Québec City, June 13, 2023 – In recent months, a team from the Bibliothèque de l’Université Laval, responsible for the Répertoire de vedettes-matière (RVM) used by 180 libraries and documentation centres in Canada and around the world, has undertaken a monumental project to update all terminology associated with First Peoples. Supported by Université Laval's First Peoples Sector team, this vast project, now in its first phase, is being carried out and co-created with First Nations and Inuit partners in Quebec.
The RVM, used for indexing information resources, is a set of standardized terms, linked in a semantic network that allows efficient database searches. The RVM has been the Canadian standard for indexing in French since 1974. “It is crucial to create conditions that will allow Indigenous terminology to evolve as society does and to avoid any such discrepancies in the future,” explains Susanne Brillant, librarian at Université Laval and head of the project. “For the moment, the project is limited to subject headings related to the First Peoples who inhabit the territory of Québec. The subsequent step will be to extend the revision to the subject headings related to the Indigenous Peoples in all other Canadian provinces, followed by the countries of America”.
As this project is part of a decolonization effort, engaging with communities in line with Université Laval’s “By, for, and with” approach is a priority for the RVM team. The Atikamekw Nation Council was the first partner to join the project. "When the Bibliothèque’s team approached us, we quickly agreed to participate in the project. We believe it is important that the vocabulary related to the Atikamekw Nation reflects its current reality. We are pleased to have been able to collaborate in this project," said Nicole Petiquay, coordinator of the Atikamekw language services of the Atikamekw Nation Council.
For Michèle Audette, Senior Advisor for Reconciliation and Indigenous Education at Université Laval and the project's "kukum", revising the Bibliothèque de l’Université Laval's RMV is no easy task. "This work of reconciliation and decolonization of the RMV used in the francophone library network means a lot to Indigenous communities. It is very meaningful to know that, from now on, every person who researches our different nations will do so using the respectful terms and words used by First Peoples", said Michèle Audette.
The first corrections began last April. More than 1,500 subject headings have been modified and are available to libraries. The terms "Premières Nations" (First Nations) in the Canadian context, and “Peuples autochtones” (Indigenous Peoples) for other countries in the Americas, are now used as headings. Corrections in nine subject headings pertaining to the Atikamekw Nation are part of these first adjustments, as well as the removal of the parenthetical qualifier for 695 nation names. Several changes remain to be made. They will continue to be made in consultation with partners and will be made available to libraries in the update released on the first day of each month.
"The decolonization of the terms of the RMV associated with First Peoples is one of the many actions being undertaken as part of the En action avec les Premiers Peuples plan, which is being deployed for, by and with the First Peoples," said Catia Bergeron, Vice-Rector, Academic and Student Affairs at Université Laval. “More than ever, Université Laval is implementing actions to recognize the importance of traditional knowledge. With this project, we are taking one more step together on the long road to reconciliation”.
About Université Laval's RMV
Created in 1946, the Répertoire de vedettes-matière (RMV) de l’Université Laval is a partially bilingual, controlled language whose terms articulate with each other and obey a specific syntax. In other words, terms or expressions are defined for each concept. Therefore, the search in the Bibliothèque's search tool is very efficient and provides several benefits: precision of the search and its results, suggestion of synonymous terms or expressions during the search, etc. The development of the RVM is an ongoing process, with the addition of new terms being determined by the documentation indexing and identification needs of its users. Every year, some 7,000 new subject headings are added. Development is carried out by a team of specialists from the Direction de l'accès aux ressources informationnelles.