Editorial: Library Services and Indigenous Identity
World Libraries is proud to present this theme issue on Indigenous Library Services to mark
the Third International Indigenous Librarians Forum hosted by the American Indian Library Association
November 9-12, 2003 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The theme of the Forum is Closer
to the Fire: Ensuring Culturally Responsive Library Practices. This is an opportunity to make a
wider audience aware of recent developments in indigenous librarianship both locally and, especially,
globally since the Maori Library
Association Te Ropu Whakahau  ("they who encourage and incite ") took the
initiative to invite the world's indigenous librarians to the First Indigenous Librarians' Forum
on the Waipapa Marae in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand in November 1999.  The Sámi of Scandinavia
followed their lead and organized the Second Forum in Jokkmokk, Sweden, two years later, and now,
after a further two years, the Third International Indigenous Librarians' Forum is about to get
underway, hosted by the American Indian Library Association (AILA) and the Smithsonian's National
Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).
To celebrate this event, two of the participants in all three of the Forums, Loriene Roy, a Professor
at the School of Information in the University of Texas at Austin, and Peter Sarri, Library Counselor
or Consultant to the Sámi Parliament in Sweden, were invited to be guest editors of a special
issue of World Libraries on indigenous librarianship. They have enlisted the aid of native colleagues
from both northern and southern hemispheres. Each guest editor has also graciously provided prefaces
to their sections with background information on their authors and the special situation of the indigenous
peoples they represent. A world map has been added to Loriene Roy's preface to show an approximate
distribution of indigenous peoples around the world, and a map of Scandinavia and the Kola Peninsula
illustrates Peter Sarri's account of the Sámi.
Concern for library services to indigenous people goes back much further than to the turn of the millennium.
Until well after the Second World War, however, much of that "service " was more to the benefit
of the encroaching colonizing civilizations as they moved in to convert and assimilate the "primitive
savages " to their dominating and pervasive culture. Gordon Hills outlines the process from missionary-invented
orthographies through the development of printing and literacy instruction (though without mentioning
the destructive effects of residential schools ) and provides some documentation
of its effects for the native peoples of Arctic North America, in part from his own experience in
Alaska and Yukon and partly second-hand from the accounts of Russian writers. 
But Hills also conveys the evolution of other, more positive attitudes in providing access to information
for indigenous peoples, arising in the late 1970s, not only in North America and Europe, but also
in Australia and New Zealand. Two extensive, selectively annotated bibliographies, one mostly to
1990, the other a supplement through 1995, undergird his assertions for the circumpolar north, with
a cursory side glance at conditions south of the equator. At the same time, though, a more pessimistic
note rings through Hills' account of the situation in professional library organizations where the "compartmentalizing
effect of having 'roundtables,' 'special committees,' 'interest groups' or
sections on multicultural and Native/Indian library services . . . tends to relegate such progressive,
client group-oriented and socially responsible aspects of the profession to 'fringe' or
even, in the early going, to 'cult' status."  Library education does not
appear to offer much hope, based on questionnaires Hills' own survey data from 1987, to the extent
that the author claims that "the education of Native librarians on all fronts is scandalously
short-changed, and the education of non-Natives in multicultural and Native librarianship has been,
until very recently, identically treated." 
Much of the malaise to which Hills refers can be said to be compounded precisely because there are
so few Native individuals involved in library services to their own people. A distinctive feature
of the International Indigenous Librarians' Forums originated by the Maoris and continued subsequently
at their request, though perhaps a little less stringently, is a factor that can contribute to reversing
this trend, namely the fact that participation has been reserved to a great extent for indigenous
peoples only. Te Ropu Whakahau are right to make this assertion in my opinion and experience, for
the e reason that indigenous librarianship is so much more than merely providing access to materials
in the native language of the clientele one serves. This is the message of Hills' book,
and it was also the clearly expressed consensus of the delegates present at the 1998 IFLA Satellite
Conference in Tromsø, which may have been the first global seminar on indigenous librarianship.
Langeland, then director of Norway's Public Library Directorate Statens bibliotektilsyn, invited
me to have the privilege of providing the closing remarks as a summary of the proceedings. The
burden of the discussions at the closing session was a message of the need for more indigenous staff
and training and a need to make libraries more accessible to indigenous peoples. Jackie Huggins
wrote of library services to Australia' Aboriginal and Torres Islander people: "We
offer our clients the opportunity to get acquainted with their roots again."  Leading
people back into their roots is in large measure only possible if the guide is himself or herself
well acquainted with these same roots. Few non-Native librarians are prepared to perform this service
A personal interest and concern for indigenous library services and their impact on indigenous culture
and identity that was awakened while working in Norway as the Associate Director of Southern Nordland
Regional Library in Mo i Rana from 1994-97 has confirmed the conclusion that Native librarians should
have primacy in service to indigenous people. The South Sámi cultural center in Hattfjelldal,
Sijti Jarnge, fell within the purview of the Regional Library, and part of our services included
consultation for library services. Perhaps the most important service that was inaugurated during
that time was Gærjah Sijti Jarngeste, the South Sámi bookmobile, which was intended to
serve the South Sámi on both in Norway and Sweden, from Mo i Rana south and west to Umeå on
the Gulf of Bothnia.  The dedication of the bookmobile was an experience
very different from the familiar ceremonies of a more Western Christian nature—and yet with an
inherent serene spirituality, calmly proclaimed by the words spoken in blessing before the vehicle
by Anna Jacobsen, an elder among her people. Here was a community whose culture is very different
from that of the North Sámi
showcased by Nils-Aslak Valkeapää at the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer
in 1994, just a year before.  The language of the South Sámi is very unlike
its northern counterpart (about as different as Norwegian and Icelandic), and even the joik (pronounced
yoik), the characteristic chanting of the Sámi exhibits great variance between north and south.
 Manning the "book bus" (a direct translation of the Norwegian bokbuss,
a term also used in Sámi,
gærjahbusse in South Sámi, girjebusse in North Sámi) were the two Kappfjell brothers,
who happened to be the nephews of Anna Jacobsen.  This was no accident, as I very
soon learned. Neither Tom nor John has any extensive formal library training—Tom has some college
studies in law behind him; John, by his own admission, is a "Jack-of-all-trades. " But together,
they have something that is rare among their library-educated counterparts, even if the latter had
learned some of the South Sámi language: as members of the quite extensive Kappfjell family,
they have a bond with the entire South Sámi nation that gives them entrée anywhere their
people gather. Their uncle, Gustav Kappfjell, Anna's brother, has been called the South Sámi
culture's "foremost poet, " whose work was at the time of his death "still the
only work written entirely in the South Sámi language, and contains some of the most beautiful
poetry that have [sic] been written in any Sámi dialect."  Gaebpien
(his Native name) was also an accomplished joik artist who performed with Nils-Aslak Valkeapää.
Both Gustav Kappfjell and Anna Jacobsen were among the founders and long-time board members of the
South Sámi theatre group åarjelhsaemien teatere  (Anna even acted
in the group) and the South Sámi Residential School Gaske-Nøørjen saemienskovle in Hattfjelldal.  Another relative of Tom and John was Thor Axel Kappfjell, the
legendary BASE jumper who became world famous for parachuting from some of the world's highest skyscrapers,
only to die when jumping off a fog-enshrouded cliff in southern Norway in July 1999. 
This may seem irrelevant to library service, even nepotistic, but it is everything to the South Sámi.
Knowing what family you belong to, who you are related to, gives you a bond and a sense of belonging
with other South Sámi
you meet, because you know where you fit in the scheme of things. The South Sámi have a word
for this: laahkoeh. Tom published a book about this kinship system in 1991, illustrated by his niece,
Lena, John's daughter.  It is this kinship system that makes the arrival of Gærjah
Sijti Jarngeste in town more than just another stop to lend out some books (and, of course, the bookmobile
brings not only books, but other materials and cultural artifacts as well), more a family reunion,
a time to meet the folks and chat over a cup of special Sámi coffee with the compulsory hunk
of smoked reindeer meat to dunk as well.  Tom explained the goals and objectives of the bookmobile
at the Barents Library Conference held at Ájtte in Jokkmokk a few days after the 2nd International
Indigenous Librarians' Forum:
The goal is to help clients become more secure in their identity in order that eventually they
may dare to live as the Sámi people they define themselves to be. It is not easy to revitalize
a Sámi culture when one lives in a community where the majority culture largely defines the
To create a permanent identity factor, a "town square " which can contribute to increasing
the understanding for the Sámi culture and language for the Sámi themselves and equally
important for those who have the Sámi as their closest neighbors. 
That, in a nutshell, is what indigenous library services are all about. And that is why the
involvement of indigenous librarians is crucial to successful indigenous librarianship. Non-Native
librarians can be little more than doctors who strive to keep the patient comfortable but can't
really understand where it hurts or why it hurts. We can do our best to provide access to materials
we think will satisfy the needs of our indigenous patrons, even to the extent of pietistically preserving
all we can collect that has any relation to the situation or the language of the people we are working
with. But without the heart that listens and resonates to the same drum, it is very difficult
to be able to reach the goal of helping our patrons "become more secure in their identity in order
that eventually they may dare to live as the . . . people they define themselves to be. " Ripping
slivers from a cut of smoked reindeer meat with a sharp long bladed Sámi knife and dunking it
in a mug of strong coffee is not to every taste, although there is a certain appeal to this strange
blend of flavors once you have experienced it.
We are approaching the close of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Peoples, 1995-2004, "proclaimed
by the General Assembly in its resolution 48/163 of 21 December 1993 with the main objective of strengthening
international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as
human rights, the environment, development, education and health."  The theme for the Decade
is "Indigenous people: partnership in action " and among the goals, as set out by Indian
and Northern Affairs Canada, are the following:
- Raise international awareness of the contribution
of, and problems faced by, indigenous people throughout the world;
- Empower indigenous people to
make choices and enable them to retain their cultural identity while
participating in national economic and social life, with full respect for their cultural values, languages,
traditions and forms of social organization;
- Educate indigenous and non-indigenous communities on the situation,
cultures, languages, rights and aspirations of indigenous people 
The initiative of Te Ropu Whakahau in instigating the 1st International Indigenous Librarians' Forum,
esponse of the Sámi in taking on the 2nd Forum, and now the continuation by AILA in hosting
the 3rd Forum in New Mexico together with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian
will further a focus on developing strategies that will ensure that these goals may be met through culturally
sensitive guidelines that "send a clear and consistent message to library providers around the
globe that library policies need to be strengthened so that they acknowledge the cultural needs of
their native users."  Our hope is that this issue of World Libraries may make its own contribution
to the furtherance of these goals.
1 The website of the Forum is hosted under the guidance of Dr. Lotsee Patersonby Oklahoma
University's School of Library and Information Studies at http://iilf3.ou.edu/index.htm.
2 Te Ropu Whakahau's website is at http://www.trw.org.nz/.
3 International Indigenous Librarians' Forum, Proceedings, edited by Robert
Sullivan, (Aotearoa/New Zealand: Te Ropu Whakahau, 2001). See also Loriene Roy. "The
International Indigenous Librarians' Forum: a professional life-affirming event." World Libraries 10
(Spring/Fall 2000): 19-30 and International Leads 13 no 4 (Dec. 1999): 4. Wendy Sinclair has a report
from the Forum online at <http://www.bcla.bc.ca/fnig/iilf.html>. Peter Sarri provides some
photographs and a selection of the papers and presentations at http://www.indigilib.sapmi.net/Forum99/1'st_forum.htm.
4 International Indigenous Librarians Forum 2001: Report from a Seminar at Ájtte,
Swedish Mountain and Sámi Museum September 5-8, 2001, Duoddaris 21, Svenskt
Fjäll- och Samemuseum, Duottar- ja Sámemusea 2001 (Jokkmokk, Sweden: Ájtte,
2002). The website of the Forum is at http://www.indigilib.sapmi.net/.
5 AILA's website is at http://www.nativeculture.com/liátten/aila.html.
6 See http://www.si.edu/nmai.
7 See her faculty homepage at http://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~loriene/.
8 The Sámi Library Counselor's website is at http://www.sb.sametinget.se/.
9 See "Backgrounder: The Residential School System," Department of Indian
and Northern Affairs Canada. Online at http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/gs/schl_e.html.
Another account, more directly from the point of view of those who actually experienced the residential
schools, is provided by The Northern Residential Schools Survivors Committee Inc. at http://www.medicinetears.ca/history.htm.
10 Gordon Hills, Native Libraries: Cross-Cultural Conditions in the Circumpolar
MD and London: Scarecrow, 1997).
11 Hills, 248.
12 Hills, 267.
13 Library Services to Indigenous People: An IFLA Satellite Conference, 12th-14th
of August 1998, Tromsø, Norway. (The IFLA Section on Library Services to Multicultural
14 Jackie Huggins, "Public/Community Library Services to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Islander
People," in Library Services to Indigenous People, 1998.
15 The Library Network of Nordland province in Norway provides information about
the South Sámi
bookmobile in Norwegian at http://fylkesbibl.monet.no/0/371 (unfortunately,
nothing is available in English at this point). Funding for travel on the Swedish side of the
border has varied over the years, and there were some years that the bookmobile was unable to go
east over the mountains, but it appears that it is currently traveling on both sides of the border.
16 The city of Rovaniemi, Finland has an English biography of Valkeapää (who
died in 2001) as part of its Lapland Directory at http://www.rovaniemi.fi/lapinkirjailijat/enils.htm.
An obituary with a selection of Valkeapää's poetry can be found on the site of Báiki:
the North American Sámi Journal at http://www.baiki.org/valkeapaa.htm.
17 Heikki Laitinen, "The Many Faces of the Yoik," Finnish Music Quarterly 4 (1994). Online at http://www.fimic.fi/fimic/fimic.nsf/0/8f1750d3a9719f37c225683100402c79?OpenDocument. A
sample of South Sámi joik can be heard at the presentation of South Sámi created as a
high school project and now archived on the Nordland Regional Library's web server at http://www.nordland.fylkesbibl.no/Kultur-Nett/.
18 Tom Kappfjell http://www.nordbib.no/0/301. John Kappfjell http://www.nordbib.no/0/2390.
19 "In memoriam: Mr Gustav Kappfjell 12/2 1913 - 24/5 1999," Samefolket June-July
1999. Online in English translation at http://www.samefolket.se/aldre_nummer/juni99se.html.
20 See http://www.hemnes.sapmi.net/sub/teater/sydsamisk_teater.html with text in Norwegian. Note
that Tom Kappfjell's name appears on the masthead as "styreleder " or
Chair of the Board. The accompanying sound file is almost certainly Gustav Kappfjell performing
21 A government-sponsored and supported school that is intended to act as an immersion
experience for a handful of children where South Sámi is the language of instruction
and daily living for 2-3 week periods, with long weekends (Thursday through the following Tuesday)
at home. Ida von Hanno Bast has a description in Norwegian of how some of the students experienced
this (including some remarks from John Kappfjell, whose wife and sister work at the school) at http://pressclick.hio.no/ida/egen.htm.
22 See "Base: The final frontier." Online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/532131.stm.
23 Tom Kappfjell, Laahkoe. [South-Sámi kinship titles]. Guvviedæjja/illustr.:
Lena Kappfjell. Kristiansund : Th. Blaasværs forl., 1991. 69 pages. Lena
Kappfjell was one of my students for a year's undergraduate course in collection management at
Nesna University College 1997-98. She is now a Masters student in the Department of Sámi,
Faculty of Humanities, University of Tromsø, working on a thesis on Identity in Indigenous Literature.
24 Thor-Wiggo Skille, "Reindeer Coffee: Bookmobile Services in a Remote County in Norway," Scandinavian
Public Library Quarterly v. 34 no2 (2001): 23-6.
25 Tom Kappfjell, "A Joint Meeting for Sámi Bookmobiles, " translated by Tom Rutschman
in The Barents Libraries Conference: Report from a seminar at Ájtte, Swedish
Mountain and Sámi Museum, September 10-12, 2001. Duoddaris 22. Jokkmokk, Sweden: Ájtte,
26 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights http://www.unhchr.ch/indigenous/decade.htm.
27 Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada, "International Decade of the World's
Indigenous People: Introduction." Website online at http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/dec/intro_e.html.
28 Proposition formally endorsed by the 2nd Forum quoted on the website of the Third
International Indigenous Librarians' Forum at http://iilf3.ou.edu/index.htm.
About the Author
Johan Koren is Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University.
Email: jkoren [at] email [dot] dom [dot] edu
© 2002 Johan Koren
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