Colonialism in Libraries

The Disparities of Categories and the Organization of Materials


  • Elise Boisvert


Indigenous, Decolonization, Library, Education, Knowledge


Western notions of education were forcibly enacted on Indigenous peoples during colonization, and the organization of materials has not changed in over a century; libraries have become an epicenter of colonial thought, harbouring the continuation of harmful stereotypes of Indigenous peoples in Canada. This paper delves into a deeper understanding of the history regarding education and the organization of educational materials. Further, drawing on specific examples, there will be an examination of the ways in which our current library system (this includes public and private libraries) maintains colonial regimes of assimilation. Because current library categorial systems favour white, colonial, and/or settler authors, Indigenous stories are often lost in the fiction section; issues of authenticity have also become problematic for Indigenous authors and storytellers as traditional stories have been stolen and retold by settler scholars without proper acknowledgment and consent. The Xwi7xwa library on UBC’s Vancouver campus has offered a decolonization of Western education, and foregrounds a way of learning that provides equality, understanding, and decolonized thought; it offers an approach to unlearn colonial knowledge systems that in turn, aids in creating an equitable platform for all learners.

Author Biography

Elise Boisvert


I was born and raised in Lake Country, BC, Canada – on the unceded territory of the Syilx Nation. I am a 4th year Arts student with a major in Cultural Studies and a minor in Sociology.My research interests include feminism, Indigenous matters, and disability studies while using an intersectional lens. I enjoy photography as a hobby; I also have a labradoodle that keeps me happy and busy!

A selfie of author Elise Boisvert softly smiling