Cultural Responsiveness






Sarah Copeland is Director, Desks and Patron Experience, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Chapel Cowden is a Health and Science Instruction Librarian, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Lu Gao is a postgraduate student at University at Albany (SUNY). Together, they’re presenting the session “Culturally Responsive Public Services” on May 4, 2:50 p.m. EDT. Their guest blog post follows.

Libraries strive to welcome all members of their communities, but many fall short of their desire to truly engage the diverse communities they serve. The work of diversity and inclusion requires deep and continuous engagement to move beyond token gestures of inclusivity.

You may be reading about this upcoming presentation and perhaps wondering, “Yes -- but how?” It can be overwhelming to consider all the work that’s needed to make our libraries inclusive spaces that welcome our diverse constituents. This presentation will focus on practical steps that you can take today to start building more inclusive public services.

Transformation starts with individuals, and one very important step that we encourage you to take is to start a reflective practice. For you to get the most out of the “Culturally Responsive Public Services” presentation, we invite participants to consider in advance how they would answer the following questions:

  • What’s your cultural background? How would you describe your identity? In addition to race, ethnicity, and religion, consider other aspects of your identity. For example, are you a first-generation college student, working class, or belong to a group that has impacted your perspective on the world?
  • Can you think of ways that your cultural background affects your approach to providing library public services? For example, does your cultural background help you identify with some patrons?

We’ll be taking a closer look at ways that individuals can lead departments toward deeper inclusiveness in our presentation “Culturally Responsive Public Services.” We welcome your questions and thoughts on these topics, which you may share prior to our session by replying to this post (login required).

Disabled People Use the Internet! Building and Maintaining Inclusive Library Spaces Online

Session Description

Online library services often exclude people with disabilities. Purposeful design and use of digital resources (including websites, databases, and social media) can improve inclusion. This session includes some basic technical considerations as well as institutional actions that can be taken to create more inclusive online spaces. Participants are encouraged to share their own accessibility-related concerns, questions, and comments.

While there are clear ethical and legal arguments for ensuring that all library services are equitable, there are many reasons why libraries should be particularly concerned with creating more inclusive online spaces for people with disabilities now. Young people with disabilities have higher rates of internet use than their elders and are more likely to be exposed to technology in educational spaces. Moreover, a library’s digital presence is key to advertising in-person events and sharing information regarding the accessibility of its physical space.

Along with institutional and website accessibility considerations, this presentation will also provide up-to-date guidance on ensuring libraries’ social media presence takes advantage of inclusive practices on social media. Social media connects institutions with community members who may never enter a library building but may attend events virtually. This includes activities such as online story-times, author read-alongs, and virtual book club meetings. Additionally, there are many disability activists and self-advocates active on social media who engage in conversations related to disabilities. Connecting the library to these conversations can educate library staff on community members’ experiences and needs as well as foster mutual engagement.

This presentation is designed for both current librarian practitioners and future librarians interested in accessible technology or tasked with developing inclusive practices for their institutions. Advanced technological knowledge is not required, although a willingness to test out digital tools will be encouraged during the session.


Laura March, PhD Student & Research Assistant, UNC-Chapel Hill

Laura March
Laura March is a PhD student and research assistant at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has over ten years of experience designing accessible online environments and teaching virtually. Her research interests are the intersections of technology, education, and creativity. Prior to beginning doctoral studies, Laura worked at the Carolina Office for Online Learning, American University’s Center for Teaching, Research & Learning, and the Pennsylvania State University’s Education Technology Services, Institute for Arts & Humanities, and Palmer Museum of Art. She received an MS in Art Education and an MEd in Instructional Systems from the Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Amelia Gibson, Assistant Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill: School of Information and Library Science

Dr. Amelia Gibson
Amelia Gibson is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her primary research interests focus on the ways that information and data are used by and against marginalized communities, with a focus on health and wellness in communities of color (particularly among women and girls) and among disabled people. Her work explores the ways we understand and replicate systemic information poverty, marginalization, and equity in local communities and on the internet. She is the director of the Community Equity, Data and Information Lab at Chapel Hill. Dr. Gibson is a UNC Thorp Community Engaged scholar and a fellow with the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy, the Parr Center for Ethics and Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. She is the recipient of an IMLS Early Career Award and UNC Junior Faculty Development Award. She holds a Ph.D. and MLIS from Florida State University, and a BA from Dartmouth College.

Cultivating Tolerance Through Conversation: Creating an Inclusive Community at Your Library

Session Description
In a world where tensions are high around sensitive topics like racism and implicit bias, libraries serve as a safe space for inclusion and the sharing of ideas. When a community was rocked by prejudiced acts against minority groups, one library system responded by engaging the public in a series of important yet sensitive conversations and book discussions. Learn how your library can collaborate with local agencies and diverse groups to help foster a more tolerant and understanding community through the library.

Caroline Dulworth, Associate Director, Pioneer Library System

Caroline Dulworth
Caroline Dulworth is Associate Director of Reader’s Services and Branch Projects and is the Branch Manager of Norman Public Library Central. She received her MLIS from The University of Oklahoma in 2000, and has worked for PLS since 1996.


Kelly Sitzman , Branch Manager of Norman Public Library East

Kelly Sitzman
Kelly Sitzman is the Branch Manager of Norman Public Library East, Pioneer Library System’s 12th and newest branch. Kelly is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with an MLIS in Library and Information Studies. Kelly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Library Association Leadership Institute, and was awarded the 2018 PLS Distinguished Colleague Award for her leadership in developing the first-ever PLS Customer Service Philosophy.

Breea Clark, Mayor, City of Norman, OK

Breea Clark
Breea Clark is the Mayor of Norman, Oklahoma. She serves as the University of Oklahoma’s Director of the JCPenney Leadership Center, which focuses on building and preparing leaders for the diverse and global opportunities presented in the 21st century. Breea previously served on the Norman Library Advisory Board, and is an enthusiastic supporter of public libraries.