Developing global citizens

Oak Park is a community committed to diversity and developing global citizens, which is why it is so important for the library to provide related educational opportunities. In addition, research has shown that talking about diversity and reading books about cultures different from our own has its own tangible benefits.

“We live in a time and place of intercultural conflicts and misunderstandings,” said Multicultural Learning Librarian Naomi Priddy. In response, the Multicultural Collection addresses: 

  • EXPLORATION: We can learn about other cultures, both past and present.
  • IDENTITY: We can learn about our own cultures, and understand how our cultural lenses affect the way we see and interact with the world.
  • EMPATHY: Our ultimate goal is to build intercultural empathy, to understand cultures in their own terms, to explore our commonalities, and learn from our differences.

What is the Multicultural Collection?

Most of the collection, housed at the Dole Branch Library and including thousands of items—artifacts, traditional clothing, games, books, posters, music, and films from around the world—is available for library cardholders to borrow for up to four weeks. 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.

Why objects? 

Cultural artifacts are powerful tools for learning about a culture in new and different ways. They’re engaging and hands-on, giving you a direct, tactile connection with the creators. They spark curiosity and are accessible: anyone can learn something with an object.

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How the collection was born, and keeps growing

Initially 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. The library and Oak Park Elementary School District 97 began collaborating earlier that year to expand and give more access to unique resources focusing on diversity and world cultures for students, teachers, parents, and library cardholders.

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