Interview with the Editors: Kostelecky, Townsend, and Hurley; Cultural Humility in Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

August 16, 2022

Sarah R. Kostelecky, Lori Townsend, and David A. Hurley edited the book Hopeful Visions, Practical Actions: Culture Humility in Library Work. The book will be available from ALA Publications in December. My interview with them is below.

Briefly summarize Hopeful Visions, Practical Actions: Culture Humility in Library Work.

This edited volume gives readers an opportunity to learn about how some of our colleagues in different library environments are engaging in and practicing cultural humility and how it can support meaningful change and growth. In each chapter, different authors generously share their stories about their efforts with cultural humility, many of which are wonderfully self-reflective and honest about difficult things. By writing about their experiences, the authors present the key mental practices of cultural humility in a diverse array of library contexts – we hope readers will be inspired to start or continue their own cultural humility approach.

What sparked your interest in this topic? And what made you decide to edit a book on the topic?

The three of us have been working on cultural humility together for the better part of a decade. We actually have an ALA Special Report coming out soon that looks at what cultural humility means in libraries and how people can develop their own cultural humility. Because cultural humility is an approach rather than a goal itself, we wanted to hear from people who are using cultural humility, whether they use that term or not, to make positive change in their libraries. We knew good stuff was happening but not necessarily being written about or presented at conferences. We were awed by the stories we got. This could have been several books.

Who will benefit from reading this book?

People who are looking for examples or inspiration of how to make positive change in their own organizations or their own work. Too often, people read an article or attend a webinar about something like cultural humility and think “that sounds great, but I have no idea what that would look like in my daily work.” This book has some answers! Or, at least, shares some concrete examples of cultural humility in action. These chapters inspire us, and we hope they can inspire a wide audience.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

So much of cultural humility is about seeing the structural issues that promote inequity, but those structures are what we’re familiar with and can seem impossible to change. It takes time and attention to even begin to see them as things we’ve created and recreate, rather than as permanent or fixed “this is the way things are.” So, we’ve tried to include chapters on a wide variety of topics, from selecting children’s books to cataloging zines, to developing grant writing workshops, to rethinking circ policies, and on and on. Our hope is that people who read this book, whatever type of library or related work they do, will be able to more easily recognize potentially problematic structures they work with, and be more open to the idea that those structures can be changed.

After editing the book, did your perspective on the topic change? Or did you have any new insights?

Reading about the varied ways the authors engage in their own cultural humility practice, it was clearer that there are many paths to take in this approach. It enlarged our definition of cultural humility. The diversity of personal approaches expressed in these chapters may not at first seem to fit together, but become powerful when viewed as a whole.

After editing this book, it reinforced the positive impact that a cultural humility practice can have on individuals and relationships with others as well as the change it can enable in organizations. These authors left us feeling hopeful that cultural humility can improve the working lives of our colleagues, the experiences of library users, and the practices of library and archival organizations.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We want to again thank the authors who contributed to this book, they shared their stories and experiences thoughtfully and honestly and we really appreciate the generous reflection within their contributions. 

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her expertise includes information literacy, educational technology, and library and information science education.  Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. And 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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