The demographic make-up of the nearly 500 employees of the Boston Public Library is of great interest to long-time City Councilor Charles Yancey, who represents Mattapan and Dorchester. He is a courteous man who doesn't like to create waves, but he keeps chipping away at issues that matter to him. Such as libraries and diversity among libraries' employees. He asks BPL executives about it every spring when they come to the City Council's budget hearings. His inquiry can be called the Yancey question: "And what precisely is the demographic make-up of the top positions at the BPL?" he asks. Surprisingly, BPL executives still don't seem to know the answer right away: they fumble through their three-ring binders looking for the statistics, and don't always seem to be able to find them. Then they say they "have to get back to you on that."
According to the BPL, the top ten executive positions at the library are 9o percent white, 10 percent Asian. Of the roughly 500 employees, 60 percent are white; the remaining ones are 18 percent African American; 16 percent
Asian; 6 percent Hispanic.
In January, an opportunity to diversify presented itself at the BPL when the position of clerk for the Board of Trustees became vacant. It was quickly filled by Deborah Kirrane, the Caucasian legal assistant Jeff Rudman, the board's chair, who worked with him at the law firm from where he recently retired. President Ryan, when asked about it, angrily said she had gone "through the process," and that the job had been advertised.
President Amy Ryan has maintained during the last few years' budget hearings that the difficulty of diversifying the BPL's staff can be laid at the feet of the professional schools that grant library science degrees. They graduate too few students of color, she asserts. This year, at the library budget hearing of May 12, Councilor Yancey was prepared for that explanation of yore: Does the library's CFO need to have a library-science degree, he wanted to know? Or does the Manager of Human resources? Or the Director of Operations? President Ryan acknowledged they did not. "You obviously get my point," Yancey said. "What other steps can we take to increase the diversity?"
"We need to redouble our commitment on that," Ryan said. "Union and management have already teamed together to work on something called a career ladder committee and we can certainly include diversity in that. We can also work with the city's human resources department to see if we can improve our numbers."