Interview with Shannon Jones and Beverly Murphy; Cultural Humility in Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

March 19, 2024

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Jones and Beverly Murphy, the co-editors of Cultural Humility in Libraries, which will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in May.

Lauren Hays: Please introduce yourselves to our readers.

Shannon Jones: I am Shannon Jones. I am the director of libraries at the Medical University for South Carolina in Charleston. I am also the director of Region 2 of the Network of the National Library of Medicine. Additionally, I am the president of the Medical Library Association until the end of May 2024.

Beverly Murphy: I am Beverly Murphy, Assistant Director, Communications and Web Content Management at the Duke University Medical Center Library & Archives. I am also the Hospital Nursing Liaison for the Duke Health System and Liaison for the Watts College of Nursing. Additionally, I am the chair of AAMLA, the African American Medical Librarians Alliance Caucus of the Medical Library Association.

Lauren Hays: Briefly summarize Cultural Humility in Libraries.

Beverly Murphy: Part 1 is “What is Cultural Humility?” It defines what cultural humility is and describes its relevance in health care. It offers a historical perspective and discusses the differences and similarities between cultural humility and cultural competence. While exploring the role of cultural humility in health care, it highlights the integral role of health literacy in bridging the gap between healthcare and libraries.

Shannon (she/her): In Part 2, contributors describe how they apply principles of cultural humility in their work environments. Within that section, the contributors share lessons learned, practical strategies, development opportunities, and challenges when integrating cultural humility in library settings. In this section, we talk about leadership or the role of the leader in cultural humility, the role of identities in improving library practice, building connections, engaging in crucial conversations, and cross-cultural relationships. This section concludes with a discussion on professional development and what that looks like as it relates to cultural humility—and addresses what professional development is available.

Part 3 is the section that we call “Voices from the Field”. It is the place where people tell their stories. In their first-person voice, individuals share how they encounter cultural humility, whether they are given it, whether they have received it, and what they would do differently.

Lauren Hays: Why did you decide to edit this book?

Beverly Murphy: We had actually thought about doing a second part to our first book on diversity and inclusion in libraries. But as we were watching the insurrection on January 6th (from different places but still connected), this second book started formulating. Changes have to start with the individual and that is what cultural humility is. It is a self-reflection.

Shannon (she/her): Also, for me, one thing I am always endeavoring to do as a leader and colleague is make sure that spaces are welcoming and inclusive. I want people to feel safe. I want people to feel that they are valued, that their voices are heard, and that their opinions matter.

A couple of reasons that does not happen are because we don’t try to understand people in their most authentic form, and we don’t try to understand things or see things through their lens. One of the good things about cultural humility is that it encourages us to think about who we are and who the person standing next to us is, and about how we are different and what we share in common.

Lauren Hays: As you were editing, is there anything that surprised you?

Beverly Murphy: For me personally I received an awareness of several things, mostly having to do with how different cultures view their health care needs. One example was from a family of Mixteco descent (Indigenous Mesoamerican population from the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Michoacan) whose baby was being treated for eczema. It reminded me that it is incumbent upon us to move towards a resolution and not necessarily try to make people come to our way of thinking.

Shannon (she/her): This book took us a while to work on. I see something different every time, and it makes me acutely aware that I need to be paying closer attention to the people around me, what they are saying, and what they are experiencing, and create a safe space for them to come and share and process. I think this book will be eye-opening for a lot of people and will spark some good conversations.

Lauren Hays: What are two things you hope all readers take away?

Shannon (she/her): I hope readers take away that they need to learn more about cultural humility so that they can practice it— and approach the people around them with an open mind and an open heart, and think about what protection looks like in the workplace for different people. I also hope people take away the importance of kindness over niceness. Kindness is who you are on the inside; nice is whom you try to portray on the outside.

Beverly Murphy: Making time to self-reflect is important. It is not easy and could be painful, but we have to gauge what we can honestly do to make the world better. Another takeaway is from Chapter 2 which tells us cultural competence and cultural humility need not be viewed as either/or propositions, where one must be discarded in favor of the other. Instead, they are powerfully and inextricably interwoven.

Lauren Hays: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Shannon (she/her): I hope the book prompts people to have the courage to show up for themselves and for the people around them. Showing up for people should be meaningful and done in a way that prioritizes belonging.

Beverly Murphy: I hope that anybody exposed to the book will heed the emphasis in the subtitle, A Call to Action and Strategies for Success, and will challenge their way of thinking, acting, and being. Actions will be dependent upon the person, and because it is a self-reflection, we cannot determine what that will be.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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