The Collector and the Collected
Decolonizing Area Studies Librarianship
Editors: Megan Browndorf, Erin Pappas, and Anna Arays
Published: December 2021
The Collector and the Collected: Decolonizing Area Studies Librarianship explores the paradigm of “area studies” — a way of supporting regionally-focused collecting, processing, and liaison work — in the academic library through an explicitly anti-colonial lens. By centering debates on the politics and problems of area studies in libraries, we consider how libraries are rethinking their approaches to collecting global resources and serving our constituencies in a contemporary and progressive manner. While libraries need to address the problematic nature of area studies, we see a larger academic trend in the push for “global” initiatives which ignore historically, linguistically, and culturally significant sites of difference, inequity, and asymmetrical power relations.
What does it mean to break down the artificial divide between “collectors” of knowledge and those of us who have these knowledges “collected” for use? What work is required to decolonize collections, collecting practices, and practices of access originally designed to help Euro-American scholars study “the other?” Chapters examine questions of identity among library users and librarians, the historical and contemporary violence of collecting, and structural critiques of area studies and global studies in academic libraries. Author contributions include a wide variety of area studies “regions” and the book is organized to develop conversation cross-regionally.
Megan Browndorf works as Slavic & East European Studies Librarian at the University of Chicago. She studied Russian Area Studies at Dickinson College and an Master of Library Science and MA in Russian & East European Studies from Indiana University. Her primary research interests are East European library history, information literacy, and psychological ownership in libraries and information work.
Erin Pappas is Research Librarian for the Humanities at the University of Virginia, where she supports Slavic Literatures and Languages, Media Studies, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She holds degrees in Russian literature and anthropology from Reed College, in anthropology from the University of Chicago, and in library science from the University of Kentucky. She is the co-editor, with Liz Rodrigues, of the #DLFTeach Library Cookbook. Her research interests include emotional labor, early career mentoring, international digital libraries and digital humanities, and improvisation.
Anna Arays is the Librarian for Slavic and East European Studies at Yale University. She holds a BA from Oberlin College and received her MA in Russian and East European Studies and her MLS at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research interests include the history of the printed book in Russia, comparative histories of textile production, the history and development of area studies in the United States, and accessibility of non-Western research collections in anglophone countries.