Accepted Paper:

has pdf download The decolonization process: workflows and best practices for the collection of African materials and literature in American university libraries  

Author:

Joanneke Elliott (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Paper Short Abstract:

This study aims to contribute to a better understanding of the ongoing efforts to decolonize university libraries across the United States and to establish a platform for sharing best practices among library professionals.

Paper long abstract:

There is a growing professional conversation about decolonizing the libraries, especially the archives. Library and archival collections on campus are core drivers of university knowledge production, a field notoriously complicit in colonial thinking and ontological marginalization of African voices, universities, authors, and academics. Fortunately, recent anti-colonial discourses and practice has pushed the responsibility of librarians to create inclusive and de-colonial collections to the forefront of the profession. What types of practices, processes, and training can help drive this movement forward, increase representation and student engagement, while also acknowledging the profession's past mistakes?

This study aims to contribute to that effort by aiming to better understand the ongoing efforts to decolonize university libraries across the United States and to establish a platform for sharing best practices among library professionals. The study is grounded in 8-10 interviews with African Studies librarians in university libraries in the United States and supplemented with a survey mechanism of more than 25 professionals.

Research questions in interviews and landscape survey include those aimed at understanding collection development methodologies and processes, vendor selection, and approval plans and the impact those may have on (de-)colonizing collections. Individual librarians are then given the opportunity to discuss the stakeholders involved in collection development, how ontological goals are set, and the extent to which decolonization is an intentional process in the library space. The research aims to identify key stakeholders in the process of librarianship, including faculty, students, community, administration and researchers.

Regarding collection development specifically, the study will maintain an explicit focus on Contemporary African Literature, newspapers, and contextual development. How should American librarians collect materials developed for African readers, how do they navigate the divide between on-campus demand and a more representative collection, and how best to place materials from the African continent within their own context. Understanding these questions, the way librarians work to answer them, and the concerns and problems they face will contribute to development of best practices as well as ongoing research questions.

Panel B09
Decolonizing African heritage inside and outside the African continent [initiated by the University of Mainz, with Leiden University/Anthropology, University of Rwanda]