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Berkeley Law Library project works to accurately reclassify Indigenous materials

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Peck hopes to disseminate information about the project and encourage other libraries to do the same by fostering these discussions in the law library community.


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Senior Staff

FEBRUARY 07, 2023

A nearly completed project at the Berkeley Law Library aims to combat biases by reclassifying Indigenous law materials under new guidelines.

Released by the Library of Congress in 2014, the guidelines expand classification systems for Indigenous law materials that currently fall into category K, which is used generally to denote all law materials, according to a UC Berkeley press release.

Where a subsection of category K previously held only 28 call numbers for all work under “Law of Indigenous people in the Americas,it now spans from KIA to KIX, opening up the opportunity for specification of Indigenous law at tribal and regional levels, the release notes. Comparatively, the Law Library’s cataloging and metadata librarian for rare materials Kate Peck said in the release, other topics like laws concerning the U.S. Postal Service had 90 or more.

Peck said she was “inspired” to start the project after attending the annual meeting for the American Association of Law Libraries.

Shortly after returning from the conference, Peck said she presented her project proposal to the other cataloguers and supervisors, and the project officially began in September. According to the release, Peck worked alongside Irina Migal, Shelly McLaughlin and Enedina Vera on the reclassification efforts.

Besides making our materials more accessible, which is always a priority, it provided an opportunity to initiate conversations within UC Berkeley and the wider law library community about how we treat Indigenous materials,” Peck said in an email. “There is no repatriation, per se, but we are moving our Indigenous law materials to their own space and making sure that they are easily discoverable in our library catalog.”

Throughout the project, Peck said the cataloguers worked on the reclassification of about 860 volumes. Now, they only have 20 remaining, and expect to finish the project in the next several weeks.

Though this work is significant, Migal raised additional considerations at a presentation about the reclassification in November 2022, according to the release. In the release, Migal called attention to the way the Library of Congress subject headings — used to help locate materials about certain topics — often reflected “intrinsic biases” and should be reconsidered.

My hope is that we will be able to continue expanding our on-shelf collection of Indigenous law materials, either through new acquisitions or by gathering materials that were classified elsewhere,” Peck said in the press release.

According to the release, Peck hopes to disseminate information about the project and encourage other libraries to do the same by creating additional presentations and fostering discussions in the law library community.

Even though the project may seem to have only a “small” impact, according to Peck’s press release statement, it is important to improve on previous systems of categorization.

It’s a poignant reminder that Indigenous law exists independent of U.S. federal or state law, and deserves to be treated with an equal level of respect,” Peck said in an email.

Contact Sebastian Cahill at 


FEBRUARY 07, 2023