Decolonizing Libraries: C-EBLIP Journal Club, November 16, 2017

By Candice Dahl
University of Saskatchewan Library

Decolonizing Libraries (extended abstract)
B. Rosenblum
http://brianrosenblum.net/2015/02/01/decolonizing_libraries/

The Searching Circle: Library Instruction for Tribal College Students
L. Roy, J. Orr, & L. Gienger
European Conference on Information Literacy, pp. 21-32, 2016.

The University of Saskatchewan Library is currently undertaking two strategic action items focusing on Indigenous students. November’s C-EBLIP Journal Club readings were selected with these initiatives in mind. Rosenblum’s extended abstract exposes ways in which libraries (only sometimes unwittingly) support practices of colonization; and Roy, Orr, and Gienger highlight the need to cultivate awareness and understanding of Indigenous worldviews so that they are represented in library services and resources.

The discussion focused on big picture topics such as difference and equality, social and cultural biases, and foundational values of librarianship. Ultimately we considered how libraries can support decolonizing efforts while still recognizing that issues fundamental to reconciliation – such as inherent rights, land, etc. – are much bigger than libraries. We noted that imperatives for change will have to come from a diverse mix of sectors, leaders, and perspectives.

Participants also spoke of challenges facing them as practitioners, such as teaching students to use inadequate and offensive subject headings to help them find materials on Indigenous topics; working with citation styles that are ill-suited to cite traditional sources; responding to writing that doesn’t conform to customary academic standards; and using instructional materials that advance colonial perspectives of authority.

A theme throughout the discussion was the idea of making and/or giving up “space” – be it digital, physical, or structural – for indigenous voices and perspectives to establish a place in libraries and universities so that we might genuinely embody diverse worldviews and exemplifications of knowledge, ability, and success. First we wondered if doing so would rock the foundations of librarianship, and we said yes. Then we asked the question, “If universities were treated primarily as places to learn and enrich minds rather than as places to receive job training, would it be easier to create this kind of space for diversity?” The answer to this question may also be yes, but there is no doubt that this is only one small piece of the decolonization puzzle.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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