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Unsettling the future by uncovering the past: Decolonizing academic libraries and librarianship

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Canada is at an interesting point in its history, where the atrocious assimilation practices that were in place until the mid-1990s are being acknowledged in the hopes for a better relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, and the Canadian Federation of Library Associations/Federation Canadienne des Associations de Bibliotheques (CFLA/FCAB)’s report from its Truth and Reconciliation Committee (n.d.) have an emphasis on education, to address the changes needed. Where do academic libraries fit into this? I first discuss the colonial history of libraries, as extensions of education institutions, followed by a look at how library curriculum falls short in preparing students for working with Indigenous peoples and items. Finally I examine how libraries can decolonize their services. Canadian academic libraries are beyond the point of it being acceptable that staff are ill-equipped to serve Indigenous students and faculty.
This paper was written for LIS 592 (Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibilty) of the Master of Library Studies online program at the University of Alberta, in the fall 2018 semester.In March 2019 it won the Alvin M. Schrader Intellectual Freedom Prize at SLIS.
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