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The Tilford Group

Hale Library Diversity Committee Discussion

Question 1: What does the word "diversity" mean to you? What comes to mind? 

Initial discussion brought forth terms such as: inclusiveness, variety, and different world views.

One notion that spurred discussion was, "When you reach a point where everyone is so diverse that nobody knows what it means--that's diversity--everyone is so diverse that the word is unfounded." Associating with those remarks, a team member who had recently visited Microsoft said, "You walk around that company and see who works there and you will understand what that means. Diversity is so evident that no one would have to define it." Another spoke to the appreciation of and "fascination" with learning about others that were instilled during a teaching career in Junction City.

Question 2: When you hear the phrase "multicultural competence" what comes to mind? 

It means that "I am aware of individuals so that I don't [inadvertently] offend someone by my actions."

"Being able to go into a variety of environments and function equally well in all of them." A "willingness" and "understanding that you can learn from [others] and their backgrounds and experiences."

Singular, was a discussion centered on "natural tendencies" of species. One member noted that "There's a tendency for [humans] to group up in like groupings...we are always looking for things that are more like our selves rather than different....Today [we're] so populated...that these groupings make less and less sense...we have to figure out how to break out of our 'natural' groupings....I think competencies are a set of skills that are needed in order to function [in a world] where we no longer have the option for white males to go off in a group and...remain isolated."

Another member recently attended a business forum where a sense was gained of the school's responsibility in this area. "They (i.e.,businesses) are not mandated by law [to train in multicultural competencies]; they're doing it because that is the bottom line. These companies all have diversity programs. They said: because we are not teaching cultural competence, they have to."

Recent experience with the Disabilities Act Procedures Team was highlighted for its teaching of multicultural competencies through scenarios and role-playing. In response, concern was expressed about using a "formula" to "categorize people based on disability or races or countries or language or religion" in order to inform our cross cultural interactions. This was not seen as a necessarily respectful acknowledgement of what a person might bring to any situation.

Question 3: How can Kansas State University Libraries support faculty and students who are incorporating multicultural competencies within their curriculum? 

Members looked to collection development and the Multicultural Center as specific attempts made to acquire information relevant to multicultural learning and groups. A willingness to be helpful as students utilized the library's resources was encouraged. Finally, an effort to make "sure that all people in their different reference departments, with their liaisons with different departments around the university, touch on the subject matter and make sure they get feedback on that as well."

Question 4: How relevant is multicultural competence to preparation of students using the library? 

Initial comments concerned international students and the library's readiness to serve them. "Every group, every country is represented here on campus. I think it's very important how we react to them." Then, it was suggested, that multicultural competency was "more a factor for [students] from Kansas and the U.S...who lack the competency to deal with multicultural [situations]." "I am very sad that students don't take the opportunity...."

Discussion then switched focus when one team member suggested that the library culture was itself a foreign culture to most students. "How can we make students understand how the library works if they've never been in a library like this? How can we expect students from Kansas to be sensitive or care about diverse people if they don't live around them?" Finally, it was suggested that students be required to face multicultural challenges in the same manner that they are required to undertake other educational experiences they may not initially appreciate.

Question 5: How does the library support faculty as they assist students in learning multicultural competencies prospective employers will need? 

(Tape was not audible)

Question 6 a: How does the library support faculty's education of students in the multicultural competencies expected by future employers? 

Consideration of the traits sought by employers dominated discussion. "Employees who will mesh into their organization. The level of [multicultural] competence they are looking for is based on where the company is and what their expectations. Haliburton is going to require a much more multiculturally competent person than a mom and pop store." They are "looking for someone that can bring intellectual competency and also can be a team player."

Question 6 b: What multicultural approaches should the library adopt to facilitate teaching and learning about diversity? 

A considerable portion of this section of audiotape was indecipherable to the transcriptionist, and some discussion was lost or too confusing to be accurately represented here. The more intelligible conversation follows.

One team member believed "There should be a required course--a community service that gets them out of the dorms, the fraternities, sororities, where everyone is exactly like who they are." Another member agreed that students would not do this one their own "unless the university says learning how to do this is as important as playing football, as the arts, whatever."

It was suggested that a new program be established, but success in this regard was seen as dubious due to financial constraints at the university. Another suggestion was that teaching and learning about diversity might have a "place in instructional methodology." And finally, one member pointed out that, although not a new approach, individual commitment was a "powerfully strong" one.

Question 7: How do ARL benchmarks, the Dean's evaluation, and the KSU Libraries Comprehensive Diversity Plan influence how we prepare students to live and work in a diverse world? 

Again, audiotape transcription was unable to deliver much of the response to this discussion question. It was mentioned that annual evaluations asking what had been done to foster diversity within a unit acted as a spur to action. However, it was asserted that even without the evaluation impetus those in the team would make innovative changes in this area "because it is the right thing to do." Further, "It's the smart thing to do." "The world is moving toward this....Diversity sells....It is in the media; it is in management literature; it is in organizational information structures; it is coming." "We are on a wave and the wave is pushing us to do it."

Question 8: Of all areas discussed today, what areas are most important to you? 

Many of the team members spoke to personal issues concerning their own growth in multicultural competence and the growth they would like to see in the university's students.

It was suggested that the team still had to "keep talking like this, and bring more people into the discussion about what diversity is." Another member thought that arriving at an understanding of "cultural competencies, what they are, and then ensuring that our students graduate with those competencies" was most important.


Diversity Team members spoke of increasingly diverse living and work environments that would allow for--even demand--an "understanding that you can learn from [others] and their backgrounds and experiences."

The demand for multicultural competencies by employers of K-State graduates was seen as a significant and sufficient motivation to inculcate multicultural competencies as part of the accumulated proficiencies of K-State graduates. Support of this effort, specific to the library's role and resources, was seen to come primarily through collections, the Multicultural Center and liaisons between reference librarians and the departments they served. There was some discussion of a required university course to foster multicultural awareness, although members anticipated students might resist the notion.