Reviewed By: Jessica Bell, Allaxandra Guillen, Shana Hay, Myka Menard
Link to article: https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/1245
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this part of their collections, library staff have had the opportunity to see how traditional classification and outdated materials (that focus on mainly negative issues like addictions and incarceration) can prevent discovery by promoting the narrative of the majority over that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.
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