Written by: Marisa Lee

Our Fall 2022 program focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives in libraries continued on October 17 with a conversation with SJSU iSchool faculty member, Dr. Michele Villagran, whose research centers on cultural intelligence, diversity and inclusion. In 2014, Dr. Villagran founded CulturalCo, LLC, a consultancy that helps businesses and organizations with cultural competency and conflict management. 

Dr. Villagran shared her own journey in public and law librarianship and into academia, starting with her first job in public libraries at the age of 15. She obtained multiple masters degrees and a doctorate while working full-time; she advises students to discover their own learning styles and patterns, and to map their way through school based on when they can best focus on coursework while attending to other obligations such as family and work. She expressed gratitude for colleagues who keep her accountable and support her work, especially through unexpected situations like having COVID.

Dr. Villagran discussed definitions of and the problems associated with cultural competency, the lifelong journey of becoming culturally competent and the role of cultural humility. LIS students and professionals should take note of language used in the standards and guidelines of their library associations. What terms do they use around DEI, and how are they evolving? Within law librarianship, Dr. Villagran noted that mandated bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism training for law students was only just approved by the American Bar Association in February 2022.  

Her consultancy practice, CulturalCo, LLC, started with her own deep interest in cultural competence. For those looking to build their own businesses or to find their space within the LIS profession, Dr. Villagran advised looking at hobbies and personal interests. Doing a skills assessment will help identify your sweet spot, and starting with something like blogging for a student chapter can begin to build your body of work [ed’s note: contact our SLASC blog team!] While it’s important to be engaged with LIS professional organizations, Dr. Villagran also makes a point of being involved with non-LIS organizations. She has recently joined SIETAR USA, for practitioners, academics, and students engaged in intercultural education. Interested in viewing the entirety of Dr. Villagran’s SLASC program? The recording is available on the SLASC YouTube channel.


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