Cultural Humility

As Tervalon & Murray-García (1998) argue, a pitfall of cultural competence is the traditional notion of ‘competence’ as an endpoint: mastery of knowledge that can be assessed through quantitative measures. In fact, cultural competence programs often include lists of characteristics of various cultures, suggesting that successful interactions with people from those cultures is a matter of mastering the correct formula: Interacting with a German? Be direct, and on time. With a Native American? Avoid eye-contact and expect long silences.

This approach may cause us to overlook the individuals involved in an interaction and the context in which it occurs -- treating ‘culture’ as something innate and undifferentiated. It is also of limited use in library contexts where typically far more identities are represented than can be ‘mastered’ and any individual’s background cannot be assumed. In this webinar, we will look at the concept of cultural humility and the promise it holds for libraries.

Cultural humility is a practice of self-reflection on how one’s own background and expectations impact a situation, of openness to others’ determining the relevance of their own identities to any given situation, and of committing to redress the effects of power imbalances.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Participants will be able to describe the concept of cultural humility.
  2. Participants will be able to articulate differences between cultural humility and cultural competence.
  3. Participants will be able to identify strengths and weaknesses of cultural humility and cultural competence in library contexts.

Who Should Attend

  • Public Library
  • Academic Library
  • School Library
  • Public Services
  • Educators
  • Students


Sarah Kostelecky is the Education Librarian at the University of New Mexico. She previously worked at UNM in the Indigenous Nations Library Program and has also been a children’s services librarian at the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Libraries. Sarah’s research interests focus on supporting underserved patrons which is informed by her previous work at the Institute of American Indian Arts (a tribal college) and current position at UNM, a Hispanic-serving institution.Sarah was a Spectrum Scholar and received her MLS from the University of Arizona. She is a tribal member of Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico.

David Hurley, Lori Townsend and Sarah Kostelecky presented on the topic at the National Diversity in Libraries conference and to the faculty of the University of New Mexico College of Library and Learning Sciences. David Hurley has also facilitated a discussion of cultural humility for the board of directors of a food co-operative. David has presented online at the SpringyCamp Virtual Conference and as part of the San José State University Circle School of Library and Information Science Circle of Learning Workshop. Lori has presented online for the AMICAL Consortium and the ACRL Student Learning and Information Literacy Committee, the latter webinar had over 200 attendees.




How to Register

View the recorded webinar at

Tech Requirements

  • Access to the internet.