Submitted by: Isha Thompson
Institution: Mount Royal University Library
“A new app (DeciphAR) developed by a third-year information design student uses augmented reality (AR) to translate Blackfoot signage in the Riddell Library and Learning Centre (RLLC) into English. Blackfoot way-finding signage was installed when the RLLC was built in 2017, and the app helps non-Blackfoot speakers understand the meaning behind the words.”
“Blackfoot signage right now runs the risk of becoming museumified, as if they are a fun little art piece,“ Librarian Jesse Loyer says. “But we want it to be used. We want people to not be afraid of the pronunciation, to feel that they can use these words and know how to pronounce them so it’s less of an obstacle and more of an opportunity.“
Info design student Chase Schrader, junior AR designer and the app’s developer, says the tool is an opportunity to raise awareness and educate anyone with even a bit of curiosity. “(Before), I think a lot of people would look at those words and not think twice about it. Or they’d question it and then not pursue it. Now they have a path to pursue their curiosity and maybe learn.“
For Loyer, it goes back to place-making and sending a message about what the institution values.
“Libraries think a lot about how a space can be welcoming ― the way that the desks look, the way that our collections are organized, the terms that we use,” she says. “And so having Blackfoot language here is a signal, largely to Blackfoot students and Blackfoot people who walk into our space that this space is for them. But it also signals to other Indigenous people that this is a place where Indigenous knowledge is important.“
Part of developing the app included testing it widely with the campus community. Library associate dean and team member Francine May says they received good feedback from users and made some improvements to the app’s usability as a result. “We had a huge turnout for testing and people from all areas. We had students, staff, faculty to help us. They were so interested in what this is and helping to make it successful. It was very generous of them because it takes a while to go through the whole building.”