International Naming Conventions

What are the problems with misnaming?

Some administrative errors which might occur on a technical level include:

  • The name being incorrectly transcribed on Alma/Outlook/other administrative bases.
  • Names being transcribed or otherwise ‘standardised’ differently across different administrative bases (e.g. a different name being recorded on Alma to Outlook or on tutorial office records.
  • The name not suiting form-naming conventions (e.g. no personal name/family name structure; no space for ‘preferred’ name; honorifics not being used).

Some errors which might occur at a reader services level include:

  • Incorrect spelling of a person’s name.
  • Addressing a library user by the family name instead of personal name or vice versa.
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Reader Services workshop

The first part of the session featured a recording of a presentation from Sally Hamer on her 2020 study into racial bias in reference studies. The purpose of the study was to observe whether librarians communicated differently to different students who had names which implied a different ethnic origin. The study suggested that such different communication did occur, whether consciously or unconsciously, raising questions of unconscious bias in librarian communications. Such a conclusion demonstrates firstly that such a problem does exist, which allows solutions to be drafted in order to tackle it. Read a description of the presentation on the CaTaLOG trainees’ website.

A good solution would be to adhere to best practice guidelines, such as those proposed by IFLA and RUSA, which propose a checklist of elements for every interaction (such as addressing someone by name, and service provision, increasing awareness of other follow-up options, and so on). However, this comes with the very large caveat that best practice guidelines themselves don’t always refer to ethnic and racial bias explicitly – including those proposed by IFLA and RUSA. Racial bias should be explicitly mentioned for guidelines to be truly anti-racist.

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book shelves at Jesus college Library

Decolonisation Project in the Quincentenary Library, Jesus College, Cambridge

Broadening of Collection Development: Cambridge libraries began to discuss decolonisation about three or four years ago.  I have been keeping abreast of the discussions and projects, as libraries are working in tandem with the Decolonising the Curriculum initiative to decolonise universities.   One of the first things we did in the Quincentenary Library was to expand our collection by buying lots of texts written by non-European authors.  We got lists from most of the Arts and Humanities libraries on suggestions for what to buy and so we expanded our collections e.g., by buying books by black or Asian authors, authors from Oceania or Africa.

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Decolonising implications in Reader Services

A workshop

Thursday 9th September – 3.00 – 4.30pm

Wednesday 22nd September – 10.30am – 12pm

We are very excited to announce our next workshop (with 2 repeat sessions) about Decolonising implications in Reader Services. This workshop will look at different decolonising issues in the day-to-day work of user-facing staff from colleges, departments and faculties libraries, archives, and the main University University. The workshop will be facilitated by the Decolonising Through Critical Librarianship group and is also part of the Transforming Library series of events. 

We ask participants to familiarise themselves with the issues by reading beforehand some relevant article excerpts and questions arising from them.

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