Librarians in multicultural environment.
Problems and solutions
In the effort to fulfill their mission of disseminating information, librarians face a variety of challenges. Some of these challenges pertain to collection development, technical services, cataloging backlogs, and the handling of new technologies. Other challenges are related to legal issues and intellectual freedom, such as material objections and Internet access. Library management has dealt with these challenges for years by updating the technology, increasing the staff, and educating employees and customers. Effective communication poses a different and important challenge to librarians, especially to reference librarians.The communication between reference librarians and library customers is difficult to a point that librarians need to use special communication tools to be able to deliver the best service. The United States is one of the countries where librarians, in general, and academic librarians, in particular, are more prone to deal with multicultural customers. This can make their job even more difficult. Does the communication in multicultural environments create a real problem for libraries? Does the library management need to intervene in order to solve these problems? Alternatively, should management leave this issue to the individual librarians to educate themselves and overcome this challenge?
What is culture? The answers to this question reveals the complexity of its meaning. Every field of knowledge has its own answer: philosophers, anthropologists, historians, and economists have their own concepts of culture. (Kluckhohn, 19) One suggested answer is: “The behavioral norms that a group of people, at a certain time and place, have agreed upon to survive and exist.” (Elashmawi, 50)The culture of an individual is like a biological heredity. For the members of one culture, culture allows them to predict each other’s behavior. It gives them ready-made solutions for some problems that have been solved before. (Kluckhohn, 25) An individual who belongs to a certain culture does not have to be conscientious about the component of this culture.In contrast, an individual from outside a culture has to know the components of another culture to predict the behavior of its members. For practical reasons, it is important to know the components of a culture to study the multicultural similarities and differences. Culture is expressed by a variety of human behaviors; the following list shows the most common ones. (Elashmawi, 50)
·Space and time orientations
·Religion and belief system
·Patterns of thinking
·Set of values
Different sectors of society are interested differently in the components of culture. Diplomacy, business, travel, education, science, and art choose to understand the components that can help them...