Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Book Talk Beats Bed

Sometimes, as a student with a mishmash of jobs and an objectively messed up sleep schedule, it can be hard to find the motivation to go to SLIS events, even if they are right up your alley! This Tuesday was one of those days where I just needed a nap. I was ready to trek to the bus, journey home, and wrap myself in covers. But, at the invitation of my friend Lee, I powered through and ended up at Professor Jeannette Bastian’s talk on her new book: Decolonizing the Caribbean Record: An Archives Reader. 

I’m so glad I went! In undergrad I took a slew of courses on colonization in Latin America and Caribbean women writers that changed my entire outlook on life. This event, put on by the Student Chapter of ALA International Relations Round Table (SCIRRT), brought me right back to those amazing classes!

Professor Bastian’s background as the Territorial Librarian of the United States Virgin Islands from 1987 to 1998 means that not only is she an expert on the subject, but the collection is near and dear to her heart. Decolonizing the Caribbean Record is a collection “forty essays by archivists and academics within and outside of the Caribbean region that address challenges of collecting, representing, and preserving the records and cultural expressions of former colonial societies, exploring the contribution of these records to nation-building.”

As Prof. Bastian told us, this book was inspired by work she completed in 2014 as a part of a UNESCO-funded team for designing a library and information science curriculum for the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, and was meant to serve as a text for the program. The UNESCO team, and by extension this collection, sought to create material that “was sensitive to the cultural heritage of the Caribbean as well as to the archival concerns of a small former colonial islands in tropical climates.”

Our book discussion included the ‘owning’ of memory, and who can lay claim to records, as well as oral traditions and how recorded history (or lack thereof) shapes self image. In a similar vein, we briefly discussed Professor Bastian’s 2003 book Owning Memory, How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found Its History. I really enjoyed her expansion of the traditional definition of an archival material, asserting that Caribbean carnivals are an archival record in themselves! We also talked about the difficulties and rewards of editing a book, including organizing and bringing together all of the essays, seeking out contributors, and following through on deadlines set for said contributors.

Professor Bastian joked that her 800 page collection was quite a ‘door stopper,’ but said it’s more of an occasional reader that something to binge: you pick it up, read an essay, then put it down for a few months. Maybe I’ll write a follow up blog post in a few years when I make my way through this exciting and rich (but somewhat daunting) text!