Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight - Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Laboratory of Anthropology Library

November is Native American Heritage Month. This month, our Partner Spotlight will focus on the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Laboratory of Anthropology Library in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In this partner spotlight, we will explore the work of the LOA Library at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and talk with Allison Colborne, Director of the Laboratory of Anthropology Library.

What is the Laboratory of Anthropology Library?

The LOA Library is a research-level library dedicated to the study of Native cultures, anthropology and archaeology of the Southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America. The Library opened upon the completion of the Laboratory of Anthropology Building in 1930.

The LOA Library collections reflect the history of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Inc. (1929-1947), the Museum of New Mexico Laboratory of Anthropology (1951-1981), and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology (1987-present).

The Library collects and provides research access to resources on the Indian arts and cultures of the greater Southwest, with a decided emphasis on the American West Four Corners States, in particular New Mexico. The geographic scope of the collections and relationship of the cultures of New Mexico to other regions of the United States, in particular, the Great Plains, Great Basin, California, Nevada, Texas, Mexico, and Central America. The scope is also informed by taking in account many other factors, such as migrations and trade routes.

The LOA Library is applying decolonization theory as to how it catalogs and assigns subject terms for the LOA Library. In addition to each culture being distinctly recognized through the cataloging terms assigned, the LOA Library is in the process of developing authority records that incorporate cultural affiliation for all named Native peoples (author or subject) included in the catalog. Indigenous language terms and place names are increasingly found in the catalog.

Interview with Allison Colborne, Director of the Laboratory of Anthropology Library

How has being a part of the open source community supported the LOA's work and collections?

The LOA Library Catalog would substantially not exist without the open source community - period! I configured the LOA Library Catalog specifically to support the different 'communities of researchers' [plural here is important], the institution / institutional memory of the Laboratory of Anthropology, Incorporated (1927-1947) and the Laboratory of Anthropology (Museum of New Mexico) (1951-), as well as the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (1989 to present). Historically, the LOA Library, as its name implies, was substantively an Anthropology and Archaeology library comprised of resources studying indigenous cultures, predominantly of the greater Southwest (think broadly - Four Corners States, California Texas, Mexico, Central America).

A lot of material held in the LOA Library is either uniquely held or is very scarce. The LOA Library performs / continues to perform a significant amount of original cataloging. Just last week, I cataloged an archaeology report on Sandia Pueblo. Once I was finished cataloging that report, I emailed the tribal librarian for that Pueblo sending her the LOA Library cataloging record title and unique URL which has an 'online access' link to the 'redacted' report uploaded to the MIAC/LOA Library site. I have done the same with other pueblos. The LOA Library complies with federal and state antiquities laws. As a result, I only supply 'redacted' reports. I do inform tribes on who to contact and the process for gaining access to unredacted reports.

Since bringing up the LOA Library Koha ILS in July 2014, I have added 12,840 records. I have embedded 6,792 links to full-text resources in that same period of time. The new Koha ILS feature letting me attach PDFs of scanned items to existing LOA Library collections records has been a Godsend. The LOA Library has nearly 9,000 vertical file items, rare ephemera, scarce periodical literature, etc. I have already attached 136 items to their respective records. I am pleased that doing so extends the reach of the LOA Library materials and the LOA Library as a resource.

The LOA Library Catalog would substantially not exist without the open source community - period! One of the reasons I simply love the Koha ILS is that I have been able to utilize it to catalog tribal information following tribal conventions."

How have you seen the open source community support other native libraries and collections?

The LOA Library Koha ILS is 'personalized' to support its research communities, the government agencies and departments the LOA Library supports and serves (New Mexico Historic Sites, New Mexico Historic Preservation Division. New Mexico Historic Preservation Division Archaeological Records Management Service, Office of Archaeological Studies, Archaeological Research Collections, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. All of these 'entities' are under the Department of Cultural Affairs and its subsidiary, the Museum of New Mexico. The LOA Library further supports other state and federal agencies (New Mexico State Land Office, United States Bureau of Reclamation, United States Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, United States National Park Service, for example). It also supports other private corporate entities, such as the Los Alamos National Laboratories (which has at least 3 archaeologists on staff).

The State of New Mexico Historic Preservation Division has relationships with the tribes throughout New Mexico. As such, I have relationships with several Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO). I am presently working with one such THPO to help develop an 'archive' of government documents, publications, and photographs about the pueblo and its peoples. I am also presently in discussion / developing a rapport with Northern New Mexico College.

I provide reference and research support to non-government agencies, including the public and to tribes and tribal members. In the past few months, I have provided research and reference service to the following tribes or people from those tribes: Diné, Kewa, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Santo Domingo, and Santa Clara. I have constructed this tribal serving off the top of my head.

The LOA Library has and continues to receive a large number of donations from scholars and historians and others. When the LOA Library receives copies of publications that are about tribal peoples, Indian arts and culture, I donate them to the Library at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That Library then makes the publications available for tribal librarians throughout the state of New Mexico to take for their libraries. I also make direct donations of publications to libraries as well. I am presently working on donating duplicates from a long since retired scholar whose focus was the Diné (Navajo). The Navajo Nation is working on establishing 'chapter' libraries throughout the nation. I have arranged through the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture Indian Advisory Panel member Lenora Tsosie (Diné) from Windowrock, Arizona, to navigate making this donation.

I incorporate indigenous language terms and geographic place names. I look to the tribes, or, consult with members, to make the LOA Library accurate as possible. I catalog peoples following the tribal conventions of how they refer to places and themselves. Sometimes, I have multiple entries for the same person.

The information on tribes and tribal peoples is complex. I consult and am increasingly applying 'decolonization' theory to the cataloging. Incorporating indigenous terms is a part of that thinking. I routinely strip out most if not all non-English language terms in records imported from OCLC. It is frustrating that a resource on an indigenous group, or, even their language, will have German and French subject headings, but none in the language of that culture. I also strip out offensive subject terminology, such as 'Primitive', 'Prehistoric', 'Cultural assimilation'. There is Eurocentric and Euroamerican bias in conventional subject cataloging.

The Koha ILS enables me to develop and recatalog resources in a manner that incorporates tribal conventions and practice decolonization. Rather than thinking in terms of authority control, I think in terms of subject to change and flexibility and willingness to make changes as I receive feedback, input, from the tribal person or tribal representatives.

I use the Koha ILS in a conventional way to some extent and then modify it to suit the communities the library serves and peoples it represents. The Koha ILS is a tool that lets me apply my professional skills in a manner that lets me do this.

The LOA Library Koha ILS is a labor of love in constant development.

Read more by Elise Aiello

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