Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 16, 2001 - Issue 38



CSUSM Professor, Tribes Partner for Better Libraries


 by EDWARD SIFUENTES Staff Writer North County Times

SAN MARCOS, CA-- Libraries have long been said to be the repositories of civilization, but for many California Indian tribes, libraries are a luxury they can't afford, putting important documents on American Indian history and culture at risk of being lost.

"Money is scarce," said Micheale White, a tribal librarian with the Pauma Band of Mission Indians, a 135-member tribe located off Highway 76.

"People think that because a lot of us are going into the casino business we are going to be rich, but that is no guarantee."

Bonnie Biggs, a professor of library information at Cal State San Marcos, is trying to help tribes get the money they need to develop and expand their libraries, some of which are nothing more than a few book shelves holding small book collections.

Her goal is to make the region's tribal libraries a part of the state's public library network.

With a $44,000 grant from the state, Biggs has spent much of the last year traveling to reservations in Southern California to produce a "tribal library census and needs assessment" that details the condition of American Indian libraries in the Tierra del Sol Regional Library Network.

The network includes five counties ---- San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial and Inyo ---- 10 tribal groupings and about 37 American Indian reservations.

The final report, due at the end of the month, will create a model for others to follow in the coastal, central and northern regions of the state.

Biggs said she hopes her work will lead to tribal libraries becoming a part of the state's public library network, which will provide easier access to funds, training and information sharing.

"The ultimate goal is to ensure that the state's tribal libraries are eventually included in a statewide sharing network," Biggs said. "The trick is this: California state law says that for a library to be considered a 'public library,' they must meet a variety of criteria."

The criteria include having organized materials, set hours of service and ---- the main roadblock for tribes ---- a paid staff member who has a master's degree in library science or a California library media teacher credential.

The answer, Biggs said, is to create a separate category under the state's library system for tribal libraries, as other states, such as New Mexico, have done.

"The New Mexico State Library has a 'developing library' category, their tribal libraries fall under this category and can, therefore, apply for some small state library grants," she said.

The benefits of the partnership between tribal libraries and the state system will also improve the understanding of American Indian culture and history, Biggs said.

Tribal libraries are often the repositories of important documents and artifacts for each tribe's history and culture, such as the La Jolla Band of Mission Indians library, which is home to important manuscripts on history and culture of the band written by tribal elder Henry Rodriguez.

But the library has been staffed only periodically because of a lack of funding.

During the last decade, California tribes have lost important federal and state funding sources for their libraries, Biggs said.

Biggs said she fears that many important collections could be lost, because there are so few trained librarians on the reservations to care for and catalog the materials.

Local tribes are working with Biggs to improve funding and training of tribal staff.

"I think if we were to unite we'd be able to access funding and share ideas," said Doretta Musick, tribal librarian at the Pala Indian reservation.

Biggs said she was inspired by the work of Lotsee Patterson, a professor of library studies at the University of Oklahoma who is considered a national authority on tribal libraries.

Patterson visited Cal State San Marcos last winter.

"Bonnie (Biggs) is the only person in the U.S. who is carrying on my life's work," said Patterson, a Chickasaw and Comanche Indian who has worked since the 1970s to improve tribal libraries.

"Libraries are our best hope for retaining tribal culture, traditions and language," Patterson said.

With the grant, Biggs and staff at Cal State San Marcos created a Web site based on the information she collected in the census that gives snapshot information about the reservations, the tribes, the people and the condition of each of the 37 libraries she visited.

"This is important information that wasn't available before," said Marion Reid, the dean of the university's library. "A few years ago, this would have been put in a book and that's it. Now, you can go in and add to it or change it. I'm already seeing a lot of our students going in to use the information."

Last week, the university hosted a conference attended by representatives of more than a dozen tribes where they met to organize, discuss ideas and the needs of each tribal library.

Those who attended the conference said sharing information electronically is an important aspect of the tribal library's future because so many reservations are in such remote areas.

"We are living in an information age," said David Whitehorse, a professor at Cal State San Marcos who attended the conference. "I think one of the largest needs right now is the ability to plug into information networks."

Tribal Library Census and Needs Assessment Study




  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.



The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.