How public libraries can serve the diversity in the community
Fra rapportens resumé:
Libraries can play an important role in a culturally diverse society. They enable different groups to enjoy their cultural heritage, keep in touch with their homelands, practice their mother tongue, learn the new country's language, fi nd their way in the new society, celebrate cultural activities and educate and inform all new community members. In order to be successful, the director of the library has to have a vision and commitment to serving their culturally diverse community. Without that vision and commitment there will be no political approval sought, no goals set, no community engagement, no staff encouragement, and fi nally no money dedicated to these services.
Staff needs to be trained to work in a culturally diverse
community. A code of conduct can help to create the desired
performance. But also staff from different backgrounds need to be
recruited. Cultural sensitivity and respect are important aspects in
the interaction between staff and patrons.
Staff from different backgrounds can also play an important role
in processes like acquisition and cataloguing even if they are not
(yet) trained librarians. Additional payment for these additional tasks
is sometimes needed. It is important to have the work on cultural
diversity spread among many staff-members and that it becomes
part of all of their day-to-day work. In too many libraries, working
with the different groups in the community is the work of one or two
devoted staff-members; if they leave, the work they are doing might
simply cease. Although many activities in libraries have started
based on project-money, long-term work on cultural diversity will only
become integral if the money becomes permanent and ongoing.
Libraries have found a variety of ways to acquire materials for different language groups, but diffi culties like lack of knowledge of the language, limitations in cataloguing in different languages, reliable vendors, copyright-issues, and limitations in budgets have made this task one beyond the reach of many libraries. National and international cooperation between libraries and consortia is needed to improve these processes and make them both more effective and effi cient. Many examples illustrate the opportunities in this area.
For libraries to succeed they must both understand the community demographics and have an absolute commitment to collaborating with other agencies and organizations in the community. When target groups and possible partners are identifi ed, the library can more easily reach out. The needs of the groups can be more thoroughly met in an appropriate way when cooperation takes place based on the motto "Nothing over them without them". Collaboration also enables the library to promote the library and its services in a more synthesized manner to new groups. Here, again, staff members speaking the language can play a role, as well as translation of the library's Internet services, local newspapers in various languages, or radio and television stations in foreign languages.
Not many libraries have the possibility to adjust the architecture of their buildings as cultural groups change. Good results, however, can be achieved by adjusting coloring, signage, and art in the library refl ective of groups using it. A visible and inviting placement of collections is also very helpful.
Ideally, all libraries throughout the world would have a thorough strategic plan to serve their rich multi-cultural communities. This is ideal. However, even taking an incremental approach is a good beginning. Without ongoing commitment all results are at risk of slipping away.