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ALA Annual Conference Event: Membership Feedback Session on Principles for Librarianship and Traditional Cultural Expressions

OITP will host an open forum on Principles for Librarianship and Traditional Cultural Expressions on Sunday, July 12 from 3:30-5:30pm at Palmer House, Salon XII.

Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs) are creative works made by indigenous communities. These creative works–and the creative process–are handed down from generation to generation and include native music, stories, dance, wood carvings, paintings, and architectural works. Many of these culturally sensitive TCEs have been acquired by libraries, who often unknowingly provide access and preserve these works, some of which were never intended to be shared beyond indigenous communities. ALA has no policy position on TCEs, but other associations and groups have studied these concerns for decades. As we learn about TCEs and their importance to indigenous cultures, does this new understanding affect the traditional role of libraries — to provide access to information, to preserve the cultural heritage, and ensure open inquiry?

Over the last year, OITP has convened meetings with stakeholders to learn more, discuss the issues and determine if any ALA action was warranted. The consensus reached was that ALA should develop TCE principles and seek ALA endorsement as policy. The goal was to recognize the unique nature of TCEs while continuing to support library values of open access, freedom of information, diversity of opinion and other values articulated n the Library Bill of Rights.

The resulting draft principles–“Librarianship and Traditional Cultural Expressions: Nurturing Understanding and Respect” (PDF) were developed by ALA members appointed to represent indigenous, intellectual freedom, diversity, Native American, and rural communities. Now we are seeking feedback from a wider range of librarians and organizations representing archivists, folklorists, museum professionals, tribal leaders, and tribal associations. For more information visit the TCE website.

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

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