This Library Takes an Indigenous Approach to Categorizing Books

I recently came across the article “Transformative Praxis – Building spaces for Indigenous self-determination in libraries and archives” by Australian Indigenous archivist Kristen Thorpe.

She talks about working in traditional institutional contexts, her encounters with “traumatic and biased records and information,” and her role as an archivist in sitting with other Indigenous people as a supporter, contextualizing and parsing these records and taking on the anger and grief of people whose historical and continuing record has been systematically altered or erased.

She then outlines an actionable plan to create Indigenous user-friendly spaces in Australian libraries by consulting Indigenous catalogers and using Kaupapa Maori theory to guide organization.

Here is the link to her excellent article:

Reading her article led me to explore what work was being done by and for the Indigenous people on this continent to decolonize library and classification systems. After a little googling, I found the X̱wi7x̱wa Library.

The X̱wi7x̱wa (pronounced whei-wha) Library in British Columbia catalogs based on a newer version of the 1974 Brian Deer Classification System, a cataloging system built by Kanawhake librarian Brian Deer.

This cataloging system groups books by geographical area, so for example, books on coastal nations are in one section and northern nations in another.

The Brian Deer system also reflects tribes’ preferred, internal names versus the colonizer-imposed names under which material about each tribe is routinely cataloged in Dewey and LoC classification.

Acting Head Librarian Adolfo Tarango explained,“Westerners use their labels, so it makes tribes invisible. This is a way of reestablishing identity and saying these are our names and these our people.”

Additionally, the X̱wi7x̱wa librarians hope this library will be a welcoming learning experience for non-Indigenous users to understand the importance of decolonization for people impacted by the colonial bias of Western classification systems.

Owen Cobey – Info 653-01

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Posted in Cataloging, Classification, Libraries, Library, Uncategorized

by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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