoC undertaking two projects: gathering statistics on the number of visible minority librarians working for Canadian institutions (which was the motivation for creating this Network); and creating a mentorship program for minority librarians.

Heather and I worked on the statistics project. A short electronic questionnaire using Fluid Surveys was created with 12 questions – open ended, multiple choice, yes/no, qualitative response. After ethics approval from both institutions (for Maha and Heather), the survey was sent out through CLA, Canadian Medical Libraries and Special Libraries Association list servs. The survey was also posted on ViMLoCs listserv and website. It ran from December 9th, 2013 to January 31, 2014.

The opening question defined visible minorities as per the Canadian Employment Equity Act and asked if the participant was a minority librarian. If they answered no, they were thanked for their participation and logged out. The purpose of this survey was to gather statistical information on visible minority librarians and we needed to ensure that responses were only from minority librarians.

Of the 191 who attempted to fill out the survey, 120 completed it. The survey had many questions on ethnic backgrounds, educational background, current employment status, etc. There is rich qualitative data that is still being analyzed for future publication. In the survey responses, minority librarians have identified areas where they need help or support and have expressed gratitude for having ViMLoC as a common forum to discuss their concerns, find mentors or friends and fellow researchers to collaborate with.

Results from the survey are currently being analyzed and written as an article to be submitted to a library journal. Please stay tuned.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.