Identifying the Visible Minority Librarians in Canada: A National Survey


  • Maha Kumaran University of Saskatchewan
  • Heather Cai MgGill University



visible minority librarians, international, ethnic minority, librarians, Canada, ViMLoC Network



Objective – This paper is based on a national survey conducted in late 2013 by the authors, then co-moderators of the Visible Minority Librarians of Canada (ViMLoC) Network of the Canadian Library Association (CLA). It is a first survey of its kind, aiming to capture a snapshot of the demographics of the visible minority librarians working in Canadian institutions. The authors hoped that the data collected from the survey and the analysis presented in this paper would help identify the needs, challenges and barriers of this group of librarians and set future directions for ViMLoC. The authors also hoped that the findings would be useful to library administrators, librarians, and researchers working on multicultural issues, diversity, recruitment and retention, leadership, library management, and other related areas.

Methods – An online survey questionnaire was created and the survey invitation was sent to visible minority librarians through relevant library association electronic mail lists and posted on ViMLoC’s electronic mail list and website. The survey consisted of 12 questions: multiple-choice, yes/no questions, and open-ended. The survey asked if the participants were visible minority librarians. If they responded “No,” the survey closed for them. Respondents who did not identify themselves as minority librarians were excluded from completing the survey.

Results – Of the 192 individuals that attempted, 120 who identified themselves as visible minority librarians completed the survey. Of these, 36% identified themselves as Chinese, followed by South Asian (20%) and Black (12%). There were 63% who identified themselves as first generation visible minorities and 28% who identified themselves as second generation. A total of 84% completed their library degree in Canada. Equal numbers (38% each) identified themselves as working in public and academic libraries, followed by 15% in special libraries. Although they are spread out all over Canada and beyond, a vast majority of them are in British Columbia (40%) and Ontario (26%). There were 38% who identified themselves as reference/information services librarians, followed by “other” (18%) and “liaison librarian” (17%). A total of 82% responded that they worked full time. The open-ended question at the end of the survey was answered by 42.5% of the respondents, with responses falling within the following broad themes: jobs, mentorship, professional development courses, workplace issues, general barriers, and success stories.

Conclusions – There are at least 120 first, second, and other generation minority librarians working in (or for) Canadian institutions across the country and beyond. They work in different kinds of libraries, are spread out all over Canada, and have had their library education in various countries or in Canada. They need a forum to discuss their issues and to have networking opportunities, and a mentorship program to seek advice from other librarians with similar backgrounds who have been in similar situations to themselves when finding jobs or re-pursuing their professional library degrees. Getting support from and working collaboratively with CLA, ViMLoC can be proactive in helping this group of visible minority librarians.


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Author Biographies

Maha Kumaran, University of Saskatchewan

Liaison Librarian

Heather Cai, MgGill University

Information Technology Services Librarian




How to Cite

Kumaran, M., & Cai, H. (2015). Identifying the Visible Minority Librarians in Canada: A National Survey. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 10(2), 108–126.



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