A Timeline of Indigenous Librarianship in Canada

Indigenous librarianship “unites the discipline of librarianship with Indigenous approaches to knowledge, theory, and research methodology… [and is concerned with] the provision of culturally relevant library and information collections and services by, for and with Indigenous people” (Burns et al., 2009, p. 2031).

Although Indigenous librarianship is rapidly advancing as a field of practice, today Indigenous Peoples in Canada still face significant barriers to library services. As will be discussed, these barriers include (but are not limited to) a lack of funding, issues with knowledge organization systems, issues around access to digital technologies as well as broadband (especially in remote and Northern communities), a continuing lack of diversity within the profession itself, and a lack of control over Indigenous cultural and property rights.  

In order to successfully break down these barriers, it is important to have an understanding of the historical context of Indigenous librarianship in Canada, as the issues of today are rooted in colonial attitudes and practices. It is vital that library professionals, as allies and partners in reconciliation, understand how unevenly library services have been provided to Indigenous communities as well as the role libraries have played as colonial institutions.

This project will consist of a timeline representing important developments in Indigenous librarianship, including biographies of the trailblazing individuals who have advocated for Indigenous libraries and Indigenous librarianship as a field of practice. Since librarianship as a profession still struggles with a lack of diversity in its members, with particularly low numbers of Indigenous-identifying librarians, it is doubly as important to recognize and celebrate the career successes and achievements of these leaders and trailblazers within the field. This timeline is certainly not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to provide an overview of the history of the development of Indigenous librarianship, including significant events, significant documents and significant individuals. I felt like a timeline was an appropriate choice of tool to visualize this topic, as Indigenous library services have historically been lacking and are still marked by this lack, a timeline is able to illustrate achievements as well as blank spaces where gaps exist.



Burns, K., Doyle, A., Joseph, G., & Krebs, A. (2009). Indigenous librarianship. In M. J. Bates, & M.N. Maack (Eds.), Encyclopedia of library and information sciences (pp. 2031-2047). Taylor & Francis.

Kathryn Hennan:

I would like to situate myself within the context of this project by using the Indigenous concept of relationality. My name is Kathryn Hennan, and I was born in Toronto, Ontario, on the Traditional Territories of the Ojibway, the Anishnabe and the Mississaugas of the Credit. This territory is covered by the Upper Canada Treaties. My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English and Psychology, and I am currently a student in the MLIS program at the University of Alberta. I am undertaking this project for LIS 598: Indigenous Library and Information Studies in a Canadian Context, and it is hoped that this online resource will serve as an addition to the rapidly growing field of Indigenous librarianship. I currently work for the University of Alberta libraries, in the Research & Collections Resource Facility. My professional areas of interest include collection management and preservation, and sustainability, and personally, I am an avid camper, hiker, and reader (of course!).