Unlocking Narratives: The Roots of Decolonising Work in UK Libraries and Archives
29 November 2022
Decolonising work in libraries has generally assumed to have been inspired by powerful student-led initiatives, such as Why Is My Curriculum White (2014), Rhodes Must Fall (2015) and Young Historians Project (2015). However, this focus on current initiatives takes away from the historical work that has been carried out in the sector, which further remarginalises mostly unnamed workers from structurally minoritized ethnic backgrounds who have been serving diversifying library users since the 1960s. Unlocking Narratives: The Roots of Decolonising Work in UK Libraries and Archives, which took place on June 8 2022, aimed to address these oversights by a) starting a conversation about the significance of current and future decolonising work in UK libraries and b) reflecting on the relationship of this work within the British history of (especially Black-led) social and educational movements. In inviting speakers from a broad range of London based cultural heritage organisations, this event also aimed to explore and foster connections between archivists and librarians engaged in this critical work.
Generously sponsored by UCL Department of Information Studies, Open Aspirations, Iniva, (Institute of International Visual Arts) and UCL Faculty of Arts and Humanities, this free event sold out within a week, and resulted in roughly 125 attendees at the online event. Since then, the video has attracted almost 800 views on our YouTube channel. It has also inspired MA dissertation work, ongoing publication opportunities and broader conversations around the need for a shared Critical Library and Archival practice research group.