The goal of this study is to determine to what extent Aboriginals living on reservations in Alberta participate in local public libraries and how well their information needs are being met. The most recent survey of the relationship between Aboriginals and public libraries in Alberta was completed almost twenty years ago and consisted of a single page in a text surveying multiple provinces (Bright 1992). Related research on Aboriginals' relationship with libraries is either geared at digital, archival, or academic libraries in Alberta or looking at libraries in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, or Ontario (Joseph and Lawson 2003; Lee 2001; Skrzeszewski, Huggins-Chan, and Clark 1990; Luther and Lerat 2009). There is a significant and obvious lack in scholarship in the area of Aboriginals on reservations in Alberta and their relationship with public libraries.
Literacy rates for Aboriginals on reserves are much lower than their off-reserve counterparts and the Canadian population in general (Canadian Council on Learning 2008). This project is designed to broadly asses to what extent Alberta's libraries are engaging Aboriginal people. It will use a qualitative approach through a series of approximately 30 interviews conducted on reserves because, as information about the relationship between Aboriginals on reserves and public libraries in Alberta is largely unknown, it is important to gather data in an open-ended fashion where possible in order to get an honest portrayal of the situation as it exists today. Once this base knowledge is established, the door will be opened for further quantitative – and qualitative – research. It is essential to this project to engage the Aboriginal people and I intend to use contacts on the Enoch, Fox Creek, and Blood reserves to assist me in gaining access to interview participants.
This study will benefit LIS scholarship by filling an information gap that will enable library professionals to determine if there are deficiencies in their services to Aboriginals in Alberta living on reserves and to provide direction on how to make improvements if necessary. It will also assist in giving on-reserve Aboriginals in Alberta a voice with regard to public library service and their information needs.