A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Special Collections for Diverse Communities

by on January 31, 2013

With ever-varying populations, our libraries are challenged to build diverse collections that speak to our patrons’ experiences, reflect the demographics of our communities, and uplift our shared cultural narrative. At the end of 2012, a fellow Public Libraries Online contributor encouraged public librarians to tell the story of their libraries and to engage their patrons in building and sharing their libraries’ narratives.[i] As we engage our patrons to share their experiences at our libraries, we too must share their stories at the library through our collections.

Cultivating special collections that celebrate our diversity will create a legacy of cultural and ethnic history relevant to generations of patrons and useful to researchers studying the diverse cultural landscape of American cities and towns. South Florida libraries that serve a community rich with various the multiethnic, multicultural, and immigrant populations are examples of how some libraries are bridging the gap between community narratives and library collections. The large Cuban exile and immigrant community is represented in various university libraries in Miami including the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection, Barry University Library’s Pedro Pan Archives, and various special collections at Florida International University. Similarly, Haitian and Caribbean materials are collected at the Digital Library of the Caribbean, also at Florida International University. These collections are accessible to the public either on-site (some cater to walk-ins and others are by appointment only) or through digital access. Area public libraries have also worked to archive and steward special collections for South Florida’s diverse populations. The African American Cultural Research Center in Broward County and the North Dade Regional Library in Miami are both public libraries that hold archives relevant to the African-American experience in South Florida.

[i] Amber Mussman, “Telling the Story of the Public Library,” Public Libraries Online (blog), December 27, 2012, https://publiclibrariesonline.org/2012/12/telling-the-story-of-the-public-library/