AAMLA Recruits, Retains and Advocates for African American Male Librarians

According to Diverse Issues in Education, African American male librarians represent less than .05 percent of all professional librarians (Rogers, 2008). This percentage accounts for approximately 572 librarians nationwide. A recent study published by librarian and scholar Kaetrena Davis-Kendrick indicates that the percentage of African American male librarians among African American librarians is still less than 10 percent (Davis-Kendrick, 2009). With such sparse representation, it is imperative that a formal network for African American male librarians be established.

The African American Male Librarians Association (AAMLA) aims to provide such a network by recruiting, retaining and advocating for African American males within the library profession. AAMLA, launched in 2010, is an affiliate organization of the ALA Black Caucus, serving as a networking platform between African American male librarians and LIS students.

AAMLA’s members are found in all fifty states, and consist not only of librarians (school, public, academic, special) but also of professors, administrators, directors, managers and  archivists.

Students of librarianship, both undergraduate and graduate, are eligible for membership.We feel that they can benefit from the association by networking with us active professionals In order to increase recruitment of African American males to the librarian profession. Many African American professionals are not even aware of existence of librarianship as a professional field. As a librarian I do my best to introduce them to other African Americans and minority librarians within organizations such as Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). While this does much in convincing them of the legitimacy of the profession, many colleagues still remain skeptical of the feasibility of pursuing library science after comparing the average costs of graduate education with the national average in librarian salaries. And many may be put off by a perception that librarianship is a woman’s profession.

Historically American Africans were barred from participating equally in all professions in American society. Librarianship was particularly inaccessible due to black codes passed in many states which made it illegal to teach slaves to read. After the abolishment of such codes social integration was still slow. Most of the current day milestones of the ALA can be attributed to the work of  the late E.J. Josey from the 1950s through 2009, librarian, activist and  founding member of  BCALA.

Despite the efforts of E.J. Josey, the legacy of the organization and the work of several other activists, many erroneously believe African Americans have been given an undue advantage in hiring. This is largely due to a misunderstanding of the Equal Opportunity laws, which exist to merely protect an incoming generation of minorities (including women) from a historical legacy of discrimination in employment.

Although African American librarians would eventually overcome most forms of overt discrimination in employment, a long-standing fear remained: fraternization between African American males and white females. Many local library associations, often headed by white females, refused to integrate, and ALA often chose not to intervene. I am not aware of any hard evidence to determine whether or not this played a major role in the current scarcity of African American male librarians. But I am aware that this issue and many of the prejudices encountered by African American male librarians, which have been the topic of many interviews and personal narratives.

Thus the African American male librarian must overcome racial and gender hurdles when seeking placement, position and promotion within the Library field, and their needs are urgent. The AAMLA hopes to serve as the emergency room of the general hospital of the ALA Black Caucus.

Current Officers

  • President — Alonzo Hill, Michigan
  • Vice-President — Michael E. Owens, Manager of the Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City, OK
  • Secretary — Raphael D. Jackson, Reference librarian intern at Florida A&M College of Law in Orlando, Florida
  • Treasurer — Richard E. Ashby, Jr., Supervisor of Library Operations at Wyandanch Public Library in Wyandanch, New York
  • Public Relations (newly created position) — Marcellaus A. Joiner, Digital Project Archivist with Bennett College in Greensboro, NC
  • Historian — Derek Mosley, M.L.S. Archive Management Candidate, Simmons College, Boston, MA and
  • Membership Officer — Bobby Walter, Michigan


References

Davis-Kendrick, Kaetrena. 2009. ‘The African American Male Librarian; Motivational Factors in Choosing a Career in Library and Information Science’, Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 28:1,23-52.

Rogers, Ibram. 2008. Librarians call for more black males in the field. Diverse Issues in Higher Education.