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DRAFT: Librarianship and Traditional Cultural Expressions: Nurturing Understanding and Respect

The draft below represents librarian principles concerning the management and protection of traditional cultural expressions. Its purpose is to help librarians appreciate the unique nature of indigenous culture and to highlight ways that librarians can better manage traditional cultural expressions in their collections and share expertise with cultures that choose to self manage their own cultural heritage. This document has been developed through a participatory process of collaboration among librarians, archivists and representatives from indigenous communities within the United States. Our intent is to solicit feedback from all interested parties to improve the document and to continue to build a broader shared understanding.  Ultimately the principles will be brought to ALA Council for endorsement as ALA policy.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvement. Please use the comment box within the blog post to leave feedback on the draft, or send an email to OITP’s Carrie Russell at crussell {at} We’d like to have initial comments by the end of June, so that we may incorporate and iterate a new draft for review at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago in July 2009.  An open hearing to review the latest draft has been scheduled for 3:30pm — 5:30pm on Sunday, July 12th.

Members of the Drafting Team:

Peggy Bulgar (American Folklife Center)
Lori Driscoll (International Copyright Advocate)
Carlene Engstrom (American Indian Library Association)
Jonathan Franklin (International Copyright Advocate)
Eric Kansa (Executive Director, Information and Service Design Program, School of Information, UC-Berkeley)
Kay Mathieson (Assistant Professor, School of Information Resources and Library Science, University of Arizona)
Michael Miller (Coordinator of Access Services, Queens College-CUNY)
Jennifer O’Neal (National Museum of the American Indian)
Janice Pilch (International Copyright Advocate)
Loriene Roy (ALA Past President and Professor, School of Information, University of Texas)
Barbara Stripling (Intellectual Freedom Round Table)
Winston Tabb (International Federation of Library Associations, IFLA)
Linda Wynne (Alaska State Library Association)

OITP Staff: Carrie Russell, Jennifer Hendrix, Timothy Vollmer

TCE Library Principles DRAFT (download PDF)
TCE Library Principles DRAFT (open in Scribd)

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.


  1. shabousa shabousa

    I was happy to see this kind of document being written and directed to the library community. As those who would be most encouraged to keep focus and information correct and available, the library community has a unique burden of responsibility.

    In the text of the draft document I thought a more specific nomenclature should be expressed. In these separate areas a more definite phraseology could be noted as to what each group wished to be called:

    “Meaning and Social Context
    Traditional knowledge and cultural expressions…
    Traditional cultural expressions…”

    “Respect, Recognition, Understanding
    Libraries must respect the ownership rights of the tradition-bearers…
    Libraries should educate their patrons…”
    And In:
    Librarians have a responsibility for developing policies…”
    It brought to my thinking a recent controversy at the library I was employed in as to using the term: Latino vs. Hispanic. Many of the [non-Latino] librarians & other staff were reluctant to use “Latino,” regardless of what research was provided, because of the historical use of “Hispanic”. And the differences were distressing to those effected.

    I can think of other communities where there are controversy over names: Native American vs. American Indian vs. First Americans. Those of Middle Eastern decent are particularly distressed by incorrect names [usually tied to cultural identity through religion].

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