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Decolonising the Library

Why decolonise?

Aside from the fact that it is incumbent upon departments to decolonise curriculums, clearly we, as a university, aspire to fully reflect the diverse backgrounds & interests of our students - through the modules offered, their content, and the library collections & resources that support them. As a library we are changing our practices too, away from collections being developed by a few individual librarians, and towards a more devolved process that involve all students & staff, so that the library resources are more representative of all our users. 

Where to start

There are some useful guides available that may be helpful in thinking about decolonisation and its practical implications for teaching and reading lists, including the website of the Decolonising the Curriculum: the work project led by academics and students at the University of Essex and the University of the Western Cape. The Times Higher (THE) has also assembled an interesting selection of articles that address various aspects of this issue.

Many others are referred to on our Decolonising the Curriculum Talis reading list, which is an ongoing collaborative effort between academics, students and library staff the University of Essex (see in particular the section on Toolkits). The Library held a webinar in June 2021 on how we can assist with decolonisation efforts, and the recording is available here.

A Google search on keywords like: University Decolonising Curriculum Talis will provide links to Talis reading lists at other institutions in the UK. These lists mostly provide resources around the pedagogy of Decolonisation. Adding subject keywords like Sociology can also be useful in looking for decolonisation debates & resources relating to specific subject areas or departments.

More broadly, the Conducting Research Through an Anti-Racist Lens from University of Minnesota has lots of useful suggestions & links

Gurminder Bhambra's book Decolonising the University (2018) is available open access through OAPEN

PhD researchers at Sheffield University created a website/publication - Challenging Colonial Practices in Research: a guide for PhD researchers - with a focus on research in the area of sustainability

Libraries. Reading Lists. Learning Technology

Please contact your Academic Liaison Librarian if you need help in diversifying your reading list. They work closely with the reading list team in helping provide you with access to suitable resources.

The recently published book, edited by Jess Crilly and Regina Everitt, Narrative expansions: interpreting decolonisation in academic libraries (Facet, 2021) is a very useful starting point, and see also this podcast

For more information, Sarah Field (University of Kent Library) is collating examples of decolonised reading lists on this padlet. For librarians, the University of Cambridge website Decolonising through critical librarianship provides some useful starting points.

Imperial College has developed a tool that analyses the geographic content of reading lists, journal articles specifically. It looks at the geographic distribution of authors and the socio-economic level of the countries they represent, see article here

Manchester Metropolitan University has developed a reading list diversity audit tool and University of Arts London has been active in providing guidance. The De Montfort Decolonising the Reading List article is a useful recent summary. See also the Schucan Bird and Pitman (UCL) article How diverse is your reading list? (2019)

The Gender Balance Assessment Tool (GBAT) is a widely known tool that seeks to analyse the gendered make-up of reading lists. Note that the underlying data comes from US name data. It relies on module outlines/Talis providing first name information, as the tool will be unable to predict gender if initials are used in place of full names. Important note: tests on some Essex lists indicate that GBAT is seriously underestimating the proportion of women authors on lists.

The conference held at Goldsmith's in Jan 2020 on Decolonising the Curriculum : the library's role contains details of many useful initiatives.

In the area of learning technology, the Association of Learning Technologists is developing a Learning Technologist's Anti-Racism Toolkit

In relation to terminology, libraries, museums & others are looking carefully at the cataloguing of material and use of subject headings & other descriptive terms. A useful aid in this respect is Carissa Chew's  Cultural Heritage Terminology Network website - (particularly the collaborative Inclusive Terminology Glossary)