The IFLA MCULTP (Library Services to Multicultural Populations) section is one of the IFLA sections whose mandate is directly aligned with DEI. While Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is experienced and practiced in differently across the globe, many common grounds exist that can provide a foundation and basis for concerted efforts amongst LIS professionals internationally. IFLA, as the international flagship of LIS associations, presents an opportunity for the most diverse gathering of LIS professionals annually at the World Library Congress (WLIC). As these individuals gather to network and collaborate, the information exchange is just as rich and diverse, endeavoring to ensure that all voices are heard and represented.

DEI and Library Users

Developing services and programming for diverse users ensures that libraries have a wide reach while also increasing their impact. Such services may include outreach to diverse groups such as individuals from diverse demographic groups, individuals with special needs as well as individuals from culturally and linguistically underrepresented groups. Libraries can cater to diverse users by building collections that cater to /appeal to all these different groups: examples include being intentional about acquiring multicultural literature and advocating against book bans. Libraries can also be intentional about increasing programming for diverse users. Examples include sensory storytelling times for individuals with special needs to sponsoring cultural events celebrating Black History month or National Hispanic Heritage Month, to Human Library events with an intercultural focus.

DEI and LIS Professionals

In the workplace, DEI bears implications for hiring practices, promotion and retention, compensation or simply in creating inclusive workplaces and many libraries are playing their part in promoting DEI initiatives. The MCULTP has also made efforts in equipping LIS professionals with the tools they need to be engaged in DEI: from last year’s satellite meeting that focused on empowering diverse librarianship, to a session during the main conference that addressed why and how libraries can play a role in protecting minority languages. This year, the MCULTP section will hold a virtual mini conference exploring libraries’ new trends in supporting multiculturalism and multilingualism. Additionally, this year, the MCULTP section is collaborating with the IFLA Local History and Genealogy (LOCGEN) Section and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Division to provide webinars focused on how libraries can contribute to preserving cultural heritage.

In conclusion, it is perhaps an ineluctable reminder that DEI work is the responsibility of all of us- individually in our everyday lives and in our workplaces, but also collectively as an association. IFLA no doubt accomplishes its goal as far as diversity in its membership, but perhaps more could be done towards creating a more inclusive IFLA. While it is not an easy fix with such a diverse association – it is worth the concerted effort, always keeping in mind that inclusion is a give and take – at times you may be the one asking to be included, and other times you may be the one called upon to be more accommodating and inclusive of others. Let’s each do our part!

Peggy Nzomo, PhD – University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, USA and Member- IFLA- Library Services to Multicultural Populations Section