Thursday, October 28, 2010

Traditional Cultural Expression in Libraries and Cultural Heritage Instituions

The old adage "You learn something new everyday" is most definitely true for me today. I don't know about the rest of you, but this week is the first time that the issue of traditional culture expressions and libraries and archives was not even close to being on my radar. All of the issues and terminology (and acronyms - of which there were ALOT) were completely new to me.

Thus I was grateful for the ALA TCE FAQ (see what I mean about acronyms) and that I read this document first. This article was a great introduction to the arguments surrounding this issue. What struck me the most from this introduction was how much of a sticky/delicate issue TCEs are. While we as librarians are engrained to want to give the public access to as much information as possible (as evidenced by all of our responses to the module on banned and challenged books), indigenous peoples are productive of the artifacts of their culture. As stated in FAQ #3, "This is an area in which library values can conflict with the interests of traditional cultures, making policy decisions difficult." This is definitely an issue where compromise is needed; otherwise bridges could definitely be burned and one group (if not both) could lose out on valuable, enlightening information.

It is apparent from the ALA FAQ statement that ALA realizes the delicacy of the TCE issue and thus is going about their process in an effort to create this compromise. As stated in FAQ #10, ALA knows it does not have the perspective of indigineous peoples and is thus enlisting the opinions and assistance of such groups as the American Indian Library Association, ALA's Native, Rural, and Tribal Libraries Committee, and the ALA Diversity Council.

But yet, as evidenced by the blog post found at, bridges within the library community have been burned. This post really addresses the point that our goal in the debate (or any debate over an ethics issue) should not be to make everyone happy, but to do what the evidence and information presented in our research suggests is right. What that "right" is as it relates to the debate, I have no idea (and, it would appear, neither do the major stakeholders). It will be interesting to see what comes of this in the next few months and years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment