Developing global citizens

“More and more, we’re a global society. Research has shown that talking about diversity and reading books about cultures different from our own has tangible benefits,” said Kathleen Spale, Assistant Manager of Materials Services. “We know the interest is there in our community, and not just for children. We’ve heard through Harwood Community Conversations, and from many responses to this summer’s One Book, One Oak Park program, that Oak Parkers want more resources and opportunities to talk about diversity."

“Oak Park is a community that cares about developing global citizens, and that’s why it’s so important for the library to provide educational opportunities," she said. "With this collection, these opportunities will be numerous.”

The library and Oak Park Elementary School District 97 began collaborating last year to expand and increase access to resources focusing on diversity and world cultures for students, teachers, parents, and library cardholders.

Established more than 30 years ago by District 97 and housed at Julian Middle School until early fall 2016, the Multicultural Collection has moved to the library. Most of the collection, which includes thousands of items—artifacts, traditional clothing, games, books, posters, music, and films from around the world—are available for cardholders to borrow from Dole Branch, the collection's new home base.

More fragile or rare items, such as a 6-foot-tall statue inspired by the sarcophagus of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen, an Aztec calendar stone, and straw artwork from Afghanistan, are on display or in-house use only. 

Expanding access to memorable learning opportunities

“Thanks to this partnership, the community will enjoy greater access to the collection’s valuable resources,” said District 97 Superintendent Carol Kelley. “It will also further foster critical conversations about topics such as race, ethnicity, and diversity, and help teach people of all ages about the importance of cultural sensitivity, tolerance, civic action, and mutual respect.”

The initiative provides needed classroom space at the middle school and gives future stewardship of the collection to the library. And with a dedicated budget and staff resources and expertise, the library plans to expand the collection.

“Integrating this special collection into our public library means it will be more accessible for families to learn together about different cultures around the world," said Spale. "Having access to unique, three-dimensional artifacts—tactile items families can interact with—will create memorable opportunities for learning, especially with children.”