Beyond Booklists: Libraries' Role in Reconciliation

Most people agree that education is essential for reconciliation. As information experts, library staff are great at promoting books and educational resources. Every September, we share booklists and resources on residential schools, Indigenous history, and issues related to reconciliation. Before I share recommended resources, I'd like to highlight additional ways libraries can promote reconciliation.

I recently came across a succinct resource that shed light on libraries role in the process of reconciliation. [Read it here]. In the beginning it clarifies the definition of reconciliation as “establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.” This underscores the idea that although education is essential to reconciliation, it is, at root, about relationships. It’s about bringing Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples together to resolve past conflict through open communication and ongoing dialogue.

But what can libraries do to help redress a history fraught with discord and intergenerational trauma? Probably more than provide book recommendations. The authors of the document posit that libraries are uniquely positioned to play a strong role in reconciliation. They reason that libraries are natural gathering places where people come together to learn, recreate, socialize and share ideas. Since reconciliation necessitates bringing people together, libraries are positioned to help facilitate ongoing dialogue and foster a spirit of reconciliation in their communities.

The authors encourage libraries to collaborate with Indigenous groups to create opportunities for people to engage in meaningful discourse about Indigenous history, residential schools and reconciliation. Their recommendations include:

  • Organizing meetings, discussions, and film screenings where individuals from various communities can come together to deliberate on moving forward. For instance, showcasing content crafted by Indigenous creators and subsequently holding discussions.
  • Partnering with Indigenous people or First Nation, Métis, or Inuit organizations, such as Friendship Centers and local Métis nation offices, to organize and facilitate these discussions.
  • Engaging Indigenous Elders and respecting proper protocols when requesting their involvement.

With these recommendations in mind, I’d like to give a shout out to GPPL staff for an event they hosted last weekend. They hosted an author talk with Stephen Kakfwi, former Premier of the Northwest Territories, respected Elder, and author of Stoneface: A Defiant Dene. He discussed his experiences at residential school, what motivated him to become a leader and family struggles with addiction and intergenerational trauma. In addition to being an excellent speaker, he is also a talented singer / songwriter. At intervals he performed songs about his experience in residential school and his brother’s struggle with addiction. His memoir is available in TRAC or you can purchase a copy online.

Overall, his talk was moving and educational, and I deepened my understanding of Dene culture and the effects of the residential school system. It was followed by a question and answer period. There was discussion and desire for understanding. The audience engaged with the author in a meaningful way and learned from the experience. The event facilitated a dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and explored tough topics, such as addiction and residential schools. I’m sharing this in hope it will inspire other libraries to facilitate similar discussions.


To access supports for Indigenous patrons visit our Resources for Serving Indigenous Communities Page

Orange Shirt Day / National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Templates

Looking for ways to connect patrons with resources? PLS libraries can access reader's advisory templates like those pictures below on LibraryAware. 

Truth & Reconciliation Booklists 

I know many of you don't have much time to spare, and finding time to update your websites can be challenging. To save you some time I've put together some ready made booklists for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. You can import them onto your website to observe the occasion and to keep your site looking current. You can also use the lists to create your own print materials (booklists, bookmarks etc.) and to get ideas when selecting titles for displays. You might also use the lists for collection development.

I essentially replicated and expanded upon a number of booklists created by the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries. If you'd like to download PDFs of the original lists, you can access them here. Each of the lists promotes reconciliation with a different focus. There are a number of themes and intended audiences, and there isn't too much overlap. The lists are fully customizable, so if you don’t have certain titles or would like to swap some out, you are welcome to do so.

To access the lists, create a new booklist and use the Import option (above the field you use to search for books). These booklists begin with *T&R: (i.e. *T&R: Systems of Power). They are saved at the top of the list of available booklists for import. You can import your favourites for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, and alternate between others for the rest of the year. In doing this, you can honour Indigenous culture and promote reconciliation throughout the year. 

Please note, only PLS staff can create shareable booklists. Unfortunately, member libraries can't upload their own booklists to share with other libraries. However, if you're passionate about a topic and eager to share your selections, please let me know and I can create a shareable version. If you'd like to see shareable content on other themes, I'd be happy to oblige.

Visit the Consulting Corner for instructions on how to import a booklist. (Scroll down to Jill Kergan's contribution)

If you've never created or imported a booklist, you can access this webinar on Staff Niche Academy.

Orange Shirt Day Stories for Children

See All Orange Shirt Day Stories for Children

Residential Schools

See All Residential Schools

Indigenous Issues: Non-fiction for Adults

See All Indigenous Issues: Non-fiction for Adults

Indigenous Issues for Children

See All Indigenous Issues for Children

Recommended Film: We Were Children (2021)

The film We Were Children contains topics and disturbing content surrounding Residential Schools. It may cause trauma brought on by memories of past abuse.

A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available for those who are seeking emotional and crisis referral services.

Please call the Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 if you or someone you know needs help.

Other available resources include:

  • Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310
  • Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266