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My experience: Library as a space for debate and exchange of information

As manager of the Cefet-RJ library, which serves both undergraduate and high school students, I always try to understand the needs of students and bring the best resources so that they can develop their pedagogical activities.

Within this idea of the library being an instrument to support these students, I started to work with the decolonial perspective, even without realising that I was doing it.

In 2018, in partnership with the Portuguese area, we started to develop extension projects, which included reading and debating contemporary agendas with high school students — initially, topics related to careers and the labor market, and then, other issues that dialogue with the student’s reality.

As the project progressed, we understood it had this decolonial approach, since it left the more traditional and limited view of the library as an elitist and colonial space, where books are kept. Instead, we wanted to place the library as an environment for discussions and exchange of ideas, which seeks to speak with the students as equals. We also brought topics and texts by authors that students would not normally read, such as indigenous and African authors.

In 2020, due to the pandemic, we transferred the meetings we did in-person to the internet, through the library’s Instagram and we started to have guests to discuss the topics. We included black, indigenous, LGBT writers. There were more than 20 lives, in which we talked about science, fake news, women, politics, racism, masculinity, social quotas, and mental health, among other subjects.

This new space for dialogue has transformed the library into a place for fostering information, but living information that permeates our daily lives. It also enabled students to interact with people from different backgrounds. And, since the meetings were virtual, it allowed more students, students’ family members, and even people outside Cefet to participate. And many got in touch with us afterwards, saying that they liked it. This was made clear by the duration of the lives — scheduled for an hour, because they always exceeded the time with the participants’ questions. In other words, the project gained breadth and began to branch — it left our common space of the library and students and reached other parts that we did not expect.

I had not lived this type of experience during my training or when I was a student. We had to learn by doing and also leaving our comfort zone. It is a group project of continuous learning.

After a while when I was already immersed in the process, I started to study the decolonial issue. I took an online course (As Pensadoras) and started going deeper into the topic. I ended up taking this knowledge not only to my work in the library but also to my doctorate in Information Science.