Question #1: Tell me about yourself and how you came to be involved with Open Education.
I’m Jesse Loyer. I’m a librarian at Mount Royal University which is an undergraduate teaching focused institution in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I am Cree Métis. My mom is Cree and my dad’s Métis. I’m a member of Michel First Nation and I grew up in Callihoo, which is a town that’s kind of in my traditional territory. I did the First Nations Curriculum Concentration when I was at library school at the University of British Columbia (UBC), because I thought I would end up at home working in a community center/library/museum, what we see in a lot of Indigenous communities. But I ended up getting a job at a university right away. It was a short term position due to maternity leave. I just sort of snuck in a little bit longer and I’m now a tenured professor there. It was kind of all sort of a surprise in a lot of ways.
My work, especially because I had been doing the First Nations Curriculum Concentration and I was doing librarianship assuming that I would be in an Indigenous community, a lot of my work was thinking about what are the challenges that we have with librarianship right now that don’t serve our communities? Things like language revitalization. Where is that happening in libraries? Or how is technology being used in that way? Talking about how things in museums are kept from us. We have relatives in museums. This includes not only human remains that are in museums and universities that are kept from us but also non-human articles that are considered our relatives like bead work and drums. These things in our world are considered living but are held as objects in a catalog in cultural memory institutions. That part of the work was always sort of simmering around in my brain and I don’t know that I would have been able to articulate it.
But I remember at UBC, at the museum of anthropology, a lot of their ceremonial items can be lent out to people. They recognize that these are not just kind of needing to be preserved but they go home and they’re loved and they’re worn and they’re sung to and then they come back. There’s a recognition that wear and tear is part of the life cycle of an item. That was already part of my earliest librarian training.
In terms of Open, I think I started to really get a sense of that intersection when I first started at Mount Royal articulating the cost of textbooks for students. You can see it when students are really struggling and they’re asking us if we have the textbook in our library. We have to say, “No, it’s not part of our collection policy.” The strange obstacles that we put up in order to be responsive to publishers can be so frustrating.
Really, it was in 2018 that I got an invite to speak at an Open Access Week event that was happening. The event was co-sponsored by a number of universities in British Columbia. I got an invite from a librarian that I had gone to library school with, Lindsay Tripp who’s at Langara. That was really the first time that I had to formally pull together my ideas about openness and how openness has some holes in it when we talk about indigeneity and we talk about Indigenous systems of knowledge. That was when I gave a talk about “Rez Dogs and Open Access.” That’s the one where I talk about, yes, we recognize that rez dogs are a problem, that there are dogs on reserve, they can be feral, they can bite people, and chiefs and councils often don’t know what to do with them. It’s the same as in publishing with all of these awful fees that we have to pay as libraries that get access to publicly funded research. I saw those as similar kinds of problems and, in both cases, I saw that external pressures to try and fix the problem we’re actually making that problem worse or really misunderstanding the relationships that exist.
With rez dogs there are lots of culturally appropriate ways to deal with them instead of shooting the dogs or picking them up on the side of the highway thinking that they’re bad dogs or that they’re not being taken care of, white rescues coming into a rez and taking them away. Similarly, with Open Access, we see things like people wanting to digitize old songs or old stories that actually, we as libraries don’t have the authority to do. That’s what “Rez Dogs and Open Access” was about. It was the result of years of experience trickling through and me trying to see this big metaphor. The way that outsiders approach rez dogs is very similar to the way that non-Indigenous people approach openness for Indigenous materials. That’s where the conversation but that’s where it starts.