A new study conducted by library staff members at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, sought to determine what steps could be made to better serve African American students on campus.
The researchers began by reading existing research on university and academic libraries’ support of Black students and speaking with key stakeholders on campus. They then held two discussion groups and three sessions with Black graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, they analyzed thousands of responses from the libraries’ 2020 student satisfaction survey broken out by race.
Black students largely view the libraries as inclusive spaces in the sense that they meet their diverse learning needs as underrepresented students at a predominantly White institution. When asked whether they see the libraries as inclusive spaces and whether they feel safe, welcome, and supported at the libraries, both undergraduate and graduate students listed numerous services and resources offered by the libraries that they value.
But students reported a general feeling that both Duke and Duke Libraries, while not actively hostile or racist, are complicit in their silence. Students do not see enough visible actions and signs supporting diversity and inclusion, efforts to limit White western European cultural dominance, or attempts to educate White students about minority experiences.
One of the top recommendations from participants is that the libraries dedicate a study space to Black scholarship. Such a space was envisioned to include art, photographs, or exhibits related to Black culture and history and highlight library resources from Black scholars.