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Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries: Organizational dynamics

Critical Pedagogy and Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries

Librarians and library staff shall participate in and facilitate the development of organizational dynamics that enable individuals, groups and organizations to continually develop and exercise cultural competence.

Cultural competence can be conceptualized both at the individual and organizational levels. It is also important to view cultural competence in terms of the interplay between individuals and the organizations within which they work. The term organizational dynamics describes both the components of an organization—such as its structure, culture, strategies, change, and other processes, policies, and practices—and the organization’s pattern of activity, change, and growth as it responds to both internal and external forces. Individuals, and the groups with which they work, shape and influence the organizational dynamics. Organizational dynamics also shape and influence individual and group behavior and attitudes.

Organizational dynamics can impede or foster culturally competent behavior and attitudes.

Every academic library has an established culture for achieving organizational goals, performance expectations, and methods of communication. Within that culture reside formal and informal rules of interaction, frequently referred to as “values and norms,” that are established by the organization and its work groups. An organization’s culture influences the behavior of its employees and guides how they view and accept difference in style and opinion (Smith 2008, 143).

Libraries, library organizations, and their employees must make a deliberate choice to create and maintain organizational dynamics that foster culturally competent behavior and attitudes. This means making a commitment to continually practice cultural competence in day-to-day operations at all levels of the organization.

The culturally competent organization shall:

  • Identify and use applicable theories, methods, frameworks, and models for developing and sustaining multicultural organizations.
  • Regularly review and adapt its structures, strategies, policies, practices, and processes to foster an inclusive environment, including identifying and taking steps to address inequity and exclusion (intentional or inadvertent).
  • Strive to create structures, strategies, policies, practices, and processes that equitably integrate the values, norms, and behavioral standards of diverse groups, including dominant and nondominant groups.
  • Seek outside assistance when needed from campus and community professionals trained in addressing social justice and diversity issues.
  • Through its structures, strategies, policies, practices, and change processes:
    • Support the expansion of cross-cultural knowledge and skills at the individual, group, and organizational level.
    • Strive to increase individual, group, and organizational capacity to work with and serve a variety of people and groups.
    • Create opportunities and venues for sharing information and learning regarding cultural competence.
    • Empower all employees to fully participate in the life of the organization; have their voices heard and their perspectives and experiences valued.
    • Establish organizational norms that foster openness to and respect for discussing issues of cultural competence, including situations where exclusionary and/or insensitive attitudes and behaviors were experienced.
    • Recognize the dynamics inherent to intercultural interactions, including the effect that dominant and nondominant status has on group dynamics and interpersonal interaction.
    • Acknowledge cultural competence as an ongoing learning process integral and central to supervision, evaluation, training, hiring, promotion, and human resource management.
    • Infuse cultural competence into the enactment of the mission, values, and goals of the organization.
    • Foster a workplace climate and organizational culture, through formal and informal means, that actively addresses challenges associated with diversity.
    • Foster a workplace climate and organizational culture, through formal and informal means, that leverages, maximizes, and celebrates the benefits of a diverse workforce.