Libraries and Social Justice: Through an Indigenous Lens

Current faculty: Sandy Littletree

Description: This course explores social justice and critical librarianship through the lens of Indigenous librarianship and Indigenous systems of knowledge. Social justice work within the field of library and information Science (LIS) is diffuse and complex. It has been broadly interpreted as librarianship that benefits the greater good and emphasizes equal rights, inclusion, diversity, ethics, community engagement, and human rights. Librarians incorporating social justice in their practice might addresses racism, power, privilege, and critical perspectives as they work to help improve the quality of life of marginalized, underserved, and impoverished communities. However, the inclusion of Indigenous worldviews is rarely embraced as a window into social justice work in libraries.

As demonstrated in the literature and in practice by Indigenous scholars and librarians, Indigenous perspectives can inform justice-focused information literacy instruction, knowledge organization, ethics, community-building, programming, public services, as well as policies and protocols. Indigenous perspectives, steeped in the concepts of relationality and relational accountability, can guide LIS practitioners to have a better understanding of how we are related to each other, to the land, and to knowledge. This understanding can lead to a more robust commitment to reciprocity and accountability to the diverse communities we serve. Relationships energize the ways we interact with the world and the ways of knowing that emerge from those experiences.   

The class will address issues around power, colonization, and critical perspectives in LIS, but it will also invite LIS professionals to imagine ways of engaging with Indigenous perspectives and diverse perspectives in their service and practice. Through field trips, case studies, guided practice, cooperative learning, and reflection, students will gain an understanding of how Indigenous ways of knowing and the concepts of relationality can inform their practice as social justice focused information professionals.

Requirements: This course is open to all students regardless of their previous experience with Indigenous communities. Students are strongly encouraged to have read the course readings in advance.

Year taught: 2021