ICCPR Article 27 as a Basis for Multilingual Library Services: Implications of Treaty Implementation in the US Context


In response to a rapidly diversifying population, American libraries have invested considerable effort in improving collections and services in non-English languages. For the past decade, the American Library Association’s Guidelines for the Development and Promotion of Multilingual Collections and Services and its Guidelines for Library Services to Spanish-Speaking Library Users have represented the aspirations of the professional community to achieve best practices in this area. At the same time, a growing interest in critically aligning librarianship with human rights work has generated rich reflection on the application of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Largely overlooked in this process, however, has been the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which, in contrast to the UDHR, is legally binding on states parties and has been ratified by the United States. This article examines the implications of ICCPR Article 27’s guarantees of cultural and language rights for minorities on the provision of non-English library collections and services, arguing that the treaty provides a legal foundation for library advocacy to support the work envisioned in the ALA’s guideline documents.



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