‘My mission is transmitting the folklore’: A volunteer’s story

Of all the Peruvian folk dances that Oak Park resident Kathy Valdivia has studied and taught, her favorite is the Huaylarsh.

It’s “a happy dance,” she says, one that recalls agricultural work and courtship among young people in the central Andean highlands of Peru, where Valdivia is originally from.

When Valdivia (pictured) moved to Oak Park 13 years ago, she brought along her professional expertise in Peruvian folk dances, clothing, and musical instruments. And since April, she’s been volunteering with the library’s Multicultural Collection as a researcher, providing context around artifacts and dispelling misconceptions. 

“My mission is transmitting the folklore from my country,” Valdivia says.

The Multicultural Collection at Dole Branch includes books for kids and adults, as well as objects like handmade textiles and dolls.

Interpreting the Multicultural Collection

The Multicultural Collection at Dole Branch is full of thousands of cultural resources that cardholders can check out. It includes artifacts like handmade textiles and dolls, as well as books, films, and music from around the world.

In 2016, the library took over the collection from Oak Park Elementary School District 97, where it had been used in classrooms for more than 30 years. 

“One of our goals is that the Multicultural Collection reflects Oak Park’s international community,” said Multicultural Learning Librarian Naomi Priddy in August. “And that members of the community play a role in interpreting the collection.”

Adding community knowledge

Valdivia, who uses Spanish-language sources in her research, has so far provided rich details around Peruvian artifacts, including musical instruments, pottery, toys, and dolls. With her research, we’ve fleshed out the object cards that accompany each artifact and tell their stories. 

Excerpt from object card

The dolls are her favorite, and she’s been able to tell us more about the clothing they wear, including one with an embroidered shawl and a hat that a woman from Cajamarca, in the northern Andean highlands, might wear on a Sunday or a special occasion.

“Her contributions have been a great model for highlighting community knowledge within the collection and ensuring that the collection reflects the community accurately and meaningfully,” Priddy said.