Suggested Readings on Diversity and Decolonization

by Lise Doucette
Assistant Librarian, University of Western Ontario

What role does the library have in addressing issues of privilege and oppression? What do we mean when we talk about diversity? How can libraries contribute to decolonization and reconciliation processes? I’ve raised these topics with colleagues at my own institution and beyond, garnering a range of responses from defensiveness and discomfort to thoughtful and critical conversation.

Learning through reading, listening, reflecting, and discussing is essential, and in this post I’ve compiled selected links and brief summaries of reports, conference keynotes, journal articles, blog posts, and books, which often have their own list of references or recommended readings. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts, as well as recommendations of other readings in the comments below.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Interrupting Whiteness is a book list put together by the Seattle Public Library to support their public programming on “What is the role that white people can play in dismantling white supremacy and its related oppressions?”
• Ithaka S&R’s 2017 report on Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity: Members of the Association of Research Libraries Employee Demographics and Director Perspectives details the results of an investigation on inclusion, equity, and diversity-related issues in staffing of academic libraries. Some of the findings demonstrate a significant lack of self-awareness – for example, libraries that are more racially homogenous than the average see themselves as more equitable and more inclusive than the overall library community, by a larger margin than the more diverse institutions.
• The 2017 ARL SPEC Kit on Diversity and Inclusion documents activities that ARL libraries are currently engaging in and provides materials related to staff development programs that foster an inclusive workplace and climate. It’s an updated and expanded version of the 2010 ARL SPEC Kit on Diversity Plans and Programs.
• Dave Hudson’s article On “Diversity” as Anti-Racism in Library and Information Studies: A Critique (Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies) challenges diversity as the dominant framework of anti-racism in library and information studies.
• Two books from the Litwin Books and Library Juice Press series on Critical Race Studies and Multiculturalism in LIS have been published – Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in Library and Information Science, edited by Gina Schlesselman-Tarango; and Teaching for Justice: Implementing Social Justice in the LIS Classroom, edited by Nicole A. Cooke and Miriam E. Sweeney.
• In the article White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS (In the Library With The Lead Pipe), April Hathcock examines how whiteness has “permeated every aspect of librarianship, extending even to the initiatives we claim are committed to increasing diversity.”

Decolonization, Indigenization, and Reconciliation

• The Canadian Federation of Library Associations published its Truth and Reconciliation Report and Recommendations in May, 2017, which includes recommendations for decolonizing practices in Access and Classification, Indigenous Knowledge Protection, Outreach and Services, and Decolonizing Libraries and Space.
• The two keynotes from the WILU 2017 conference are available to watch online: Appropriation or Appreciation: How to Engage Indigenous Literatures (Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair) and Librarians, wâhkôhtowin, and information literacy instruction: building kinship in research relationships (Jessie Loyer).
• The keynote from the Access 2017 conference is available to watch online: The trouble with access (Dr. Kimberley Christen). In her keynote, Dr. Christen examines “library and archives practices related to access in the context Indigenous sovereignty, reconciliation, and on-going struggles of decolonization.”
• In her blog post Beyond territorial acknowledgments, âpihtawikosisân discusses the increased presence of territorial acknowledgements in Canada and delves into the purpose and practice of territorial acknowledgements, and the spaces where they happen.
• In 100 Ways: Indigenizing & Decolonizing Academic Programs (aboriginal policy studies), Dr. Shauneen Pete provides a list of “ways to indigenize and decolonize your academic programs [that] is not meant to be prescriptive. This list provides suggestions to help deans and faculty begin to commit to greater levels of Indigenization in their program planning and delivery.”
• In Decolonization is not a metaphor (Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society), Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang note that the “easy adoption of decolonizing discourse by educational advocacy and scholarship, evidenced by the increasing number of calls to ‘decolonize our schools,’ or use ‘decolonizing methods,’ or, ‘decolonize student thinking,’ turns decolonization into a metaphor.” However, “Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools.”

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.