September 14, 2023 – CARL’s Equity Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group launched a series of monthly features to highlight and celebrate the outstanding work and contributions of Indigenous, Black and racialized library colleagues, those with disabilities, and those of marginalized or minority genders, sexual identities, religious and cultural groups.
This month we are featuring the work of Karim Tharani:
Karim Tharani (he/his)
Associate Dean, Research and Collections, University of Saskatchewan
Karim Tharani’s research focuses on user-centric ways of utilizing information technology to foster knowledge equity for non-Western and marginalized knowledge traditions and materials. He engages in community-based research to develop technology solutions to address the unique needs of ethnocultural communities for accessing and preserving traditional knowledge and to support digital pedagogy and scholarship.
Over the years, he has worked closely with the Ismaili community to preserve its oral tradition of Ginans, which is a corpus of devotional and gnostic hymn-like poems. As part of this community-based research project, he was able to gather over eight thousand audio recordings in addition to numerous textual materials. Ginan Central, an online portal, was formally launched at the University Library with the purpose to identify, implement, and showcase best practices of digital curation to share and safeguard oral knowledge respectfully and responsibly. This portal has brought together academics and community educators to work as partners for a common cause of safeguarding at-risk and marginalized knowledge materials.
Recognizing that modern scholarship and library practices reflect colonial worldviews, the University of Saskatchewan Library is committed to being an open and inclusive environment that respects and promotes knowledge traditions of diverse communities and worldviews. Ginan Central extends this commitment to the living tradition of Ginans that continues to be revered by the immigrant Ismaili communities of South Asian origin living in diasporas in North America and Europe.
Ginan Central began as a research project in 2011 at the University of Saskatchewan Library with the goal to digitally preserve the Ginans of the Ismaili community, specifically the manner in which members of the community engage with and interpret the tradition in their contemporary contexts. In this regard, it serves primarily as a digital archive of Ginanic literature for the community members globally, especially younger members, to learn, understand, and engage with the Ginans.
Ginan Central is now a global resource, not only for the community but also for academics, and attracts patrons from around the world. Using Ginans as a case study, Karim continues to explore, develop, and apply best practices for libraries to provide equal footing to marginalized knowledge traditions and materials. Using digital Ginan resources available through Ginan Central, he also designed and prototyped an online Ginan learning tool to incorporate contemporary online language-learning strategies with traditional transmission and teaching of the Ginans.
If you are interested in being featured or nominating someone for this series, please submit your initiative using our online form (you can view the list of questions in advance here). Expressions of interest are encouraged on an ongoing basis. Research or work highlighted can be in any field, and does not need to focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, or other related areas.