Reviewed by:
  • Aboriginal and Visible Minority Librarians: Oral Histories from Canada ed. by Deborah Lee and Mahalakshmi Kumaran
  • Vivian Howard, associate professor
Deborah Lee and Mahalakshmi Kumaran (eds.). Aboriginal and Visible Minority Librarians: Oral Histories from Canada. Toronto: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 231 pages. ISBN 978-1-4422-3681-3. CDN$78.

The lack of diversity in librarianship has long been recognized: in the twenty-first century, librarianship remains a largely white, middle-class, and female-dominated profession, and the 8Rs Canadian Library Resource Study2 indicated that this lack of diversity is particularly acute in Canada. As Deborah Lee and Mahalakshmi Kumaran note in the introduction to Aboriginal and Visible Minority Librarians: Oral Histories from Canada, in Canada, unlike the United States, visible minority librarians’ experiences have not previously been documented. A major milestone was achieved in 2011, with the creation of the Visible Minorities Librarians of Canada Network (ViMLoC) through the Canadian Library Association, a collaborative network intended to connect, engage, and support visible minority librarians in Canada. Kumaran, originally from India, is an academic librarian at the University of Saskatchewan and was one of the founders of ViMLoC; co-editor Lee, who is of Cree, Mohawk, Metis, and French ancestry, leads the University of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous Studies Portal. Their collaboration gave rise to this collection of 18 essays, 8 written by Aboriginal librarians and 10 by visible minority librarians representing various immigrant groups from China, the Caribbean, India, and the Philippines.

The Aboriginal librarians in this anthology, representing a variety of different Indigenous communities, speak eloquently about the gaps between Western taxonomies and Indigenous knowledge systems. Librarians from immigrant communities describe discrimination and professional isolation, as well as the need to become re-credentialed to find employment in Canada. Although the background and life experiences of each of the authors are unique, common themes emerge in their essays, as Lee and Kumaran highlight in their [End Page R2] introduction. Regardless of their cultural background, the librarians speak of their deep connections to their particular communities, the socio-economic and educational barriers they have struggled to overcome, their diverse pathways to professional careers, their strategies for coping with a lack of mentorship, and their experiences of racism and exclusion in the workplace.

This collection of personal histories is an important contribution to the history and sociology of librarianship in Canada. It will be an invaluable resource to new librarians from Aboriginal and visible minority communities, but, just as importantly, it should be read widely by non–visible minority librarians and library administrators to illustrate the value and expertise that multicultural librarians can bring to the profession and the importance of creating inclusive and equitable workplaces.

Vivian Howard, associate professor
School of Information Management, Dalhousie University


2. Ernie Ingles et al., The Future of Human Resources in Canadian Libraries (8Rs Canadian Library Human Resource Study, 2005).

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Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2022
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