To Seek Knowledge Together
How Libraries in Hawaiʻi Can Better Support Indigenous Studies Scholars
In 2017, the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) was invited to participate in an international qualitative study organized by Ithaka S+R that sought to examine the research needs of Indigenous scholars. Our research team—Kawena Komeiji, Keahiahi Long, Shavonn Matsuda, Annemarie Paikai, and Kapena Shim—focused on how libraries can better support the research and teaching activities of Hawaiian Studies scholars whose scholarship contributes to the advancement and well-being of the Indigneous people of Hawaiʻi.
There were several reasons we embarked on this study. Ultimately, as five librarians of Hawaiian ancestry, we each work to contribute to our Hawaiian communities in meaningful ways through the practices of information science. More specifically, as faculty at UH, we seek to align our professional activities with UH’s mission to become the “world’s foremost indigenous serving university” (Office of the Vice President for Academic Planning and Policy 2015). Moreover, we strive to improve the overall climate of UH libraries and archives for Hawaiian Studies research.
One critical finding that emerged from our research is that Hawaiian Studies scholars embed Hawaiian values and protocols into all aspects of their research. The scholars discussed how Hawaiian knowledge is informed by the relationship between kānaka (Hawaiian people) and ʻāina (land, that which feeds). Elements like kūlana (position, rank), pule (prayer), kuleana (responsibility), and mana (authority) interact with each other, creating a process that is unique and distinctly Hawaiian. Binding practice to identity, Hawaiian knowledge is both created and perpetuated through ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language).
It is our responsibility, then, as librarians, to ensure that the UH Libraries are spaces that not only respect but also reflect these values and protocols, and there are several ways we can do this. One of our recommendations is that the UH Libraries improve Hawaiian language and cultural competencies of library personnel by: a) providing work time, space, funding and other resources for library personnel to participate in professional development opportunities related to Hawaiian knowledge, language, history, and perspectives; and b) establish necessary personnel training that strengthens the overall knowledge of Hawaiian collections and Hawaiʻi-related resources.
In total, our study identified 16 findings (grouped into four central themes) that informed 14 key recommendations for how the UH leadership and libraries can enact systemic change that will improve support for the research and teaching activities of Hawaiian Studies scholars. The findings and recommendations guide the future stewardship of Hawaiian knowledge and the development of information science practices in Hawaiʻi and beyond. Our report is not intended to be definitive; rather, we offer this work in contribution to the many existing and future efforts to advance Hawaiian knowledge and communities.
Mahalo (thank you) to everyone that has supported this project, especially to the participants in our study without whom this project would not have been possible. We’d also like to recognize Danielle Cooper, Ithaka S+R, Deborah Lee, and the other researchers from the 11 participating academic institutions and thank them for sharing their time and expertise with us. To view our full report, titled E Naʻauao Pū, E Noiʻi Pū, E Noelo Pū: Research Support for Hawaiian Studies, see here: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/44906.