Diverse communities: the ILN experience

By Jpatokal (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

By Jpatokal (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It feels wrong to let a discussion topic about serving diverse communities go by without talking a little about our experience here at the ILN. After all, with more than 3,500 participants from around 120 different countries over the past couple of years, we are certainly working with a diverse community.

While we don’t have a diversity policy, we do have a strategy around engaging as much of our community as we can. This is particularly important when we are considering discussion topics for a round of the program.  Based on feedback from the ILN community and on our own interests and ideas, we design a program of discussion topics that will hopefully meet the needs of as many of our participants as possible each time.

The ILN community is geographically, culturally and professionally diverse. We have participants from all sectors of the profession and at all stages of their careers, from students to retired. While we try to make our discussion topics as broad as possible we know that there are times when only a portion of our community will engage. A good example of this is when we explored the topic of games and libraries earlier in 2015. We had a lot of engagement at the time from participants in the public and school library sector but we know from feedback in the end of program survey that participants in other sectors felt they could not contribute.

Our diverse community also affects logistics decisions such as setting deadlines such as for the closing of applications, or generating a timeslot for a twitter chat. The last time we held a twitter chat, it was run out of South Africa to enable it to be held at a time of night (4am!) that would have been very difficult for us to achieve, yet worked better for many of our northern hemisphere colleagues.

Crucially, we know that for some of our community, access to our content can be difficult, sometimes politically, sometimes technically and that there can be cultural sensitivities and language barriers to recognise and overcome.

Our Country Ambassadors have been a vital part of helping us here in ILN Central to understand some of these issues and for us, there are so many more pros than cons in working with these issues. After all, it is the point of the program to experience and learn about global diversity!

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