Information equity for indigenous knowledge, or, how do you find kūmara in the library? Part 2.

How research libraries are applying the MSH

(Image of kūmara planting by Slomoz, shared at.  Reused and cropped by CC-BY 2.0 licence.)

With the advice and support of experts in the field, I talked with staff in wānanga, university, public, and special libraries around the Wellington region to find out how they were using Ngā Ūpoko Tukutuku / the Māori Subject Headings (MSH) to help information seekers to find indigenous information.

These are some of the most exciting things we discovered.

  • Library users are looking for information using the terms in the MSH. The demand is there, and the resource is helping to meet that demand.
  • Some libraries are using this brilliant resource to fulfil that demand. Despite all the limitations with which we’re all familiar – lack of time and funds, scarcity of staff expertise in Māori language and conceptual frameworks, and so on – librarians are employing diverse approaches tailored to their specific users, creatively working together to overcome limitations, and proving that you don’t have to be awesome to get started, though you do have to start to get awesome.

Library staff recognise the importance of the MSH. In the words of the participants in our research –

We know it enriches everybody’s life.

It’s about discoverability.

… if you’re going to be talking about Māori topics, it’s useful to use words and phrases Māori are going to want to use.

…being able to describe ourselves, in our culture, from our own perspective and our own viewpoint…

Our cataloguers are promoting te reo Māori.

There’s a lot more research that could be done to help fulfil the potential benefits.

  • Actual and potential uptake of the MSH across all libraries and other information/memory institutions. Who’s using the MSH, and who could be?
  • Library users’ opinions and interactions with the MSH.
  • Development of an information sharing network between libraries.
  • Appropriateness of terms selected for records – accuracy, specificity, and relevance to user requirements. For example, how could we do more to identify local specialist information about places?
  • Future development of the MSH.

To find out more, readers are welcome to read the full research report, contact me, or contact the team who develop the MSH.

Iti noa ana, he pito mata.

Although this is only small, more may sprout from it.

One Comment

  1. Manuhiri

    I see so much potential for MSH usage, not just in libraries and archives. All organisations battle with how to structure information and what labels to assign and tools like this help to provide the appropriate terminology. I also have a selfish interest as I hope to be developing a similar tool to aid speakers of Māori in the business realm. Ngā mihi, Melissa.


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