Tag Archives: Public Libraries

Reflecting the lives of Aboriginal Women in Canadian Public Library Collection Development

Reviewed By: Jessica Bell, Allaxandra Guillen, Shana Hay, Myka Menard

Link to article: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/1245

Article Synopsis
This paper outlines the reasons why Canadian libraries need to develop collections that include accurate and informative resources by, about, and for Aboriginal women in Canada. By discussing the various challenges and successes experienced by collections staff as they seek to supplement this part of their collections, library staff have had the opportunity to see how traditional classification and outdated materials (that focus on mainly negative issues like addictions and incarceration) can prevent discovery by promoting the narrative of the majority over that of the minority. To this end, the author devotes a considerable amount of space to advising on various available resources and providing connections to those resources for further exploration. This paper is Canadian, and though it is speaking directly to Canadian library professionals, because of the proximity between countries the author reminds us that any proposed collection must take into account the experience of Indigenous groups in both Canada and the U.S. The United States and Canada share a border, but these borders are not the same as the Indigenous nations that came before it. Therefore, many of the Indigenous people struggling in Canada are from the same tribes as those struggling in the United States. Essentially, public libraries must establish themselves as spaces of inclusion- all users should see themselves represented in the library and this takes acknowledgement and commitment on part of the LIS professional and the institution they represent.

Core Research Questions
This articles attempts to answer three core research questions:
How can Canadian libraries provide a better understanding of the lives of Aboriginal women in Canada?
How can Canadian libraries develop a core collection of materials by, for, and about Aboriginal women that “accurately reflects and affirms their lived experiences,” (2010, P. 2)?
How can Canadian libraries become more inclusive and welcoming for Aboriginal women?

The author conducted research to find credible sources that provide information about Aboriginal women in Canada, which is listed in Table 1 (2010, P.4-6). These sources were used to create some recommended resources that Canadian libraries could include in their collection. The authors resources contain a list of major authors, key nonfiction titles, and important journals and magazines. The author notes that these lists are only meant to be starting points. Over time, new authors and works will need to be added to library collections.

Findings and Conclusions
It is important to develop a library collection that reflects the “diversity and complexity of Aboriginal women in Canada,” (2010, P. 26). One of the most important roles of public libraries is to provide their communities with access to accurate, credible information. Developing a library collection that is accurate and respectful of Aboriginal women will help dispel racist stereotypes and expand the community’s understanding of Aboriginal people. While libraries have started to include works that more accurately reflect the lives and perspectives of Aboriginal women, the author finds that more work needs to be done. Some steps Kelly notes still need to be taken include: “compiling a representation of resources and works being used and created by Inuit women… and most importantly a better understanding of how libraries engage with Aboriginal women so that any changes made truly reflect what they want and expect from their public libraries,” (2010, P.25-26). In short, people want to see themselves reflected in the libraries collection.

What Can American Libraries Learn?
The population of the United States is incredibly diverse, and each community has unique needs that libraries must identify to be able to serve their community effectively. By assessing global practices and tailoring them to the needs of their community, American libraries have the opportunity to design services for their diverse populations. This can be achieved through efforts to develop culturally sensitive collections and programs, especially in consideration of celebrating minorities; not just identifying problems, shortcomings, or stereotypes. The demographics of marginalized groups are different for each library’s community, but the practice of representing minority voices in a collection can be applied universally. Libraries in the United States can take cues from countries like Canada, which is pushing to not only preserve indigenous knowledge, but also to make that knowledge more broadly available to indigenous and non-indigenous community members alike. This practice can be further expanded to the collection of materials representative of any minority group.
Creating a welcoming environment for all community members, especially those belonging to a minority group, is also a universal concern for libraries to address. Libraries should be for the entire community, not just certain parts of it; unfortunately, past and present institutionalized practices can instill a sense of exclusion for marginalized groups. As global efforts seek to become more inclusive in their materials and services, American libraries can also actively engage their minority community members to let them know they are welcomed in, and valued at, their facilities.

Works Cited
Kelly, B. (2011). Reflecting the Lives of Aboriginal Women in Canadian Public Library
Collection Development. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and
Information Practice and Research, 5(2). Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v5i2.1245

Places for all? Cape Town’s public library services to gays and lesbians

Reviewed By: Brianna Anderson, Jennifer Mays, Julie Smith, Michael Vinyard

Link to article: https://doaj.org/article/4d9eab3dcad54d41849d504a8aafb9df

Synopsis and Research Questions

Hart and Mfazo (2010) found that most of the research and literature on public library service for the LGBT community was done in North America. Because South Africa has a history of struggling to overcome discrimination, the authors saw the need for research on the topic specific to this geographic area. They also found that the LGBT community tended to be overlooked as a minority group with specific needs. Their goals were to determine librarians’ awareness of information needs and how well libraries met those needs.

The research project had three distinct questions. The first was whether or not gay and lesbian library users should be considered a special user group with particular information and reading needs. Second, they wanted to know if public library staff were aware of the human rights issues surrounding services to the LGBT community. Lastly, they wanted to know if the public libraries in South Africa were providing for the special needs of the LGBT community through their collections and information services.


To help answer the first research question, the authors performed a literature review. Answering the remaining two questions involved looking at the collection development policy for the library system and conducting a survey composed of four sections administered to the main librarian responsible for branch collection development at each branch.

The first three survey segments included personal information about the respondent, professional details regarding awareness of the collection development policy and criteria used to make selections, and questions regarding information services. In the fourth segment, the Likert scale was used to help the authors examine the personal views of librarians regarding the provision of resources and services to the LGBT community and how these views may impact library service.

Findings and Conclusions

While the authors concluded from their literature review that the “professional, philosophical and research literature” (Hart & Mfazo, 2010, p. 106) considers gays and lesbians a special user group, the survey of 69 Cape Town librarians revealed that only 55% “consciously consider” (p.103) this group when developing their collections.  Even though 79% agree that access for the gay and lesbian community is a human rights issue and 91.5% are aware of policies that mandate a diverse collection, only 29% of librarians who responded agree that an explicit statement should be made in the policy for this user group.  Thus, the authors concluded that overall, the librarians do not consider gays and lesbians a special user group.

The authors describe the findings on how Cape Town libraries meet the needs of gays and lesbians as “spotty” and suggest “librarians’ prejudices might affect services to LGBT people” (Hart & Mfazo, 2010, p. 107). Opinion regarding the provision of services was dependent on size and location of the library.  Only 15% of librarians agreed that the needs of gays and lesbians are met at the city and regional libraries, but 33% of community librarians believed they were meeting needs.  Services were provided in some locations but not the majority, and in many categories, the number of libraries that practice inclusion of gays and lesbians in their regular services is woefully inadequate.  Only 6 of the 69 responding librarians stated that they have community information and pamphlet files for gays and lesbians while 55% of those that have display boards dedicate space to gay and lesbian information.  Librarians in charge of collection development even admit to rejecting LGBT literature based on the perception that it is pornographic. The actual purchase of LGBT books averaged less than one per year and only three librarians reported subscribing to an LGBT magazine or newsletter.  Half of the librarians did not buy any materials for LGBT patrons and 23 of the librarians either could not or would not answer the question, which is contrary to how the librarians said they consider gays and lesbians in collection development.  Their acknowledgement of collection policy did not translate to purchasing decisions. Finally, only 20 librarians reported being approached with LGBT related questions within the last year but due to inadequate study design, the authors could not conclude whether the librarians were able to adequately help those patrons.  The low number of queries may be due to librarians’ lack of awareness of gay and lesbian information needs and the perception by gays and lesbians that librarians are not aware of their needs.

Questions and Future Research

There are a number of areas where future research will be necessary to have a more complete picture of the needs of LGBT patrons in Cape Town and whether those needs are being met. Hart and Mfazo (2010) state that, as a public service and embodying the South African Constitution, libraries should provide “service impartially, fairly, equitably, and without bias” (p. 99). Yet, as the study shows, these are not being provided. The survey showed that the librarians in the Cape Town Library System are self-censoring LGBT items from the library by not buying them, seeking them out, or displaying information regarding the LGBT community. This leads to one of the biggest questions: How can Cape Town, and similar libraries, use this information to change their systems to create an equitable LGBT collection that integrates and displays that collection alongside the existing one?

One of the biggest omissions in the research is on the LGBT community itself. The research conducted is merely on the library system serving this community with very little information about the LGBT community. It would be helpful to know what the LGBT community thinks about the Cape Town Library System’s collection and if they think it is pertinent or helpful to them. How do they view the library and librarians? Do they feel their information needs are being met?

This leads to another area that may need future research: what kinds of information does this community seek and are they finding what they need? An answer to this would help close the gap in the library services. The information that Hart and Mfazo (2010) present is a bit vague in regards to which kinds of materials and literature are in demand. Are these fiction, non-fiction, periodicals? It would be interesting to research what information and materials are physically on the shelf, instead of relying on the answers in a survey. In addition, for the libraries that do include LGBT materials, it would be beneficial to know where they are finding these materials and if these vendors could be put on the list of provincial selectors. Currently, many of the libraries in Cape Town are buying less than one LGBT book a year but the study couldn’t conclusively pinpoint as to why this is the case except to say that it was the librarians’ choice. Are there other factors involved besides possible self-censoring by librarians? One librarian commented that “the Provincial library provides material but no-one has ever suggested buying specifically for the gay community from COCT [City of Cape Town]” (Hart and Mfazo, 2010, p. 105). Perhaps this is a system-wide issue and not just a problem in branch libraries. Finally, this study focused on gays and lesbians, but the LGBTQ+ community is a broad of spectrum of people and further investigation on the variety of needs is warranted.


Unfortunately, Hart and Mfazo’s research showed that there is a definite gap in public library services to the LGBT communities of Cape Town. The library system has a lot of work to do to provide equitable services to their LGBT community. A review of library collection development policies may warrant the addition of purchasing and service considerations for this specific community. Librarians and staff would benefit from professional development and diversity training. This training would enable librarians and staff to better understand the need for information services for all people, as mandated by the South African Constitution.

Hart, G. and Mfazo, N. (2010). Places for all? Cape Town’s public library services to gays and lesbians. South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science, 76(2), 98-108. DOI: 10.7553/76-2-73

Library 2.0, information and digital literacies in the light of the contradictory nature of Web 2.0

Reviewed By: Sherrie Bullard, Michael Hober, Heidi Scheidl, Kayleigh Septer

Link to article: http://www.webology.org/2010/v7n2/a78.html

Article synopsis and core research question(s)

In this article, Koltay (2010) attempts to find connections and differences between professional and amateur content generation in Web 2.0 environments. The paper begins with the hypothesis “that raising awareness of differences between professional content and content produced by the amateurs of Web 2.0 is of extraordinary importance in providing adequate library services, be it in the form of offering content services or information literacy (IL) and digital literacy (DL) education” (Koltay, 2010, para. 1). It is also argued that while technological developments are interesting and libraries enjoy being as close to the cutting edge as they can get, it must continue to be the user’s needs that determine the adoption of new technology.

The article begins by looking at Web 2.0 technology and why it is so commercially successful. It also examines Web 2.0’s connection to amateurism due to the ease with which users can participate. This is contrasted to the professional and educational uses that Web 2.0 provides for librarians and libraries. The importance of IL and DL in different contexts is also considered, such as the importance of engaging in formal IL instruction in academic library settings where an analytic style of information seeking and use is appropriate. However, in public library settings it is more acceptable to facilitate a pragmatic style of information use.

Methods used to answer the research question

The research method that Koltay used to answer the research question is desk research, also known as secondary research. This research method is the gathering and analyzing of information that is readily available in print or published on the internet. Secondary research has been proven to be very time and cost effective because it helps to obtain the large spectrum of information in a shorter span of time and for a lesser cost than primary research.

Many different types of sources were used to find literature that the author could use to support the research question. Peer reviewed articles from professional journals and professional associations that were in print and online and professional blogs were used to find literature. Most of the information is from the United States. However, the author used a few articles of information from other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Italy and Hungary. The author uses these diverse sources to try to find a balance view of Web 2.0. Although, the author does point out that having a “critical attitude helps to identify the most useful tools that can serve library goals and is the basis for providing adequate information literacy and digital literacy education” (Koltay, 2010, para. 2).

The author set out to investigate the main features of Web 2.0 that contributes to its commercial success, the question of amateurism, and the difference between amateur and professional contents. The role of amateur and professional content in library services, IL and DL and in Library 2.0 were also examined.

Findings & conclusions

As previously mentioned, the purpose of this article was “to prove the hypothesis that raising awareness of differences between professional content and content produced by the amateurs of Web 2.0 is of extraordinary importance in providing adequate library services…” (Koltay, 2010, para. 1). The author understands that “there is no single literacy that is appropriate for all people or for one person over all their lifetime” (Koltay, 2010, para. 31). He also realizes that literacies are changing and require “constant updating of concepts and competencies in accordance with the changing circumstances of the information environment” (Koltay, 2010, para. 31). It should also be noted that when public libraries use Web 2.0 as a service, that the tools that are a part of Web 2.0 “can and should be used for different purposes according to differential user needs” (Koltay, 2010, para. 32).

The concept that patrons should have is an awareness of whether they are using the Web 2.0 services for a scholarly need, or purely for entertainment should also be emphasized. Ultimately Koltay (2010) finds that “…the pragmatic style is compatible with amateurism, thus has a place in public library environments, while the analytic style is the ideal for academic users and literacies geared toward their needs should show preferences to this information style” (para. 30). Public libraries have so much to offer their patrons, and by providing their patrons with the knowledge of how to correctly analyze and critically evaluate these tools can prove to be not only beneficial for the library as digital and information literacy teachers, but for the patrons themselves.

Unanswered questions you have and what future research might address. &
A thoughtful attempt to answer your own questions

Upon evaluating this article, one major question came to mind: What are the most useful tools and how might librarians use them in order to assist users in creating more analytical and professional Web 2.0 content? If libraries make use of Web 2.0 tools, they have the opportunity to develop a presence in the every-day lives of their users by connecting and sharing via various online networks.

Some useful Web 2.0 tools might include: blogs (WordPress, Blogger), wikis, podcasts, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn), image sharing (Instagram, Flickr), and video sharing (YouTube, Vimeo).

Libraries have the opportunity to enhance IL and DL competencies within the user community by way of distributing tutorials using Web 2.0 tools for construction and delivery. This activity might promote more professional Web 2.0 content from their users. Tutorials can be cross-promoted on various social networking pages associated with the library.

Libraries might host IL and DL screencasts on video sharing sites and share the link across other sites, or create interactive tutorials, such as Guide on the Side (GOTS), in order to assist users with navigating virtual resources while they are utilizing them. GOTS offer a valuable constructivist learning experience. Topics might be: tips for searching databases, evaluate sources for bias, make a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, use social media and exhibit “Netiquette”, ethical use of information (copyright and fair-use), guide to web resources that assist children in developing early literacy skills. These activities can help librarians instruct users on IL and digital DL while using Web 2.0 tools.

For further thought: As we move toward Library 3.0, how might the further development of the Semantic Web (or Web 3.0) and its environment of linked data change and enhance the way in which the library can integrate itself into the daily lives of its user-base in terms of information literacy instruction?

Young Adult Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Non-Fiction Collections and Countywide Anti-Discrimination Policies

By Lyn Betts, Melissa Feinberg, Lucy Johnson-Sims, Angela Larkin Crosher, Julia Wells

Link to article: http://ojs.gc.cuny.edu/index.php/urbanlibrary/article/view/1247

Post by: Lyn Betts, Melissa Feinberg, Lucy Johnson-Sims, Angela Larkin Crosher, Julia Wells

The Background
Although the American Library Association Bill of Rights states that “library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves” (ALA, 1996), LGBTQ populations continue to be underserved by public library collections, particularly in the Southeastern United States. When “30% of teens [cannot] find LGBTQ-related materials they want…and only 20% [feel] safe from harassment in their local public libraries”(Martin & Murdock, 2007), you know something needs to change.

Glossary of Terms
Collection: Only non-fiction appropriate for the young adult reader is included in the term “collection.”

Gender: Distinct from biological sex; gender is a person’s social and cultural expression of masculinity, femininity, or some combination thereof. A person’s gender identity/expression may or may not match his/her biological sex.

LGBTQ: An acronym for lesbians (females who are attracted to other females emotionally and erotically), gay males (males who are attracted to other males emotionally and erotically), bisexuals (who may be attracted to both males and females), trans young adults (whose biological sex is different from their physical, emotional, and psychological expression of sex) or questioning young adults (who are seeking more information about gender, gender identity, and sexuality).

Young Adult: A person between the ages of 12 and 18.(p. 4)

The Study
Stringer-Stanback set out to test two hypotheses:
1. Counties that have LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances will be more likely to have YA LGBTQ non-fiction materials in their public libraries.
2. Counties that do not have LGTBQ anti-discrimination ordinances will be less likely to have YA LGBTQ non-fiction materials in their public libraries.

Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia were chosen because it is not illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or (with the exception of some counties in Florida) their gender identity.

The focus was on the four most populous counties in each of the five states, and if they had anti-discrimination ordinances. To find this information, the author looked to newspaper articles, county websites and national organizations.

With a list of twenty-three non-fiction books (culled from Lambda Literary Foundation Awards, ALA Stonewall Awards, and an ALA LGBTQ Roundtable bibliography), the author searched public library catalogs in each of the counties, to find out how many of these titles were held by each library.

Why include only non-fiction books? Although Stringer-Stanback acknowledges that fiction titles are also important, the young adult LGBTQ community is also looking for “real stories by real people” (Martin & Murdock, 2007).

There was no relationship between anti-discrimination ordinances and the volume of LGBTQ material.
More demographically diverse counties had more LGBTQ titles.

Thoughts and Questions

Demographics and Budgets
1. Budgets of the libraries were not taken into account. Even though the counties were chosen by total population, budgets of each library system may vary widely between the counties.
2. Libraries with no or few members of a community may, by necessity (financial for example), have smaller collections of items that are for that community. Knowing the demographics of the community (how many members identify as LGBTQ) is valuable to knowing if a community is being adequately served.
3. What are the socio-economic and education levels of the library communities in the study? Could these factors affect collection development?
4. What are the religious beliefs of the counties surveyed? Would these demographics play a role?

The Materials

1. Only twenty-three non-fiction titles were searched for in the catalogs. Could there have been a larger collection of both fiction and non-fiction relevant to LGBTQ youth that were not found in this limited search?
2. Data suggests that more YA LGTBQ non-fiction titles were collected in the year 2000. What factors contributed to this leap in collection development during this particular year?
3. The authors state that public libraries should provide more non-fiction materials to young adult LGTBQ readers in the South. By what criteria (focus on what issues) will selections be made?
4. LGTBQ populations are not a homogenous group. Different needs require different information and material choice.

Ideas for Future Studies

1. Look at the LGTBQ demographics of each county and whether libraries are meeting the needs of these populations.
2. Look at the socio-economic, educational and religious demographics of each community and how these may correlate to libraries’ LGBTQ collections.
3. Do a follow-up study on any changes in these counties. Have there been any other counties that have passed anti-discrimination ordinances since the article was published? Has anything changed in South Carolina since none of the four counties had passed anti-discrimination ordinances at the time of this study? Has anything changed in these counties since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states in June, 2015?
4. Study the entire collection of LGBTQ-related materials in each public library: fiction, non-fiction – separated by age level. Information needs will differ greatly between 12 year-olds and 18 year-olds.

American Library Association Council. (1996). Library bill of rights. Retrieved from:

Martin, H. J., and Murdock, J. R. (2007). Serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning teens: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.