Libraries and indigenous peoples
About this website
Subject to heavy pressure, displaced or cornered, indigenous and "minority" societies are losing their cultures and identities at a vertiginous rate, in a process that seems more and more irreversible.
In collaboration with the community itself and other cultural and educational institutions, the library –in the widest meaning the concept may have– can play, beside its traditional information and educational tasks, an important role in collecting, revitalizing, making visible, maintaining and disseminating native languages, oral traditions and other cultural expressions.
This requires the development of solid LIS (Library and Information Sciences) theoretical foundations from an interdisciplinary and intercultural perspective that puts aside colonialism and eurocentrism, and the adaptation of LIS techniques to the specific situations and needs expressed by indigenous peoples.
This digital platform, maintained since 2007, collects concepts and experiences related to the development of library services in indigenous communities, both internationally and in the Latin American context. Author's theoretical developments, plus the results of his field work, are presented here, as well as documents, projects and initiatives from other organizations, institutions and professionals from all around the world.
Though most of the contents are written in Spanish, there are documents originally produced in or translated into English. For an easier access, these documents are listed below.
The research subjects addressed in this site are the problems faced by aboriginal and "minority" peoples in gaining access to libraries and other information spaces, and the ones such spaces face when providing services; the colonialism and the eurocentrism that dominate the current global hegemonic system and affect LIS, their techniques and tools; the remarkable theoretical and practical gaps in LIS when dealing with "minority" societies; and the rampant loss of of these societies' identities and cultures, together with the actions that can be taken by libraries to reverse such a process. These research topics (and their results) may be equally applicable to many other human groups that are not "indigenous" or "minorities" but share the same problems (and may be not so visible).
The theory and practice collected here show a continuous work of criticism and self-criticism, in an attempt to prevent the false uniqueness, the romanticism and the exoticism with which, unfortunately, indigenous and "minority" peoples have been surrounded (and that for centuries forced them into the position of "the Other").
Following this self-criticism policy, the use of the term "indigenous library" has been abandoned, because of the problems and contradictions inherent to the concept. It is assumed that a public library must provide services to all its users, without major distinctions or labels, encouraging interaction and recognition between different social groups and sectors. Therefore, the emphasis will not be put on the development of "indigenous/minority libraries", but in the development of tools, techniques, guidelines, definitions, concepts, strategies, etc. to enable any library to respond appropriately to the needs of indigenous or "minority" users, to be able to manage indigenous knowledge, and/or to serve as a space for understanding, recognition, meeting and dialogue for different cultures and identities.
The authorI have a degree in Library and Information Sciences from the National University of Cordoba (Argentina, 2004), where I also studied History (branch Anthropology and Archeology). I have specialized in library services for indigenous peoples and minority groups, oral tradition, endangered sounds (languages and music), and knowledge classification. I am a researcher as well, on issues related to libraries and decolonization, libraries and degrowth/sustainability, critical/social/progressive librarianship, open access and non-European history of the book.
I am a teacher, lecturer and writer, and I currently work as an independent librarian and information consultant. I am also a member of the Standing Commitee of IFLA's Indigenous Matters Section (since 2017); a corresponding member of the Standing Commitee of IFLA's Subject Analysis and Access Section (since 2017); the editor of the UDC (Universal Decimal Classification) Summary in Spanish and Galician (since 2012); member of the coordinating committee of the Progressive Librarian Guild (since 2016); member of the editorial team of Fuentes del Congreso (Bolivia) and Journal of Radical Librarianship (UK) (since 2016); a columnist in Fuentes del Congreso (Bolivia) and Boletín de ABGRA (Argentina) (since 2016); and a collaborator in media as El Quinto Poder (Chile) (since 2017).
Previously I've worked as librarian, reference specialist in biological sciences and medicine, classifier and cataloger, and designer of databases and digital libraries in all kind of libraries (since 1999). I've been the director of projects "Indigenous Libraries" (2001-2006) and "Rural Books" (2002-2006) in Argentina; the editor for Argentina of E-LIS (2004-2006); member of the editorial boards of Biblios (2006) and Information for Social Change (2007-2009); member of the Standing Committee of IFLA's Library Services to Multicultural Populations Section (2005-2008); professor in PROPALE (Program for the promotion of writing and reading, National University of Cordoba, Argentina, 2005-2007); and a consulting member of the Revision Advisory Committee (2004-2010) and Associate Editor/Assistant Editor of the Editorial Team (2010-2012) of the Universal Decimal Classification Consortium.
Beyond the world of books, I've worked as an editor and graphic designer (since 1988), I've studied Oceanography and Biology and, in my spare time, I compose and perform music, I write fiction, I takes photographs and I keep a network of blogs.
Please write to edgardocivallero (at) gmail (dot) com.
Documents in English
Ancient cultures inside modern universes. Ariadne, n.54, Jan.2008.
Libraries and indigenous peoples in Latin America. TRIM - Trends in Information Management, 3 (2), 2007, pp.76-98.
Vanishing identities, saving information: Or, how libraries can recover indigenous languages through oral tradition.
Books & chapters
When the [knowledge] ditch is dug by our own hands: Libraries, indigenous peoples, and strategic information. In Charbonneau, Deborah (ed.). Global Information Inequalities: Bridging the Information Gap. Oxford (UK): Chandos Publishing, 2008.
Traditional games, music and oral tradition: Intangible tools in multicultural libraries. In IFLA Satellite Meeting 2007. Conference on Innovative Multicultural Library Services for All, Pretoria (South Africa), 15-17.Aug.2007.
Indigenous oral tradition in southern Latin America: Library’s effort to save sounds and stories from silence. In 73rd IFLA General Conference and Council, Durban (South Africa), 19-23.Aug.2007.
Tribal health in school libraries: Oral tradition and cultural expression. In 73rd IFLA General Conference and Council, Durban (South Africa), 19-23.ago.2007.
Libraries, indigenous peoples, identity & inclusion. In 73rd IFLA General Conference and Council, Durban (South Africa), 19-23.Aug.2007.
Libraries and aboriginal medicine: Experiences in Argentina. In 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, Seoul (South Korea), 20-24.AUg.2006.
Qadede Idá?at: Ancient tradition running through the family. In 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, Seoul (South Korea), 20-24.Aug.2006.
The sound library: Sound documents and collections as means of recovering and protecting endangered languages. In The Multicultural Library: Staff Competence for Success. A Satellite Conference of the 71st IFLA General Conference and Council 2005, Stockholm (Sweden), 10-12.Aug.2005.
Indigenous libraries, utopia and reality: Proposing an Argentine model. In 70th IFLA Council and General Conference, Buenos Aires (Argentina), 22-27.Aug.2004.
The contents published in this weblog are the author's intellectual property, if not indicated otherwise, and are distributed through a Creative Commons license by-nc-nd 4.0 International.
Many of the works presented through this platform are scholar articles, book chapters or complete digital books, original research, or parts of international conferences proceedings, and should be treated and quoted/cited as such.
The graphics contents are used on a non-profit basis; except in those cases where the author can be clearly and unambiguously identified (in which case, following the dictates of fair use, all relevant information will be included), they will be cited by providing, in the post's footer, the original URL where the image was found. The graphic contents will be removed from this weblog if the intellectual owner, once their rights are proven, requests it.
Picture: A Sahrawi boy reading at the library in Smara, taken from El País (link).