As part of our series of examples of how libraries protect, preserve and promote indigenous languages in the context of the International Year of Indigenous Languages, this contribution from Alejandra Velez, University of Chocó, talks about her library’s work in this area.

The library at the Technological University at Chocó in Colombia maintains strong links with local indigenous communities, encouraging them to make use of library resources and spaces.

In particular, the library is working with the community to support their work to develop a dictionary of their own languages, in order both to ensure their survival, and to facilitate further production.

Such dictionaries will help improve the collection of indigenous language books in library collections. This will help contribute to a long-standing policy of acquisitions that look to reflect the full diversity of the student base.

The process of building these relationships has also allowed for new understanding and discussions to take place. As one participant in an event to mark the International Day of Indigenous Peoples underlined:

I would like to tell you a little about the learning process in indigenous communities, and their experience with libraries. There is a process of learning that is oral, that is carried out in the field, and whose library is the land. The communities acquire the knowledge, the land, the ancestral wisdom. And in this training session today, a student will experience another system of education, they’re going to come across books. Orality and books – it’s what we called an intercultural dialogue.

Find out more about IFLA's involvement in the International Year of Indigenous Languages.