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Decolonisation: UEA Library Guide

What is decolonisation and why might the Library be involved?

Decolonisation is a broad and contested term and can mean different things in different contexts. A particular focus in UK higher education is the curriculum and the need to challenge dominant structures and assumptions - along with including a wider range of ideas and experiences. The Library has an important role in supporting the curriculum and in supporting wider reading and research. But it also needs to look critically at its own structures, resources and services and consider what changes are needed there.

Prompted by early student and staff decolonisation initiatives at UEA and the challenges voiced by Black Lives Matter, the Library formed an Anti-racism group in 2021, with staff drawn from all parts of the Library. This group is looking at how UEA Library might take forward decolonisation and practically meet its strategic goals of Championing Equality and Diversity and Embedding Inclusive Practices (Interim Library Strategy 2023).

We want to ensure that our building and services “reflect respect and equality of treatment for all and continue to celebrate cultural diversity” and “place inclusivity at the heart of all our services, physical and online, to enhance our welcome to all.” We recognise that there are critical and collaborative dimensions to this and we will need to “undertake proactive initiatives to tackle racism and engage with underrepresented groups” (quotes from Library strategy).

Our work in this area is informed by discussions with staff and students at UEA and work being done in other libraries and is in the spirit of critical librarianship, which challenges the notion that libraries have unbiased collections and neutral spaces. This is ongoing work and we want you to be involved!

Decolonise UEA Library logo



Upside down map - Let's look at our world differently



Library Podcast on Decolonisation

Listen to Rachel and Grant talking about decolonisation and why it is important for libraries to take part.

Some things the Library has been doing

Expanding and promoting the Library's resources

Supporting student and staff initiatives

Looking critically and library structures and practices

  • Ran decolonisation and unconscious bias workshops for Library staff
  • Formed a Library Anti-racism group to take forward our decolonisation initiatives
  • Held an open forum in 2023 to enable students and staff to discuss how the library might further engage in decolonisation
  • Broadened our staff recruitment practices to reach a wider and more diverse pool of candidates
  • Reviewed and revised our Collection development policy to stress our commitment to building diverse collections and our opposition to censorship

Working with others within and beyond UEA

  • Contributed to UEA's Reflexive Teaching Toolkit, which includes content on decolonisation (to be released 2023-24). The useful bibliography is available now.
  • Worked with Alterline Research and nine other university libraries to study Black students' experiences of equality, diversity and inclusion in libraries
  • Attended and spoke at library conferences

Some things the Library is working on

  • Continuing our book campaign and open engagement with student and staff groups 
  • Expanding our exhibition offering to include student-led exhibitions (please contact us if interested)
  • Looking at ways we might better highlight diverse resources and collections - on the library shelves and in the digital library

If you would like to be involved or have other ideas of things the Library might do, please contact us.

Get involved!

Your input is key in our journey to decolonise the library. We are working with several groups in the University to take forward our decolonisation work, but there are two ways you can immediately and directly help us with this process:

Give us feedback - link to decolonise the library email

Let us know what you like and what we need to change and improve 

Add resources to the library - link to book suggestion form

Tell us about books and resources you would like us to buy or better promote 

Decolonisation resources relevant to your faculty

Follow these links to pages and reading lists highlighting resources that are relevant to your faculty or school

Link to Arts and Humanities Resources that relate to decolonisation

Link to Social Science resources that relate to decolonisation

Link to Science resources that relate to decolonisation

Link to Medicine and Health resources that relate to decolonisation

Other relevant UEA groups and initatives

Please let us know about other groups and initiatives we should add here.

Some recent additions to the Library's collections