Native Studies alumna brings perspective and passion to U of A Libraries

Kayla Lar-Son just graduated with a master's in library studies, but she already has big plans for the year ahead

Jordan Cook - 26 July 2018

Kayla Lar-Son only graduated with a Master's in Library and Information Studies this past spring, but she's already setting a course to transform the libraries at the University of Alberta.

As she steps into the role of the Indigenous Academic Resident (IAR) for U of A Libraries, Lar-Son, a Métis woman with an undergraduate degree from the Faculty of Native Studies, is bringing her unique perspective and undeniable passion to the work.

"I'm going to be doing some small project management roles within Digital Initiatives, likely outreach with Indigenous students on campus. But I'm also looking at helping our Digital Initiatives Librarians lndigenize or decolonize some of the digital practices that we have and some of the digital collections that we have," Lar-Son explained.

Lar-Son is the first to note that "decolonizing" has become something of a buzzword, but she has concrete ideas for the ways in which libraries need to evolve.

"I think Indigenizing libraries means changing our ways of thinking about knowledge, knowledge systems, and how we share information. As well as looking at our relationships to other people; yes we're librarians and there's kind of this myth of neutrality, but we can have relationships and opinions on things that matter with our patrons."

It was during her time as an undergrad in the Faculty of Native Studies that she first discovered her passion for libraries.

"I TA'ed NS 290 with Frank Tough, and that really got me into that love of library research. My biggest joy is when a student has a project that they're really passionate about, being able to help them with that extra research step. I love seeing student success through using libraries."

In addition to her work as the Indigenous Academic Resident, Lar-Son has teamed up with last year's IAR, Tanya Ball, to develop and teach a new course for the School of Library and Information Studies: Indigenous LIS in a Canadian Context. The course is a first for SLIS, and rare for library schools across Canada.

"It's not just looking at Indigenous LIS practices for Indigenous patrons, but it's looking at publishing practices, activism and advocacy within libraries for Indigenous communities, having Indigenous colleagues. We want to show what's out there, and teach some of the differences between tribal, public, and academic libraries."

The course was developed with input from the on-campus Indigenous community, and one thing that sets this class apart from similar courses at other library schools in the country is that it is taught full-time by Indigenous librarians.

"It's nice because being able to have an Indigenous-focused class means Indigenous issues and initiatives in a library are not stuck into a diversity class with everything else, where it's just one topic for one week. We can get more in-depth and really have some critical conversations around Indigenous issues in LIS."

Throughout her time in SLIS, and even now having graduated and begun her career, Lar-Son remains connected back to the Faculty of Native Studies.

"I always come back to Native Studies, even now as a working professional. It's something familiar, I know the people, I always feel welcome. So it's something nice on campus that's still here and still very supportive. And everyone always wants to know what you're up to and what's going on, and how's your life, so that's also really nice."