Tag Archives: LIS

Indigenous Initiatives and Information Studies: Unlearning in the Classroom

Reviewed By: Natalie Daily, Britten Kuckelman, and Hollie Locke

Link to article: https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/ijidi/article/view/32212

The Library and Information Science (LIS) field has historically operated from a colonial position with regard to Indigenous communities, which has often lead to overlooking Indigenous ways of knowledge (pg. 67-68). The origins of many LIS practices can be traced to Medieval Europe and are incompatible to Indigenous knowledge practices (pg. 69). Additionally, merely using the hiring process to address diversity in the LIS field is not enough if practices regarding how services are offered to diverse communities aren’t driven by cultural transformation (pg. 69). In order to encourage more effective LIS services for Canadian Indigenous communities, the authors of this paper designed a course to lead LIS students through the practice of unlearning that which is yoked to the colonial mindset. The authors detailed their goals for the course, the methods they utilized to achieve these goals, and in-depth reflection to analyze the success of their efforts. Ultimately, adopting a posture of humility allowed students to learn from their classmates and prepare themselves for working in service to diverse target communities.
Canada has an Indigenous community that makes up close to 5% of the total population of the country (Statistics Canada 2017). Recently, the country has been having a public reckoning over Indigenous issues through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and recent efforts by the government to acknowledge the “occupation of unceded land” and recognize the rights of Indigenous people to control their own records (pg. 81). The course described in this paper offers a guideline for how to embed cultural competency in LIS coursework in a country that is demonstrating how to take the lead in integrating the Indigenous experience into society.
According to the authors, the purpose of the course was to cultivate a responsive learning environment where students could develop skills that are critical for work after graduation by providing strategies for support of Indigenous information needs. The primarily aim of this research was to determine the effectiveness of the pedagogical approaches, learning tools, and course materials that were utilized for this course (p. 72). Was this course successful in achieving its goal to prepare students to work with Indigenous peoples in support of ongoing developments in Indigenous culture, languages, governance, legislation, and litigation?
In order to assess how successful this course was in achieving its goals, the authors decided to draw from their own reflections on the design and teaching of the class rather than from the students’ input. According to the authors, the analytic process was “iterative” with both their “insights” and “humility” as educators developing throughout the course (p. 72). The authors followed a pedagogical practice that included developing an iterative planning and reflection process each week with face-to-face meetings where assignments and activities were discussed. Major themes of the course included Positionality & Awareness, Prior Knowledge & Unlearning, Reflective Practice, and Cultivating Humility (p. 73). Throughout the course, students were assigned weekly, non-graded reflective writing prompts, group work, and anonymous surveys (p. 74). In order to develop personal awareness and positionality within the framework of the course, the authors found, through trial and error, that utilizing collaborative tools that allowed the students to respond to the material with anonymity provided students with the opportunity to voice their concerns about making mistakes or offending classmates. For each of the major topics, the authors provided a lesson to the students and an activity that supported the advancement of the skills discussed. For example, during the unit of Prior Knowledge & Unlearning, the authors focused on Indigenous history and contemporary issues and encouraged students to question and potentially “unlearn” professional assumptions and biases towards Indigenous peoples (p. 76). Students were then assigned a reading activity about past federal policies that impacted Indigenous communities, which corresponded with the lesson (p. 76).
The authors struggled with the theme of prior knowledge and unlearning throughout the course. They found that students lacked basic knowledge of the history of settler initiatives in Canada and struggled with how much of it to teach during a masters level course (p. 76). On top of these knowledge gaps, they struggled to challenge students to unlearn the very core skills the students were taught in their professional programs. “The helping narrative, that part of being a professional is knowing what help is needed, bumps up against some of the ideas we wanted to critically engage with, and in some ways is counterintuitive to the concept of professional and intellectual humility” (p. 77). While the authors did not indicate any successful class activities, they identified a new way to frame this theme earlier on in the course for future classes.
Through multiple iterations of the coursework, the authors designed activities to provide students with the opportunity to critically reflect on and question normal practices in their profession. To this end, the authors provided the students with real life scenarios and asked students to strategize solutions. The authors then provided students with a framework for addressing dilemmas to teach students how to engage with challenging situations. This activity allowed students to challenge what is considered normal ethical practices (p. 78). To introduce the final theme of humility to the students, the authors assigned course readings and videos and then gathered reflection on questions about humility within the profession. “Overwhelmingly the reflections identified intellectual, professional, and cultural humility as key things that students learned about and will carry forward with them” (p.79).
Canada is not alone in having a history that is shaped by its relationship with its Indigenous groups, and making a concerted effort to “unlearn” cultural constructs and implicit bias is a concept that has implications for societies with their own Indigenous groups. Additionally, many societies have other diversity issues related to their colonial pasts that tend to shape the way that certain groups are treated. Incorporating “unlearning” into formalized coursework for LIS students is a way to give credibility to the knowledge of oppressed and/or disenfranchised groups and how to best serve them. This coursework should focus on unlearning biases resulting from settler, colonial, or Western culture that can be harmful to Indigenous peoples’ and other minority groups’ ability to gain appropriate access to information resources and materials.

Nathan, L. P., & Perreault, A. (2018). Indigenous initiatives and information studies: Unlearning in the classroom. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 2(1-2). 67-85.

Statistics Canada. (2017, October 25). Aboriginal peoples in Canada: Key results from the 2016 Census. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/171025/dq171025a-eng.htm

Using the critical incident technique to evaluate the service quality perceptions of public library users: an exploratory study


Anna Ching-Yu Wong from Syracuse University conducted a research study evaluating the service quality of public libraries through the reports of participants who regularly use the library. The “critical incident technique” was used in gathering information from the participants. The critical incident technique is different from the traditional approach in surveying participants in that it relies upon actual events which offer insights of the subjects, rather as a blanket set of questions with a very limited number of open-ended questions. The critical incident technique has been verified by previous studies to be an effective research approach for user-centered studies in library science. This exploratory study further adds to the body of research surrounding the use of the critical incident technique in LIS by attempting to answer this question: is using the critical incident technique a good way to determine how serviceable a library is to its patrons? The study also focuses on public library services and evaluates participant’s positive or negative experiences at the library, attempting to answer the question: are patrons happy with the service quality at their public library?

Method of Research:

To answer both of these questions, emails and unstructured interviews were used to measure the experiences of eight frequent library visitors (aged 20-80) and data was conducted using SERVQUAL, a model that has been used by many libraries for evaluating their public services. The SERVQUAL model, developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in 1988, uses the patrons’ responses and categorizes them into the following domains in order to be evaluated later:

Tangible, effect of service: library staff attitudes, library collection and access

Reliability, the promised service; dependably and accurately

Responsiveness: The willingness to assist and provide prompt service to library users

Competence: Possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service

Courtesy: Respect and consideration of contact personnel

Credibility: Trustworthiness and honesty of the library staff

Security, library as a place: No risk

The process of the data went through two stages. First, the researcher sent out a message to participants, asking them to record the incidents — either negative or positive — while being given examples of standard critical incidents from other library users. After all of the surveyors’ responses were recorded, two coders classified them into categories and examined their validity (the degree of the agreement between two coders was over 95%), and the collected critical incidents were grouped into the seven categories listed above.


The participants of the study found online resources to be helpful because it was easy to locate materials and user friendly. The study shows that 48% found the resources available to be tangible considering how user-friendly the catalog is and also how patrons able to easily locate books. Based on the study and results of participants found that the public library is not reliable. In this particular category no participant provided a positive response about the reliability of library. Another category in which the library failed in is that of courtesy. Only one participant suggested the things that transpired within library showed a lack of respect for patrons. An example of such is people speaking loudly and library staff not having authority to change their behavior. Participants felt insecure about the library due to the number of homeless people surrounding the area panhandling. Activities such as this and patrons using profanity made participants feel unsafe.


The participants of the data is reliable considering they are regular users of the library. In order to conduct the study data was collected via email and in person interviews. The study shows that the library should create a safer, reliable, and courteous environment for patrons. In order to create a larger study and compare other libraries a large population should be considered. Also, further research and a diverse populations should be considered as well.
Results showed that positive incidents were slightly higher than negative ones. Also, women library users had more positive experiences than men.
The study also showed that even though participants resided in different states, their positive and negative incidents revealed similar situations.
Of 47 recorded incidents, library access issues accounted for more than one-third of all incidents, approximately 36.17% which represented 48% of the positive related critical incidents and 22.73% of the negative ones.

Unanswered questions/ Ideas for future research:

Clarification was needed as to how the participants were selected for this study? Was this the best sample of patrons that represent library users? How diverse was this sample? This study would benefit from a larger base of participants and consider including non-library users.
A clarifying point could be made to address the discrepancy to the statement of initially having 12 participants, but later stating that there were a total of 8. Did the drop in participants impact the results of 19 positive and 16 negative incidents, yet on the table provided it states 25 positive and 22 negative. While this study provided valuable information for public libraries, there needs to be transparency as to how the results were obtained.

Possible answers to these questions:

Perhaps selecting a non-user would give the researchers valuable input.
More patrons would have given the researchers more data to work with.
Replicating this test 2-4 times a year may provide more insight as to how patrons use the library and the services provided.