“Desiring to learn about Native culture is natural and should be fulfilling, but it should follow a process that is respectful.”
Following our spring break, the TLAM class came back ready to dive right back in to some deep thinking and discussion on the topics of protocols and partnerships. Having completed some necessary background reading, including a must-read contribution by Loriene Roy in our class textbook, we broke into groups to flesh out a response to the question: What steps would you take to develop culturally sensitive programming in your respective library (Academic, Public, or Archives)?
In our groups, we spent a fair amount of time envisioning the different types of cultural programming that could be offered in these different settings—after all, the users of archives are not going to be the same as users of public libraries or users of academic libraries, right? However, a funny thing happened when we gathered again as a large group and shared our thoughts. It turns out that the type of library matters very little—there are guidelines for culturally sensitive programming that can be employed in all library settings.
The consensus of the class (and which was backed up by our readings) is that one of the most important things to keep in mind is to make sure to involve the community in the library. It is imperative to build relationships with Native communities—to recognize the cultural heritage of the area, to utilize the expertise of Elders, and to involve cultural representatives in the decision-making process for the library. Patience in developing relationships is also key; there is no place for timelines and deadlines when creating genuine partnerships and making authentic contacts. It is also important that the library be an open, welcoming space, inviting to all members of the community. This can be achieved by making sure that all library users see themselves represented—not just in history, but in the present and future as well. The staff and the collections should reflect the ethnic diversity of the community, so that every single person who walks into the library feels a sense of belonging. In the end, it is simple respect and sensitivity that will make the library the culturally responsive institution that it should be.
For further readings on protocols/guidelines:
 Roy, L. (2011). Weaving Partnerships with the American Indian Peoples in Your Community to Develop Cultural Programming. In Roy, L., Bhasin, A., & Arraga, S.K. Tribal Libraries, Archives, and Museums: Preserving Our Language, Memory, and Lifeways. (p. 147). Lanham: Scarecrow Press.