Multi-Dimensional Cultural Safety in Academic Libraries
Dudley, Michael. 2019. “Multi-Dimensional Cultural Safety in Academic Libraries”. Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship 4 (February), 1-25.
Over the past decade, the field of Library and Information Studies (LIS) has promoted cultural competence as a means of improving services to multicultural or traditionally underserved populations. However, critical LIS scholars have noted that cultural competence and diversity are viewed predominately as a matter of skill acquisition on the part of the library worker, rather than as one that involves a critique of the forces of structural racism, discrimination, and colonialism in society. In response, this paper proposes adapting frameworks from other professions for the library context: Multi-Dimensional Cultural Competence (MDCC) from counselling psychology, and cultural safety (CS) from Indigenous nursing. The former views cultural competence in terms of diversity factors, components, and multiple levels of foci, while the second is premised in postcolonial understandings and respect for Indigenous knowledges. The proposed synthesis, Multi-Dimensional Cultural Safety (MDCS), is established by first identifying the epistemological and ideological shortcomings of cultural competence, focusing on the need for institutional critiques as well as a recognition of racialization and power structures. Next, the two existing frameworks are explained in terms of their origins, content, and professional contexts, noting how each addresses the shortcomings of cultural competence as well as each other’s shortcomings. The proposed framework is then elaborated upon in an LIS context and illustrated with hypothetical examples.