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Diversity: the research and the lack of progress

Mark Winston (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 28 March 2008




The purpose of this paper is to address the profession's focus on diversity, including the original research, and analyze the research beyond the profession to understand better the bases for the limited progress in fulfilling diversity goals. The paper focuses on the fact that diversity has been equated with race and the potential implications of that relationship.


An overview and analysis of diversity research, including factors associated with the success of diversity programs, is presented, focusing on research regarding the relationship between diversity and race. The article also considers how perceptions of race and racism have been manifested across sectors and in various countries. Based upon the fact that diversity and race have been equated, the discussion focuses on the extent to which this relationship is connected to the limited progress associated with diversity goals.


Research related to race, diversity, and affirmative action indicate both the complexity of the concepts among scientists, social scientists, and members of the general public, as well as the biases reflected in the viewpoints, often manifested in public policy. The research among communication scholars also indicates a predisposition to avoiding communication about difficult topics, such as race and racism, reflective in the use of more benign terminology, such as diversity.

Practical implications

While diversity research continues to be necessary in the profession, going beyond that which documents the levels of under‐representation, there is also the need for further consideration of the applicability of research beyond the LIS profession. In this regard, the understanding of research related to diversity, race, and affirmative action, and the relationship among the three provides the basis for further research in LIS and a more informed approach in addressing diversity issues in the profession.


The primary focus of the discussion of the paper is that of the nature of diversity, race and racism, as defined in the context of the USA. However, research related to race, racial classifications and hierarchies, and diversity in other parts of North America, Australia, Europe, and Africa are considered to a limited extent as well.



Winston, M. (2008), "Diversity: the research and the lack of progress", New Library World, Vol. 109 No. 3/4, pp. 130-149.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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