Inclusive School Library Collections: Strong Indigenous Voices for Grades 1 to 6


Within the past years while working in Ontario elementary school libraries, the resources regarding Indigenous Peoples are outdated as they consist of terminology that may be historicized, stereotypical and racist. While responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report (TRC) (2015), it is imperative we Indigenize the library collection to foster inclusion. Moreover, it is crucial to update the collection of school resources that reflects Indigenous Voices as strong and resilient. Our goal is to include Indigenous resources that inspire students from grades 1 to 6. Through consultation with local Indigenous Communities whenever possible, we hope to build relationships that respectfully reach beyond our library walls.

Why this matters

            In a 2018 interview on CBC ’s Unreserved radio broadcast, Daniel Heath Justice, author of Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (2018) states; “Our literatures matter because we do… because what we have to say in the world has value ” (Justice, 2018,10:25).

           As teacher-librarians, we’ve noticed that school library resources regarding Indigenous Peoples may be outdated, stereotypical, and racist. School libraries may house books that include terminology that historicizes Indigenous Cultures. Our response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report (TRC) from 2015 is to consider ways for school librarians to Indigenize school library collections. The TRC’s Calls to Action highlight the role that educators must play in the reconciliation movement in Canada. Specifically, Calls to Action 62 and 63 state the need to develop age-appropriate curricula in public education that teaches students about the Canadian Residential School System, and that integrates Indigenous Perspectives across the curriculum.

            Therefore, we believe it to be essential that school library collections are inclusive, and that they reflect strong Indigenous Voices and perspectives. McCallum (2018) explains that students need materials that provide an accurate, respectful view of Indigenous Peoples.  When selecting resources, educators need to include stories that represent the diversity of Indigenous Traditions and Heritage. McCallum adds that Indigenous Literatures need to represent, “…local Indigenous communities as well as communities across the country…in this way, the incredible diversity of Indigenous cultures and languages will be available to students” (McCallum, 2018, para. 6). Our ultimate goal is to further non-Indigenous students’ understanding regarding Indigenous Cultures through the stories and other resources that we provide in the Library Learning Commons. Moreover, to ensure the resources are valued and inclusive of Indigenous Peoples, we encourage teacher-librarians to connect with the Indigenous curriculum consultant within the school board, and Elders and Knowledge Keepers from their local Indigenous Communities to gain feedback.

Further information is found on the author’s website:

Joan Urquhart:

Joan is a Settler-Canadian woman who lives on the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit in what is now called Burlington, Ontario. While working as a public library Programmer, she developed a local library initiative called Honouring the Truth: Reconciliation in Burlington (funded by a Canada 150 grant). She is a former art teacher (OCT), and a current elementary school librarian with strong interests in Indigenizing school library collections and in Decolonizing school library catalogue descriptions. She holds a Bachelor of Art and Art History from McMaster University, a Bachelor of Education from Brock University, and is an MLIS candidate at University of Alberta,.

Tiffany Chau:

Tiffany graduated with her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Bachelor of Education in 2013. She is an Ontario certified teacher who has taught in the public school system for the past six years and has worked in the role as a teacher-librarian. Her interest includes Indigenizing the library collections in elementary schools as she values the importance of fostering diversity and inclusion. Moreover, she strongly believes in creating a collection that is reflective of Indigenous Voices and can support the teaching of the Ontario curriculum. Upon graduating from the MLIS program at the University of Alberta, she looks forward to enhancing the library collections to meet the needs of members in the community.