For our quarterly newsletter, we interviewed Carrie Corneilus, a librarian at Haskell Indian Nations University, and Sara Morris, Rebecca Orozco, and Michael Peper, librarians at the University of Kansas (KU), about their participation in the Research Support Services project on Indigenous Studies. The two universities collaborated in a unique partnership to  interview Indigenous Studies scholars.

1. Why did you want to participate in this study?

Carrie Corneilus: I am a tribal librarian of students and faculty from 140 North American tribes; the impact of the Ithaka S+R project is high. Participating was my responsibility as a tribal librarian. Our patrons are each personally affected by research about their families and their communities, perhaps more negatively than positively. This project posed an opportunity for western education to improve research protocol and return the benefits of research to benefit the needs of our Indigenous learning communities.  I thank Ithaka S+R for recognizing the need and giving voice to Indigenous methodologies.

Sara Morris: The decision to participate in this study in a broad sense was made by the administrators at both of our libraries. At KU, the leadership selected a handful of librarians to be the investigators. When I was asked to participate, I quickly said yes. I have been a fan of Ithaka S+R for some time, and I know they produce useful and transformative works, which is reason enough to want to participate. However, on a more personal level, this presented an opportunity to expand my research skills and learn something new. Professionally, since I work in collection development, learning more about scholars at both KU and Haskell would improve my ability to do my job. Also, I really did not know any of my collaborators, so getting to know them was another motivator.

Michael Peper: I was new to KU when this project was proposed, and I saw it as a good opportunity to get to know faculty working in this field and to work with colleagues at KU and Haskell that I did not know well. It was an area of research I knew little about, so it seemed like an opportunity where I could learn a lot. I also did not have much research experience and having the structure of the multi-institutional project with Ithaka S+R providing support and experience was a great way to get more guided experience. Ithaka S+R reports are relevant and helpful to my own work so the opportunity to contribute to this particular report was exciting.

Rebecca Orozco: My motivation for participating in this research project was threefold. First, as a Womxn of Color, I believe that it is important to have as many voices and experiences as possible represented in the scholarly record. When I was asked to be a part of the research team, this project seemed like an opportunity to contribute to that effort.  Second, like my colleagues, I saw this as an opportunity to learn more about how Indigenous Studies (IS) faculty at both institutions conduct research and teach. As the science librarian, I wanted to be able to partner with IS faculty and support IS students more effectively, especially within science disciplines. Finally, I wanted to learn how to conduct qualitative research, specifically in-depth interviews; the training that Ithaka S+R provided was a great way to do that

2. What did you learn through this process?

Rebecca Orozco: This process taught me so many things; however, there were two things that stood out. First, I learned how each of our participants blended their worldviews with their disciplinary specific training. The participants explained how this informs their information seeking processes and their information selection criteria.  The project showed me the power of resistance to forward inclusion of worldviews in research and instruction. Going beyond inclusivity, the participants shared how they use Indigenous worldviews in the classroom and research to bring healing to their students and communities. It gave me a new perspective on conducting research and classroom instruction that has influenced the way I approach research and teaching. Second, this experience made me reflect on my own identity as a Mexican-American woman in higher education, specifically in academic libraries. It made me think about ways to blend my culture into my practice of librarianship. So, I am thankful to our participants for sharing their experiences with us and the opportunity to reflect on my own instruction and research.

Michael Peper: I knew almost nothing about Indigenous Studies or issues related to Indigenous Peoples, and while that made for some struggles, I learned a lot during the process. I learned more about conducting semi-structured interviews, analyzing those interviews, Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Research Methodologies, and the needs, challenges, and successes of Indigenous communities. It was also extremely instructive to read the reports of the other research teams at different institutions. The divergences in their findings and their approach to conducting the research emphasized the diversity within the field. As for what the research revealed, the most striking finding was how much career stage and family background affected how scholars approach their research and teaching. As they gained experience (and tenure in some cases), our scholars use more Indigenous Methodologies and were motivated by community benefit rather than focusing more exclusively on an academic audience.

Sara Morris: I am a historian and was trained in western approaches of analyzing the past. Now I have a much better understanding of other methods/lenses that scholar might use. I also learned that KU Libraries might need to modify our services to improve how we interact with individuals from Haskell. In reverse, I gained a better understanding of Haskell’s resources (particularly people) and how to make better use of them for KU affiliates.

Carrie Corneilus: The Ithaka S+R project was my first research opportunity to improve my writing and collaboration skills. Every step was a new learning experience. Perhaps the most daunting was the responsibility of reporting and analyzing the interviews of our Indigenous faculty’s words and stories. We were trusted to make improvements to library services on their behalf. Realizing that research was emotional. Along this journey, I was gifted with new partnerships and friendships with my colleagues of my partner institutions and the other Ithaka S+R research universities.

3. How have you begun to use finding from this project?

Michael Peper: The most immediate outcome of the project was the strengthening of the ties between the libraries at Haskell and KU. The members of the project team know each other well now, and we more regularly seek opportunities to work together and apply our work to both institutions. Going forward, we have the obligation to enhance the representation of Indigenous creators and scholars within the library’s collections, workers, and services.

Sara Morris: I work in collection development and anytime I learn more about the research approaches of our users, I can make better collections decisions. Because our libraries grant borrowing privileges to users on both campuses, it has been valuable to increase my understanding of both non-western approaches and the interest of the scholars interviewed. More important, this project strengthened the relationship between the two libraries, which I know will have long-lived implications.

Carrie Corneilus: Our country needs more Indigenous librarians. I try to encourage other Indigenous students to become information professionals. I plant the seed early with freshmen to become researchers, librarians, archivists, or tribal preservation officers. I am beginning to develop a certificate program in information studies through Haskell so that students will hopefully continue with a graduate degree. I am driven to develop our collections to include the best for our researchers, not only with our country’s Indigenous content, but global Indigenous content.

Rebecca Orozco: One of our recommendations was to partner with IS faculty to support Indigenous student scholars. We partner with faculty and staff who run and coordinate programs that support Indigenous student scholarship in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic disciplines at both institutions.