Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals

Earlier this year, I read Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals, (© 2016, Libraries Unlimited, paperback, Information Services to Divers Populations book cover166 pages, ISBN-10: 1440834601, ISBN-13: 978-1440834608).

This is the latest work by Nicole A. Cooke.  Cook is an assistant professor at The Graduate School of Library and Information Science at The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and program director for the MS in Library and Information Science.

Cooke says that she wrote the book that she wanted to use in her classroom for her course, Information Services for Diverse Populations (LIS 547). In it, she addresses perennially important and emerging topics in librarianship, such as diversity, cultural competence, and social responsibility. Cooke’s work also examines research in the areas of diversity and social justice in librarianship. She also explores how social responsibility is fundamental to  librarianship.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Diversity, Inclusion and Information Services
  2. Developing Cultural Competence
  3. A Sampling of Diverse Populations
  4. Services to Diverse Populations
  5. Managing Diversity
  6. Becoming New Storytellers: Counter Storytelling in LIS

The appendices include a sample syllabus and sample assignments. Each chapter also includes questions and for reflection or discussion.

Though the book is a textbook, it is a thorough resource that introduces readers to the contexts and situations that encourge the development of empathy and building cultural competence.

As the diversity of the clientele we serve in libraries, continues to increase, developing cultural competency skills and social awareness becomes all the more urgent. Cooke’s work can benefit veteran practitioners, employers and LIS students, and the library profession at large.




Creating Inclusive Library Environments: A Planning Guide for Serving Patrons with Disabilities

I recently read Creating Inclusive Library Environments: A Planning Guide for Serving Patrons with Disabilities by Michelle Kowalsky and John Woodruff. (ALA Editions, 232 pages, 6″ x 9″ Softcover, ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1485-4, © 2017)

In my current position as the ADA Specialist. Diversity, compliance with the ADA and creating an inclusive environment are a large part of my daily focus.   I found that this guide to be well written and organized.

The world of libraries is undergoing rapid and sometimes challenging change.  Libraries collections now contain much more than books and magazines; collections now include  an array of digital and electronic resources, maker spaces and  programming for even more diverse audiences than ever before.

That audience now includes many patrons with disabilities.  Staff development and training for new and veteran staff can help staff members to review their perceptions and beliefs about people with disabilities. Such training can also help libraries evaluate and develop services, programming and resources for their constituency.  It can also help libraries develop a culture that is comfortable and welcoming for individuals with disabilities.

Creating that culture involves  developing an understanding of the needs of and composition of the community or constituency served, Creating a welcoming and inclusive culture also takes planning, deliberate choice making and creative and effective implementation and evaluation.  In this guide, Kowalsky and Woodruff address policies, organizational culture, facilities, technologies, and much more. Filled with research-based best practices, this guide also contains useful checklists that are usable by any library.

I found the book very readable and interesting.  Although I’m not currently working in a library but another capacity in higher education, Kowalsky and Woodruff gave me ideas that I can apply in my daily work. They tackle all the topics and issues that I believe are essential for librarians and educators to think through carefully as they work to create and maintain a truly inclusive environment for all.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1    Introduction to Creating Inclusive Libraries
Chapter 2    Writing Policies and Procedures
Chapter 3    Setting Up Facilities
Chapter 4    Training Library Staff
Chapter 5    Maintaining Daily Operations
Chapter 6    Collaborations and Outreach
Chapter 7    Programming and Workshop Ideas
Chapter 8    Accessible Resources and Technologies
Chapter 9    Developing a User-Centered Culture
Chapter 10  Keeping Up to Date

About the Authors

Thing 23: Summing it all up

My final post for CPD23 Things. The time has gone by quickly.  It’s been a struggle at times, occasionally frustrating but overall a great experience. I’m glad I chose to participate. In a way, its a little sad the CPD23 has come to an end.

I know that were it not for CPD23, Nebraska Learns 2.0  and NCompass Live, I doubt I would be aware of many of the technologies  that I’ve learned about. Some I will use a lot and others not so much if at all. I’ve gotten more comfortable with blogging and plan to keep blogging.

Even though I’m not actively working in a library at  the moment,  much what I’ve learned will benefit me in what I do in my current position.  Some of the technology will be directly useful. Overall the issues and topics discussed will help me think critically and more broadly about technology in general and maybe even about issues of accessibility.

One of the best thing about CPD23 though, has been the participants. There are some amazing librarians and libraries ‘out there’ and was wonderful to share a bit of their world via the posts shared. I’ve also read more widely as I’ve been tipped off to interesting articles, studies, and reports that I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

I do plan to spend a bit of time developing a CPD plan. I wonder where my journey will take me?

To sum it all in six words: Shared journey exploring technology, curiosity grows.

Thing 21: Promoting yourself in Job Interviews etc

It’s been a number of years since I’ve interviewed for a position. Truth is, as a middle-aged Baby-boomer, I may not be looking for another job prior to retirement. However, no job is truly secure. Life changes so  the assignment for Thing 21 was a good reminder.  Having to think about our strengths, weaknesses, preparing a CV and interviewing are each challenging in their own way but very useful.

I’ve always thought my strengths included independence. By this  I mean that people I’ve reported to, have quickly learned that  they can tell me what they need done, tell me what if any, specifics there are to how it must be done and then get out of my way and let me do my job.

I’ve proven to be someone trustworthy and one who will get things done as she says she will. I am organized and self-directed.  I tend to be detail oriented and  will most generally do the unglamorous jobs that  need doing without fanfare.

I’m shy and a loner but also am caring and friendly although I do have to work at not appearing to be anti-social.  I don’t belong to organizations just to belong. I step up and contribute often serving in some sort of service role (e.g. treasurer, secretary)

In terms of weaknesses- I don’t like conflict; I’m very conflict adverse. I really need to  strengthen my skills in  how to manage difficult situations or conflicts.  I dislike crowds and loud noisy exchanges/meetings.  I would also like to improve my ability to pause and take a breath before speaking, thus ensuring that my conversation partner(s) are actually through speaking! Sometimes my thoughts and ideas seem to be a bit in  a hurry.

I don’t think I do a very good job of keeping track of my accomplishments and achievements because I rarely see  what I do as all that important and significant. Thing 21 has reminded me I must  do a better job of  “tooting my own horn.”

I appreciated Ned Potter’s blog piece on keys to a good interview. I’ll keep this piece in mind because interviewing well is NOT something I do at all well! The positions I’ve enjoyed the most and remained in the longest are those in which my reputation preceded me and I was either asked to interview or was known to the interviewers.

Things 10 and 11: Professional Training and Mentoring

Although I earned my MLS over thirty years ago, some memories associated with that endeavor remain rather vivid.  My undergraduate degree was in the liberal arts — I chose to pursue my interests, not “what degree will guarantee me a job?”  Of course I no sooner graduated than the job market shifted and employers wanted individuals with a background in business or some variant of computer science. Consequently, I opted to go straight to grad school.  Through high school and early in college, I’d been encouraged to pursue becoming a librarian “because I would be good at it.”

Library school was quite the culture shock largely because I was in the minority — few of my classmates were students coming straight from their undergraduate program and I was very much out of place. I also didn’t have a clue about what kind of librarianship I wanted to pursue.

My first position was in a one-person, specialized library and that’s where I think I really learned the most.  None of my courses prepared me for working in a specialized library but the foundational skills of how to approach and use reference tools, and unfamiliar resources, how to listen and respond to patrons and various management concepts all were “road-tested”  and my real education as a librarian began.

Although I worked in an academic library before making a career shift, in reflecting on my style and skills as a librarian, I’ve concluded that I’m one of those “odd” folks whose strengths and skills are best suited for smaller, preferably one-person libraries, or a specialized library. This kind of library service is not for everyone. Having this kind of self-awareness is a very comfortable feeling.

The UK model of graduate traineeships and the chartership model all make a good deal of sense. I know I would have benefited immensely from something like this.

I’ve not had a formal mentorship and yet, a college professor informally mentored me and helped me in numerous was to grow in confidence and skill.  His investment of interest in my future was a priceless gift.  There are those in my current work environment that are on my personal radar and I learn much from them by observation.  Good role models  can be as valuable as a mentor.