Intercultural Effectiveness in Libraries: Supporting Success Through Collaboration With Co-Curricular Programs

Intercultural Effectiveness in Libraries: Supporting Success Through Collaboration With Co-Curricular Programs

Nancy Abashian, Sharon Fisher
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4097-7.ch012
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In response to the growing diversity represented on university college campuses, libraries are positioning themselves to contribute to student success by implementing cultural competency strategies into their policies, programs, and hiring practices. In this chapter, the authors outline the mutually beneficial relationship between student affairs and the libraries─most commonly situated within academic affairs. A historical review of the literature describes the emergence of student affairs within the academy and their relationship with academic affairs. The literature review is followed by a study in the evolving roles of student affairs and libraries in higher education. The authors go on to present a case study highlighting co-curricular partnerships between libraries and offices throughout student affairs that promote cultural competency and intercultural effectiveness.
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Academic libraries have traditionally designed collections and services to support the academic and professional success of their students and researchers. University administrators often define student success in academia through measurements of enrollment, retention, and degree completion, while faculty success is reflected in hiring, retention, and the achievement of tenure (Kuh, et al. 2007). Libraries hold a unique role within the academic institution in bolstering administrator’s measures of faculty and student success, while balancing their own mission to support information access, and to facilitate research and the creation of knowledge. In order to be responsive to a broader definition of student success, academic libraries must offer innovative student services constructed to complement traditional academic support structures. These services are intended to move beyond the singular focus of academic success, to include personal and professional development opportunities. Often referred to as co-curricular programs, these complementary student services stand beside the traditional infrastructure of the institution to support a broader, more holistic concept of student and faculty success. This kind of programming benefits students, and also has direct benefits for faculty and scholars, leading to higher faculty retention rates and greater job satisfaction overall (Cora-Bramble, 2006).

Within the side-by-side approach of co-curricular programming lies the opportunity to introduce and develop intercultural effectiveness. Intercultural effectiveness has been described as the ability to work productively with people who define problems differently. Developing intercultural effectiveness benefits libraries in ways that are central to supporting the communities they serve. Intercultural effectiveness is cultural competency employed through meaningful interactions (Vulpe, et al. 2014). Or, in other words, intercultural effectiveness is cultural competency in action. It goes beyond an ‘understanding’ of diversity, to include actions that support diversity, equity, and inclusion in everyday interactions. If cultural competency generally means being tolerant and sensitive (Haynes, 2008), intercultural effectiveness expands to include measurable changes in behavior which demonstrate respect for others and a willingness to incorporate their ideas, strengths, and values (Vulpe, et al., 2014).

Libraries must examine their current role, and shift to a new model of inclusive access, in order to align with the need to create an inclusive, interculturally effective academic experience. In designing a new model of access, libraries should consider how to support these opportunities and expectations. University libraries strive to provide a welcoming environment for the creation and management of knowledge through innovative thinking, open inquiry, and collaborative partnerships. University libraries also bring people and information together by utilizing value-added initiatives that enhance learning, teaching, and research in ways that strategically advance their University’s mission and vision. That mission includes facilitating a collegial, collaborative, and creative organizational culture that encourages experimentation focused upon assessing and improving the campus community’s overall experience. Implementing intercultural effectiveness in libraries, however, can be particularly challenging, as libraries will need to reevaluate old paradigms and challenge the ethnocentric ideologies that have shaped them.

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