An online toolkit for Indigenizing controlled vocabulary and knowledge organization in library catalogs

My inspiration for creating this brochure was to accompany my research paper on the same topic, which provides more information and analysis of Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), Indigenous Worldviews, settler colonial mechanics, and insight for Indigenization initiatives across Canada. My personal intention is to use both pieces towards a project proposal within my library for an Indigenous Subject Heading Project. I created this brochure is an introductory piece that can accompany larger discussions on Indigenizing subject headings. Although, it is adaptable to accompany other Indigenous Knowledges initiatives as well. There are plenty of articles, books, chapters, conference presentations and even blogs dedicated towards this topic, of which my brochure-pamphlet hybrid is a quick reference guide to prominent discussions.

In this way, I envision its purpose is to draw attention to aspects of colonial oppression in classification and naming schemas, where for some it may be a familiar topic but for others it might not be so well known. I am excited about the printable aspect of this resource, allowing for easy distribution at sessions, conferences, workshops, or from library pamphlet stands. As an accompanying piece alongside Indigenization projects, it is a convenient information package to keep stakeholders informed on library initiatives.

 The resources highlighted include calls to action and recommendations from the Canadian Federation of Library Associations’ (CFLA) Truth and Reconciliation report and recommendations, whose Red Team makes clear recommendations to “decolonize access, including cataloging, classification processes arrangement and description” (CFLA, 2017, p. 28); the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to action;and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), where Articles 8, 13, 14, 15, and 31 are applicable to initiatives that protect Indigenous Knowledges and histories.

Other resources are focused on raising awareness of the harm that naming practices carry and elucidating the social conditions that contribute to and are reinforced by colonial Knowledge Organization Systems (KOS) in libraries (Adler & Tennis, 2013). Lastly, several libraries are highlighted to draw attention to differing initiatives towards Indigenization efforts across Canada and from New Zeeland in particular. While other literature highlighted demonstrates incorporating Indigenous Ways of Knowing by understanding Indigenous ontologies and centering Indigenous Relationality.

I believe these conversations are important for library professionals and are important for our communities. I believe it is important to look to our institutional foundations and practices to see the prevalent whiteness that exists, and how it acts through our practices to ensure settler colonial supremacy. I believe having a stronger understanding will assist remedying these structural barriers, as we can fully understand what barriers exist and why they are harmful.


Adler, M. (2016). The case for taxonomic reparations. Knowledge Organization43(8), 630–640.

Adler, M. & Tennis, J. T. (2013). Toward a taxonomy of harm in knowledge organization systems. Knowledge Organization, 40(4), 266–272.

Bone, C., & Lougheed, B. (2018). Library of congress subject headings related to Indigenous peoples: Changing LCSH for use in a Canadian archival context. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 56(1), 83–95.

Canadian Federation of Library Associations. (2017). Truth and reconciliation report and recommendations. Retrieved from

Doyle, A. M., Lawson, K., & Dupont, S. (2015). Indigenization of knowledge organization at the Xwi7xwa library. Journal of Library and Information Studies13(2), 107–134.

Duarte, E. M. & Belarde-Lewis, M. (2015). Imagining: Creating spaces for Indigenous ontologies. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(5-6), 677-702.

Farnel, S., Koufogiannakis, D., Laroque, S., Bigelow, I., Carr-Wiggin, A., Feisst, D., & Lar-Son, K. (2018). Rethinking representation: Indigenous peoples and contexts at the university of Alberta libraries. The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 2(3), 9-25.

Farnel, S., Shiri, A., Campbell, S., Cockney, C., Rathi D., & Stobbs, R. (2017). A community-driven metadata framework for describing cultural resources: The digital library north project. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 55(5), 289-306.

Lilley, S. C. (2015) Ka Pō, Ka Ao, Ka Awatea: The Interface between epistemology and Māori subject headings. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(5-6), 479-495.

Littletree, S., Belarde-Lewis, M., & Duarte, E. M. (2020). Centering relationality: A conceptual model to advance Indigenous knowledge organization practices. Knowledge Organization, 47(5), 410-426.

Moulaison, S. H. & Bossaller, J. (n.d.). Providing cognitively just subject access to Indigenous knowledge through knowledge organization systems. Cataloging and Classification Quarterly55(3), 129–152.

Rigby, C. (2015). Nunavut libraries online establish Inuit language bibliographic cataloging standards: Promoting Indigenous language using a commercial ILS. Cataloging and Classification Quarterly53(5–6), 615–639.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC). (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to action.

United Nations (UN). (2015, September 13). United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Sarah (Stettinger) Lee (she/her) holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Studies from the University of Manitoba, a Library and Information Technician diploma from Red River College and is working towards a Master of Library and Information Studies with the University of Alberta. Sarah is a currently working as a Resource Management Technician at Red River College, where she is a member of the library’s Indigenous Subject Heading Working Group. This group of catalogers is currently working towards their goal of Indigenizing their subject headings to reflect culturally accurate terminology. Her interests are in knowledge organization, records management, metadata, as well critical issues including social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

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