Spotlight on Indigenous librarianship and renewable assignments

Open education is a growing trend in higher education and academic libraries play a big role in the field; usually by overseeing open educational resource (OER) programs and cataloging and publishing open access journals. Given the growing trend in higher education and the role libraries play in supporting open education practices, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these practices are starting to show up in library and information science courses; and I am thrilled to see it. For those that are less familiar with the open education movement, there is a great, concise explanation on the Open Education Week website. For more broad information about OERs, there are a lot of great pages and resources on the web, but I recommend starting with the UNESCO OER Mandate.

This month, I want to talk about one specific type of OER: renewable assignments. What is a renewable assignment? Renewable assignments are a type of assessment opportunity specifically designed to provide students with the space to engage in meaningful work, add value to the world, and provide a foundation for future students to learn from and build upon. They’re an alternative to traditional, disposable assignments, which students throw away after they are graded 1. Turns out this type of assignment is actually really common in library school and I have yet to figure out if it’s on purpose or not or if faculty members are even aware they’re doing it. The reason I’m only adding that up now is because this summer in addition to my two MLIS courses that I do on my own time and dime, my job paid for me to do the Creative Commons Certificate for Librarians; so I’ve spent the entire summer focused on copyright and OERs while working that research into my Storytelling course and my Indigenous Contexts in LIS in a Canadian Context course.

It’s the latter I want to focus on. Indigenous Librarianship is another growth area within LIS as I said in my previous article we need to talk about our diversity problem, and growing the number of Indigenous Librarians and Indigenous Services Librarian roles will help us do that. Here are some interesting resources to help you get started with learning about Indigenous Librarianship:

These are just the ones I found with a quick web search. If your search an academic library database, you’ll find research by and about Indigenous Librarians.

The instructors for this course are Tanya Ball and Kayla Lar-Son, who are both Métis librarians and scholars. This was their first semester teaching the course for the online program and, so far of the six courses I’ve taken, it’s been my favourite and I believe the best one. When Tanya and Kayla run this class for the in-person students, they do a research day where students in the course have the chance to highlight their work in Indigenous LIS by having a showcase for the products of the final assignment that professionals are invited to come to see and talk with the students about. They figured out what I think is a fantastic way to not just replicate that experience online, but build upon it. They’ve created a truly renewable assignment that for me and my partner at least has already been supremely rewarding and we only finished the assignment on July 31st.

The objective was to create any kind of online resource we wanted so long as it somehow related to libraries and Indigenous services or librarianship. The advice the instructors gave was that we would make it easier on ourselves if we found a way to tie this resource into either our research paper or our library programming assignment. They bought a domain and this would be the virtual showcase where the assignments would live so they could be viewed and used by LIS professionals all around the world. You had the option to work alone or in pairs. My partner from the programming assignment, Kassandra Caporiccio, and I decided to work together to turn my program into a toolkit that other professionals could take and adapt in order to decolonize their library’s subject headings and make them less racist – we call it The “Use our words” Toolkit.

Our instructors gave us one more choice related to this assignment: the option to let it live on the site and be used for as long as the school is willing to pay for the domain, or have it removed after a week. What that means in practice is that we all now have a publication credit for our CVs and resumes and the library world has gained, as of this semester, up to fourteen new resources related to Indigenous library services and librarianship with more to come from future semesters. I’m not the only person in my class who feels that way. My classmate Geoffrey Boyd had this to say in testimonial; “The assignment concept is great. You get to highlight important topics in Indigenous Librarianship to your teachers, peers, and wider LIS community, unlike typical assignments that might never be seen by anyone but the teachers. There is value to the assignment beyond a good grade, and therefore more motivation to really create a usable, valuable resource. You can tell the assignment was developed with the students at the centre, not the teachers. Plus, you can include it on your CV, so that’s another win.” I’m so thankful to our professors for creating this space for us and helping us build these resources, and I am also incredibly proud of the great work done by my classmates.

I won’t link to specific items because I don’t know who, if anyone, only plans on leaving their resource up for a week. But, I will tell you about them and if you click this link, you’ll go to the 2020 page and see whatever items are on the page at the time.

The Spring 2020 roster of resources are:

  • an infographic guide to being a better ally in promoting Indigenous Librarianship.
  • a book review of the book This Place: 150 Years Retold.
  • a toolkit for embedding Indigenous materials into the Ontario middle grade and secondary school curriculum.
  • a website on building inclusive school library collections
  • an infographic on finding Indigenous scholars and evaluating Indigenous resources
  • an infographic on Indigenous approaches to library evaluation
  • an episode of the Library Matters podcast
  • a video called “nihtâwasinakikew — S/he is a very good writer
  • an infographic on editing and reviewing Indigenous research and writing
  • a toolkit for decolonizing library subject headings
  • a website about including Indigenous Knowledges of the Land in libraries.
  • a toolkit for educating readers about Indigenous stereotypes in classic children’s literature.
  • a toolkit on incorporating the use of photovoice for Indigenous initiatives in libraries
  • an infographic on using Elder as a search facet in OPACs

If you have time, I highly encourage you to check all of these great resources out. If you’re a teacher, I beg of you to think about creating opportunities like this for your students in your assignment designs. Hands-on practical learning like this benefits everyone at the end of the day, so why not?



Image Credit – the featured image is by Gabrielle Lamontagne, taken as a screenshot from the homepage.

In addition to being a Contributing Writer here at Hack Library School, Lauren (she/her) is currently working towards her MLIS part-time, online, through the University of Alberta, she expects to graduate in Spring 2022. She holds an honours BA in English/Religion & Culture and a BEd, both from Wilfrid Laurier University. Her interests are copyright, open education; accessibility; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in LIS. Lauren is the Copyright and Reserves Supervisor at Wilfrid Laurier University, serving on the Library’s Accessibility Committee, and the Student Advisory Council. She also co-hosts a bi-weekly Twitter chat on library issues and trends (#lisprochat) and is a research assistant on the Opening Up Copyright project. Find her: @rendages, @lisprochat |

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