There are many controversial topics in the profession of librarianship. Some topics more than others are uncomfortable, very sensitive, and professionally difficult to discuss for librarians. But one conference tackled many of these themes. In this post, I share about the inaugural Politics of Libraries conference 2018 at the University of Alberta. Themes covered included:
• Critiquing librarianship for trying to be value neutral by promoting intellectual freedom over assuming social responsibility
• The problem of monopoly in library technology services via the case of OCLC
• studying the discourse that librarians, library users and authors/publishers use to represent or misrepresent fair dealing/fair use in copyright law
• how language, and particularly English global dominance, inhibits linguistic diversity and negatively affects library services and users
• provisions for academic librarians for academic/intellectual freedom
• assessment of how many library science journals are open access versus commercially published
• the problem of librarians using the concept of the "market place of ideas"
In the break out discussions, I got the opportunity to lead the discussion of the theme of colonialism in libraries and how librarians can attempt to resist and move forward. This discussion raised three main points:
• that colonialism manifests differently in different spaces and requires different approaches to address based on the particular case of colonialism that manifested itself. Caribbean colonialism was more exploitative than Canadian colonialism, where in the Caribbean, the colonizers created Caribbean society to serve European needs with Europeans who were looking to establish temporary homes versus Canada being a society absorbing French and Englishmen looking for permanent new homes and opportunities.
• Colonialism continues to manifest itself in language assimilation and domination in both print and online technologies.
• Librarians need to recognize indigenous epistemology and different knowledge or information perspectives other than those of the West which dominates library science.
The other breakout discussion groups shared on Language/Terminology, which I felt was also related to the theme of colonialism and to Caribbean society with the current struggle in recognizing indigenous Creole languages. Some of the points mentioned were:
• Language barriers are represented in library signage. Public libraries should use the languages of the communities they serve in their signage, while academic libraries should use such languages in library instruction
• Multimedia technology can better address language barriers as they provide more than just text
• Librarians need to recognize the value of other languages and not just English as well as to recognize our own problematic use of languages which can offend, included, exclude or "other" people.
This summary only represents a few of the issues discussed, some of which deserve a full post's discussion.