Diversity in Libraries
A blog for exploring and discussing the topics of diversity and multiculturalism in libraries.

Multicultural Programming for Dummies

Planning events that fairly represent a group of people is easier said than done. How do you portray a culture without conforming to stereotypes, educate people at the same time, and involve everyone? Librarians, or anyone for that matter, trying to incorporate diversity into their events are baffled to this day by this question because, truth be told, there is not a definitive answer to the predicament. But instead of charging head first into the unknown, librarians (or those creating multicultural programs) can follow some helpful guidelines.

Guideline #1

  •       Multicultural programming is NOT “cultural tourism”
  •       Don’t be afraid to have programs about foreign countries (ex. Mexico) but understand that these should not replace programs about specific groups in the United States (ex. Mexican Americans).
  •       Multicultural programs give children a chance to gain knowledge of their heritage while also acquiring skills to identify with their surroundings.

Guideline #2

  •       The earlier the better.
  •       By the age of seven, children have already conformed to most prejudices and although by no means impossible, after this point in a child’s life, librarians have missed their golden chance to integrate multicultural ideas.

Guideline #3

  •       Multiculturalism is not a once of month deal.
  •       Provide programs that honor cultural diversity throughout the year so that programs do not become superficial by limiting multiculturalism to Black History month or Cinco de Mayo. These months are not useless, but if libraries focus on diversity only once a month (or less) then these times meant to honor a culture will lose as much meaning as the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas has to most Christians. 

Guideline #4

  •       Go out into the community and see what programs local organizations are holding.
  •       There is nothing wrong with librarians mimicking already successful programs in the community or supporting already up and running events instead of trying to independently host events in the library.

Guideline #5

  •       When creating a program:

1)      This isn’t your typical story hour! Start a story time that involves literary, oral, and cultural traditions that are both educational, authentic, and allow the community and library to work together in addition to the  traditional session where the librarian sits and reads with children sitting at her/his feet. (This is not as easy as it sounds, but DON’T panic, it is possible)

2)      Have craft sessions that reflect the culture in its complexity and within its cultural context. (Try to avoid stereotypes, even if you think they are harmless stereotypes, unless the traditional “image” is properly placed within that cultures practices)

3)      Host booktalks, reading clubs, and read aloud sessions. Children like to express their opinion on what they read or hear just as much as you do.

Guideline #6

  •       USE YOUR IMAGINATION!
  •       Go off an idea that you like or are passionate about and entwine it with your programs. If you like mythology, then shape a program to be both fun and educational and once you have done a program and are a little more comfortable then branch off and use other ideas.

By: Tamie Bird

For more thorough examples check out

Harrington, J. N. (1994). Multiculturalism in Library Programming for Children. Chicago: American Library Association.

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3 Responses to “Multicultural Programming for Dummies”

  1. This is great! I didn’t know about prejudices being formed around the age of seven, so thanks for the info. While I suspect these guidelines are geared towards school and public libraries, academics could use this as well. Except for March, EMU is still a member of the Colored of the Month Club.

  2. This was an awesome blog article! I think it is so true that as librarians we need to make sure that we do not perpetrate stereotypes and are sensitive to other cultures. But when is a stereotype about a culture harmless?

  3. Thanks for some other wonderful post. Where else could anybody get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such info.


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