Projects and initiatives

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Decolonizing Descriptions in the Library Catalogue

Decolonizing description is a recent initiative to ensure accurate and respectful representation of indigenous peoples and contexts through library descriptive metadata practices. For consistency and access purposes, libraries use controlled vocabularies of subject terms to describe their collections. Metadata and resource descriptions of library collections contain language that reflects the norms and biases of the time in which they were created, and in the case of indigenous peoples, it is a colonially biased language that is still the main language of all the leading controlled vocabularies used by libraries worldwide. The goal of this initiative is to replace inappropriate language in the library metadata and resource descriptions that were introduced during legacy cataloguing practices with a modern decolonized language that accurately and appropriately represents indigenous peoples.

In 2017-2018, the first decolonizing description projects started at the University of Manitoba, University of British Columbia, and the University of Alberta. These institutions have been building vocabularies of subject terms that would be more inclusive and respectful of local indigenous communities and groups. The vocabularies are constantly updated and are freely available for other institutions to use and build upon to implement culturally appropriate description in library catalogues.

At national level, the Canadian Federation of Library Associations (CFLA) Truth and Reconciliation Committee prepared 10 recommendations, including decolonizing library access and description vocabularies. In 2018, Canadiana, the national heritage collection, went into the care of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) which, soon after, initiated the “Decolonizing Canadiana metadata” project. In 2019, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) issued their Indigenous Heritage Action Plan that outlines LAC’s metadata decolonization initiative, among others. In 2022, the National Indigenous Knowledge and Language Alliance (NIKLA) started a similar project called “Respectful Terminology Platform Project”. Université Laval is also involved in this work, particularly with respect to updating the terminology of the RVM.

The uOttawa Library, along with 17 other Ontario academic libraries, is a member of Collaborative Futures (CF) – a collaborative initiative of the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) to implement a shared library management system (Omni) and use it effectively to manage print and electronic resources. In 2021, the OCUL-CF Decolonizing Descriptions Working Group was created to prepare recommendations on how CF institutions can support and build upon existing initiatives related to decolonizing description in our library catalogues. In 2022, the Working Group released their final report outlining ten recommendations, including:

  • OCUL to develop an indigenous strategic plan
  • institutions to establish ongoing relationships with local indigenous communities
  • institutions to review current cataloguing and descriptive practices and address issues with colonially biased language descriptions
  • institutions to use existing decolonized vocabularies as a starting point
  • OCUL and institutions to explore the creation of local decolonized authority records to be jointly used by CF institutions.

The uOttawa Library, in collaboration with Carleton University, is currently launching a long-term project focused on decolonizing descriptions in our library catalogue. We will be using the final report of the OCUL-CF Decolonizing Descriptions Working Group as a guiding document. We are looking forward to collaborating with local indigenous groups and other interested parties to align our library metadata practices with the decolonizing description initiative.

The first phase of the project will include the following:

  • Draft a working document plan (based on CF Report), including identification of project scope.
  • Test a sampling of cataloguing records to identify issues related to the technical recommendation from OCUL-CF report.
  • Establish a working group with Carleton University Library.
  • Initiate relationship building with both universities’ Indigenous Affairs offices and hold an introductory meeting with the Indigenous Education Council.
  • Identify actions for Phase 2.

Phase 1 will end by Dec 2023.

Additional information

Statement on Harmful Language in Omni

Questions can be directed to the Library's Metadata and Processing department via: [email protected]

Library Space and Design Plan

We are embarking on an exciting project to reimagine uOttawa Library spaces for the future.  When completed, the Library Space and Design Plan will serve as a roadmap for the transformation of our spaces and facilities. 

Large and small, uOttawa’s libraries are some of the most used places on campus and include: 

  • Morisset Library (MRT includes the Library’s Archives and Special Collections and Content and Access services on the concourse level)
  • Brian Dickson Law Library (FTX)
  • Health Sciences Library (RGN)
  • Learning Crossroads (at CRX. the library manages spaces on floors 2 and 5)
  • Social Sciences Library (FSS 2010)
  • Management Library (DMS 2141)

To stay current and meet the changing needs of our campus community, many of these spaces need to be revitalized and reimagined.  A cohesive Library Space and Design Plan will help us map out the future of our libraries on campus and the steps we need to take to arrive there.

March 2023

From February 6-10 students were invited to share their ideas and reactions about library spaces on a series of poster boards located on the main floor and 2nd floor of Morisset.  Students cast almost 2,000 votes for the kinds of spaces and furnishings they preferred and shared 376 comments.

The elements that students were most interested in?

  • Natural daylight
  • Warm materials
  • Serene spaces, green space
  • More electrical outlets
  • Quiet study spaces
  • Active/collaborative study spaces
  • More amenities (vending machines, nap pods)
Students share their ideas about library spaces

Collection Lifecycle Management (CLM) at Morisset Library

November 2022

The library’s collections have a key role in the uOttawa Library mission: “The uOttawa Library advances cutting edge research and supports transformative learning by connecting the uOttawa community to expertise, services, collections and technology in a welcoming and supportive environment” (Strategic Plan).

The active management of the Morisset Library print collection is the focus of the Collection Lifecycle Management (CLM) project. Some areas of the library stacks are under acute pressure due to long-deferred collection maintenance; navigating and browsing those parts of the collection can be challenging for library users.

The objective of the project is to develop and implement an active collection management plan to address the user experience in the stacks and to ensure that the collection aligns with the learning, teaching, and research needs of the uOttawa community.

The goals of the project are to

  • Identify and retain relevant material in the Morisset stacks.
  • Ensure that library users can locate and retrieve the material they need from the stacks.

The project is in the planning phase. Next steps include data gathering and analysis, and consultation with stakeholders. The project was presented to the Library Advisory Committee in October 2022; more conversations with the uOttawa community will follow.

Collection Strategy, within the Content & Access division of uOttawa Library, is responsible for project planning and management. For questions or comments about this project, please contact Monica Ward, Head, Collections Strategy ([email protected]) and Ze’ev Schneider, Project Manager ([email protected]).

Please check back to this current section of the page for project updates.

March 2023 update 

Collection Lifecycle Management (CLM) work is now focused on a comprehensive review of the Morisset Library periodicals collection on the 6th floor. This collection includes journals, indexes, directories, government publications, and publications by international organizations—all in print. 

The University of Ottawa Library electronic collections provide reliable and permanent full-text access to many e-journal titles. As part of this review, we expect to deaccession most print copies of 6th floor journal titles to which uOttawa community members have permanent and reliable electronic access. Some print material will remain accessible locally in the Annex or in collaboration with our shared print partners. 

We expect that this comprehensive review of the 6th floor collection will make additional capacity available for easing pressures in other areas of the collection, where the collection has reached or exceeded shelving capacity

Collaborative Futures (2020)

Back in January 2020, the University of Ottawa Library launched Omni, a new library system for finding and accessing books, articles, and other materials in our collection.

As part of this project, we are now getting ready to implement the automated fulfillment network (AFN).

AFN will enable users to directly request print books from their general collections held at an Omni partner institution. The implementation of AFN will take place in two phases.

1. Configuration Launch/Test Phase – June - August 2021

The configuration launch and test phase consist of configuring our library system to enable direct borrowing from our Omni Partners. Once the configuration is complete and launched, Omni partners will test both sending and receiving resources from other Omni partners. If you see different options in Omni, such as “get it from another university”, this means that the testing phase has started.

It may take several weeks after the configuration launch for us to ensure all 16 Omni partners are fully operational within the AFN.

2. Official Launch– September 2021

The launch of the service is planned for the start of the fall semester. More information, including instructions on how to place a request from an Omni Partner Institution will follow once the testing phase is complete.

If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].

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