Saturday, November 28, 2009

Multiculturalism and Diversity

Main Entry: mul·ti·cul·tur·al
Pronunciation: \ˌməl-tē-ˈkəlch-rəl, -ˌtī-, -ˈkəl-chə-\
Function: adjective
Date: 1941
— mul·ti·cul·tur·al·ism \-rə-ˌli-zəm\ noun
— mul·ti·cul·tur·al·ist \-rə-list\ noun or adjective
— mul·ti·cul·tur·al·ly \-rə-lē\ adverb

Miriam Webster Dictionary.com


multiculturalism [ˌmʌltɪˈkʌltʃərəˌlɪzəm]
n
1. (Sociology) the state or condition of being multicultural
2. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) the policy of maintaining a diversity of ethnic cultures within a community
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

mul·ti·cul·tur·al (m l t -k l ch r- l, -t -)
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or including several cultures.
2. Of or relating to a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.
mul ti·cul tur·al·ism n.
mul ti·cul tur·al·ist n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

The variations in these definitions demonstrate the difficulty that people sometimes have in understanding the term multicultural. While all have a similar description they also demonstrate the variety of ways in which the term can be used. The context in which the word is viewed and/or used will vary the meaning and perhaps will change the way the term is heard.
Part of the difficulty for Americans has been that the term is not understood in a global fashion but in a personal or economic one. For libraries it is imperative that all effort is made to not only be aware of different cultures but to furnish materials that will enhance understanding and allow patrons of all nationalities to explore materials that will be of interest to them.
The Joyner Library of East Carolina University began a two year long program with various deadlines in order to complete three main goals; Goal 1 – Promote diversity of library personnel, Goal 2 – Promote diversity of library services, and Goal 3 – Promote diversity of library collection and resources (Diversity Plan, Joyner Library, 2009 – 2011) . Each of these goals has a strategy that will be developed by various committees. The target dates set seem to be realistic each plan taking the proper amount of time to meet the goals. It is of interest to note that the term “diversity” is used and not the term “multicultural”.
The article “From Inside Out: Promoting Diversity Awareness in Ourselves and Our Library Users” (2009), the writers show the challenge that libraries face in demonstrating true multiculturalism and diversity while keeping personal values and those of the patrons. The article further explains what to each library should do prior to setting up a committee. Points that stand out are:
Determine the needs of your library.
Take stock of the community you serve.
Search out learning tools.
Make your diversity statement one that fits with your environment.

All of these points are excellent and can be applied to any learning institution. The learning curve of students, staff, and faculty can be raised by using proper teaching methods and the best resources available whether it is with books, videos, CD’s, DVD’s. Another point made in the article is that user friendly signs are a huge part of welcoming everyone to the library itself and hiring policies that offer employment to all persons is critical. Using handouts in simple friendly English to guide patrons in their library use is another top notch suggestion.

The diversity committee began with an Ad-Hoc committee in 2004 and through the hard work of many individuals along with the university has accomplished several critical goals so that they can now move forward with their plan which should be completed in 2011. Just in time to begin looking at more goals. By moving forward slowly but steadily the committee hopes to include items they may have overlooked and it will give time for people to learn what true diversity is.

Listed below are some of the questions the committee must ask before setting any goals.

How will you begin community building?
What type of partners will the committee seek?

The next questions are to consider who could be partners with you. The article lists the following suggestions.

Other Campus Committees
Departments that focus on Diversity
Student Groups and Organizations
Student Affairs Divisions
Other libraries

All of these are for an academic library and will change if you are a public library.
The points discussed in this article all circle around setting up the committee, determining the needs, teaching everyone about Diversity, setting the programming goals, and finally implementing the practices and policies developed.

Multiculturalism and Diversity are experienced every day by every person we come in contact with. How they see us (librarians and staff) depends on practicing what we preach and never allowing patrons to feel unwanted because of faulty programming, personal prejudices, or lack of training.

Questions to ponder

When visiting a library or perhaps a museum for the first time. How were you treated? Did the experience leave you feeling as though you had found a new and exciting place or did you feel that once was enough?

If you were Director of Library services at a University, how would you go about forming a committee on multiculturalism/diversity? What do you think would be the most important function of the committee?



Bibliography

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003. Downloaded 11/20/09

Diversity Plan. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. 2009-2011. https://www.edu.edu/cs-lib/administration/upload/Diversity_Plan2009.pdf Downloaded 11/18/09

Edward, J. et al. From Inside Out: Promoting Diversity Awareness in Ourselves and Our Library Users. PNLA Quarterly (2007). http://unllib.unl.edu/LPP/PNLA%20Quarterly/edwards-loyal-stark-zoellner74-1.htm. Downloaded 11/17/2009

Miriam Webster Dictionary.com Downloaded 11/18/09

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. Downloaded 11/23/09

3 comments:

Trevor Zuidema said...

I thought this was an interesting statement, "Part of the difficulty for Americans has been that the term is not understood in a global fashion but in a personal or economic one."

Could you elaborate?

Amy Alcenius said...

The first definition didn't actually have a definition. Was this an error, or did I just miss it?

kbankovich said...

The ideal way for a university library director to form a committee on multiculturalism/diversity is to begin with a culturally diverse faculty and staff. If a faculty or staff member speaks an additional language, it would benefit the library.
Library faculty and staff should be encouraged to be involved in local, state, and national organizations. They should be offered release time and financial support to participate in external community activities. They should also be recognized and rewarded for volunteering in community outreach activities.
The committee’s most important function would be to initiate and maintain the agreed upon diversity policies and procedures that are set forth.