Iurii Sherekh’s ‘Ne dlia ditei’ – one of the many Ukrainian texts in the “Russian literature” section.
Readers might remember that one strand of decolonising our collections in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, as outlined in an earlier blog post, was about classification. As explained then and long known by readers using our open-shelf collections, large parts of the UL’s classification system still strongly reflect the times and attitudes of empire. There’s a lot of work to be done here just to tease all the various threads out.
Taking the focus back to Ukraine specifically, I have taken a preliminary look at the Ukrainian component in the “Russian literature” classes – 756 and 757. These classes, meant to contain Russophone literature only, was in practice also the destination for Ukrainophone literature too until the introduction in 2011 of a separate class (758:6) for the latter. There was always a different classmark for “Other Slavonic” (758:8) for languages without their own classmark, but unfortunately Ukrainian appears to have been placed standardly in Russian for decades.
Today’s initial work has been to work out what at least roughly what amount of books it is that we might potentially move, reclassify, and re-label. Here are the initial results.
- 756 contains 252 titles in or translated from Ukrainian
- 757 contains 190 titles in or translated from Ukrainian
So far, so relatively straightforward, if still representing quite a lot of work (I think it would be a challenge to deal with one book in 10 minutes, given all the things that would need to happen, so those figures alone would mean 2 weeks full-time as a minimum). What is missing here, though? Continue reading →
This post looks at titles bought from the new decolonisation fund set up in 21/22 for teaching collections and at a few sample decolonisation titles bought by our senior staff using our standard research-related collection development funds.
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When the Cambridge University Libraries Decolonisation Working Group was set up in September 2020, its members agreed that the group’s terms of reference should include the following: “We recognise that while the primary colonial legacy in Cambridge libraries relates to the British Empire, Cambridge also holds material relating to other colonial powers, past and present, and this is also part of our decolonisation focus.” The wording came about because I was keen to ensure that non-British colonial legacies should not be overlooked when we hold such extensive collections from all around the world.
The Library of Congress authority name heading for Kyïv, previously listed as Kiev.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is a devastating reminder of these other colonial legacies. Putin has openly compared his “military operation” against Ukraine to Peter I’s wars of expansion (or, more specifically, wars of reclamation, in Putin’s narrative). In the library context, decolonisation work to address the colonial past and its violent embracing in the present involves many areas of library activities. This post provides just a few initial suggestions, and I hope that future posts will pick up specific defined and achievable projects that come out of these. Continue reading →
This year’s Libraries Week, the annual showcase of what the UK’s libraries have to offer, is centered around the theme of Taking Action, Changing Lives, with the aim of “highlighting the diverse ways that [libraries] take action with and for their community and make a positive impact on people’s lives; to showcase their central role in the community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion”.
Within this initiative is featured the upcoming Facet publication Narrative expansions: interpreting decolonisation in academic libraries, edited by Jess Crilly and Regina Everitt. The book “explores what is specific to colonial contexts that has impacted knowledge production, how these impacts are still circulating in our libraries, and what we can do about it.”
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Earlier this month the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam finally opened its doors to visitors for a major exhibition which examines the history of Dutch involvement in the international slave trade. This exhibition, first conceived four years ago, was delayed due to COVID-19 but was officially opened in May by King Willem-Alexander and now runs until 29 August, with a powerful online version for people not able to visit in person. The exhibition tells the stories of slaves and the Dutch people who enslaved them, homing in on ten individual people and using oral history alongside historic objects and documents. There is a Cambridge connection as a plantation bell displayed at the entrance was until 2019 on display at St Catharine’s College. We have a copy of the accompanying exhibition catalogue: Slavernij: het verhaal van João, Wally, Oopjen, Paulus, Van Bengalen, Surapati, Sapali, Tula, Dirk, Lohkay (C216.c.9769)
News of this exhibition reminded me that a year ago I wrote about online Dutch titles on race and decolonisation. Since then we have looked out for relevant new titles to buy; already in October I reported on new Dutch books on race and identity. Here I will highlight some more new titles, mainly on slavery, along with a few older titles in print that we already had, now more accessible than a year ago. Continue reading →