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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 November 2020
Library work now has a role to play when it comes to decolonisation. This article outlines what Goldsmiths Library, University of London is doing, through the Liberate our Library initiative, to diversify and decolonise its collections and practices against the backdrop of worldwide movements for education and social justice led by both students and academics to challenge the dominance of the ‘Westernised university’.2
Examples of how we are doing this work are explained using critical librarianship as our guide, whilst recognising that we are still developing expertise in this evolving field of practice. This decolonisation work also uses critical race theory (CRT) as a means to dismantle racial inequality and its impact on higher education.
Here, I would like to acknowledge the excellent and inspirational content of ALJ, Critical Librarianship: Special Issue (v.44, no.2) and I see this article as an ongoing companion piece.
Goldsmiths Library's liberation work endeavours to empower its users with critical thinking and study skills whilst conducting their research using hierarchical systems and resources which in themselves are in the process of being decolonised.
Decolonising a library collection and a profession must of course always begin or at least happen in tandem with the self, through a process that Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o describes as ‘decolonising the mind.’3
Desmond Tutu as quoted in Unexpected News : Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1984) by Robert McAfee Brown, 19.
Cupples, J. and Grosfoguel, R. (Eds). Unsettling Eurocentrism in the Westernized university. (London: Routledge, 2019), 2.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. Decolonising the mind: the politics of language in African literature. (London: James Currey, 1986).
5. See the following for further information about the Rhodes Must Fall movement - Gebrial, D., “Rhodes Must Fall: Oxford and movements for change”. In Bhambra, G. K., Gebrial, D., Nişancıoğlu, K. (Eds.) Decolonising the university. (London, Pluto Press, 2018)Google Scholar. And Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action Group - Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action, Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/goldsmithsanti/. Accessed 29 June 2020.
K. Rawlinson, “Anti-racism activists end Goldsmiths occupation”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jul/29/anti-racism-activists-end-goldsmiths-occupation. Accessed 29 June 2020.
6. Mbembe, A.J. “Decolonizing the university: new directions.” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education, 15, no.1 (2016): 33Google Scholar.
8. Goldsmiths Library, University of London. “Liberate our Library”. Accessed 2 April 2020, https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/about/liberate-our-library/.
9. Goldsmiths Library Blog, University of London; “Bad Dewey” blog entry by Maria O'Hara, 4 July 2018, and “Anti-neutrality” blog entry by Laura Elliott 13 September 2018. Accessed 2 April 2020, https://sites.gold.ac.uk/library-blog/.
10. Goldsmiths Library. “Liberate our Library”.
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