Intersections of Gender in the Library Collection

By Sarah Polkinghorne

By Sarah Polkinghorne

This is the first in a series of posts that highlight connections between the University of Alberta's library collection and the university's first three signature areas. The Working at the Intersections of Gender (WIG) conference is just around the corner (October 3-4), so it's a great place to start. Read on for recommendations from the library collection, from books to films to digitized historical documents.first three signature areas. The Working at the Intersections of Gender (WIG) conference is just around the corner (October 3-4), so it's a great place to start. Read on for recommendations from the library collection, from books to films to digitized historical documents.

If you close your eyes and picture a "library," what comes to mind? Rows and rows of books? If so, you're far from alone in that perception. The library locations at the University of Alberta do contain printed books: as of September 2019, we have about four million. However, libraries have always been much more than the "stuff" on the shelves. And the "stuff" of the library, the collection, grows broader all the time, now including 110,000 ejournals, newspapers, graphic novels, games, puppets, and more, in addition to books.

Much of the collection exists online now, rather than in the stacks. This includes collections of older documents that, because they've been digitized, are now more widely accessible than they would be otherwise. Thinking of Intersections of Gender, examples that come to mind include magazines, broadsides, pamphlets, letters, and diaries. These are the types of documents produced within and for social movements such as suffrage - documents that, in their time, were rarely included in library collections.

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This signature area has its basis in the knowledge that "gender and other aspects of identity and social belonging - race, class, age, religion, indigeneity, language, citizenship etc. - intersect and interweave," and that "considering gendered intersections is essential for designing successful, impactful, and socially relevant research."

What do "intersect" and "intersections" mean here? They're references to the foundational concept of intersectionality, a term coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, professor of law at Columbia University. You can hear her define it in her talk, "The urgency of intersectionality."

[Editor's Note: New Trail's Fall 2019 issue features an introduction to intersectionality, calling it a "call to attend to people and systems in their complexity." You can read it here.]

Here's a further selection from the library collection that offers more opportunities to engage with the idea of intersectionality.

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*The source for these recommendations is Dr. Michelle Meagher's WIG paper, "Teaching intersectionality: three texts."WIG paper, "Teaching intersectionality: three texts."

Here's a selection illustrating some of the breadth of intersectional perspectives and analysis.

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If your intersectional interests include historical documents and vintage publications, here are a few digitized collections, existing within the library collection, that may be potentially intriguing.

For yet more related resources, including databases that will connect you with research articles, please visit the guide for Women's and Gender Studies, or for Intersectionality.

Perhaps by this point you find yourself wondering whether anyone has brought intersectional analysis to the world of libraries - and again, the answer is yes. One last selection to recommend is Pushing the margins: women of color and intersectionality in LISPushing the margins: women of color and intersectionality in LIS, edited by Rose L. Chou and Annie Pho.

For more information, visit any University of Alberta library, or visit the Ask Us page for other ways to get in touch.Ask Us page for other ways to get in touch.

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Sarah Polkinghorne is a collection strategies librarian at the University of Alberta, and a doctoral candidate at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. Her doctoral study explores the processes that people use to become informed about food. Sarah and fellow librarians Carolyn Carpan and Virginia Pow will present a session called "Finding information at the intersections of gender" at the upcoming WIG conference.