The Library and beyond: Decolonization as a student/academic Co-Created project

Richard Hopkins*, Lauren Traczykowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been expanding interest and progress in student led initiatives related to ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ across the sector and at Aston University, specifically. The wealth of existing literature, conferences and initiatives around librarianship and decolonisation have helped Aston University library take deliberate steps in the evolving discussion on how best to support decolonising the library and the university at large. This is not to suggest that these issues were not already being discussed and addressed within the University beforehand, only that there was a growing need for the library to actively and openly engage with them and to involve students in that process.

Through membership of the Decolonisation Working Group, the Library Information Specialist together with the Module Leader for Business Ethics, a final year undergraduate module, initiated an approach to decolonising a module’s reading list as a component of the larger decolonisation process being developed across Aston University. The Library IS and the module leader created a framework for (employed) student project participants to explore and co-develop their understanding of decolonisation and simultaneously author this paper so as to provide guidance to others interested in decolonising a module.

As part of the project the student participants were asked to create two written documents: a literature review based around their research and a reflective piece of work on the experience once completed. It is from these documents that the quotations in the paper have been taken and, as co-authors, students were able to confirm the quotes used and where they were to be integrated. In addition, regular meetings were held during the project to input and feedback on how the research was progressing. The Library IS and module leader did not write specific reflection reports and so reflective commentary is integrated throughout as part of the narrative. Together, though, the participants/authors were able to develop a co-created approach to decolonisation of a reading list and this article.

Herein we offer six lessons learned, five outcomes and a four-step process to decolonising a module reading list as carried out by the project participants/authors: library information specialist (IS), module leader and student workers (recruited from across the university, outside of the module in question). We provide you with our findings only as an example of how the process might work. For us, the most interesting aspect of this process is the unexpected research findings of our student workers; we encourage readers to use the process with an openness to new findings.

In Section 1 we offer some general background on decolonisation as understood by the staff and student authors of this piece. The students’ research and interpretation re-focused how we see and use the term decolonisation. This research and analysis were the result of a literature review required of the students (see Section 3). In Section 2 we set out the project impetus and our approach to decolonising a module reading list. For those interested in applying our approach to your modules or in collaboration with students and colleagues, we establish a four-stage process of library session design and delivery. This is set out in Section 3. In Section 4 we consider what must happen from a module perspective alongside the library-led sessions. Finally, in Section 5, we reflect on outcomes of our work which may influence how you approach this work for yourself. These are separate to lessons learned (articulated throughout the article) which are more process driven considerations to be seen as touchpoints as you proceed through your own decolonisation work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Review of Academic Librarianship
Early online date10 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.


  • Co-creation
  • decolonization
  • reading lists


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