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Developing Multiculturalism in Academic Libraries

ASDAL 18th Annual Conference
Columbia Union College
June 24, 1998

Cynthia Mae Helms

Why Talk About Multiculturalism?

  • Bring out the human factor of libraries
  • Cope with the changing population
  • Recognize librarianship as an international profession
  • Apply successful concepts from the business world
  • Affirm Christianity

What Is Culture?

  • Total way of life
  • Learned behavior
  • Dynamic, constantly changing
  • Integrated behavior
  • Logical within its own values

What Are The Basics Of Understanding Other Cultures?

  • Sense of Self and Space
  • Time and Time Consciousness
  • Communication and Language
  • Relationships and Associations
  • Mental Processes and Learning Styles
  • Work Habits and Practices
  • Beliefs and Attitudes
  • Values and Norms
  • Dress and Appearance
  • Food and Eating Habits

What Can ASDAL Do?

  • Continue helping overseas libraries meet their needs
  • Implement an “Adopt an overseas library” program
  • Consider overseas librarians’ needs in annual conferences
  • Involve more international librarians in the association
  • Hold regular meetings outside the U.S.
  • Sponsor visiting librarian programs
  • Develop an exchange librarians program
  • Introduce a mentoring program

What Can Libraries Do?

  • Recruit and retain a diverse workforce
  • Hire and maintain a culturally sensitive staff
  • Develop a strong staff development program with ongoing sensitivity program
  • Offer services and programs that recognize different cultures
  • Form a “Cultural Awareness Committee”
  • Connect with different parts of the campus and the community that deal with cultural and diversity issues
  • Collect multicultural and multilingual materials

What Can We Do As Librarians?

  • Develop a tolerance of other cultures
  • Become adept at cultural appraisal and empathy
  • Increase global awareness by volunteering to serve in other countries and by reading widely about issues that affect the world
  • Go on educational tours to gain better understanding of others
  • Avoid stereotypes and generalizations
  • Appreciate wide range of cognitive style differences
  • Make multicultural students feel comfortable on campus and within the library
  • Retain appreciation of gender and racial points of view
  • Show that perfect English is not necessarily expected
  • Encourage understanding of overall importance of cultural diversity in an academic setting


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Copyright © 1998, Cynthia Helms

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