A Pedagogy of Care in Academic Libraries: Minority Communities’ Engagement and Sense of Belonging

Creating a sense of belonging in an academic library for minority communities is an ongoing and multifaceted endeavour. Achieving equitable engagement that leads to a sense of belonging, particularly in online environments, remains a challenge. By offering spaces for cultural expression and celebrating diversity, libraries can transform themselves into centres of inclusion and belonging. This study highlights a pedagogy of care within academic libraries and focuses on its influence on engagement and belonging among minority communities. It aims to identify strategies that support minoritized groups to engage in learning and socio-cultural activities particularly in online environments.
Research has highlighted the importance of pedagogical care not only in teacher-student interactions but also in overall course design and delivery and showed that students experience a stronger connection to their course when they feel the pedagogy of care as a personal connection. Academic libraries hold a crucial position as hubs of knowledge and learning. Library professionals and educators should be fully aware of the bounds of silence concerning caring and acknowledge the possibilities that care may create especially regarding their relations with minoritized students. This study’s approach centres on fostering a supportive, empathetic, and student-cantered learning environment. In the context of academic libraries, the pedagogy of care seeks to engage minority communities especially in the online educational realm. It suggests that a caring, inclusive approach within the library can lead to increased participation and a sense of belonging among minority students. In doing so, library professionals need to engage in a multifaceted approach that encompasses cultural awareness, inclusive programming, diversity initiatives, and ongoing assessment.
Cultural awareness is the foundation upon which a sense of belonging is built. Research shows that exposure to diverse cultures in informal social extracurricular settings enhances students’ cultural awareness, fosters a sense of belonging, and increased the quality of their academic experience. Creating a sense of belonging also involves actively engaging minority communities in library programming. This can be achieved through culturally relevant events, workshops, and exhibits.
These initiatives should be co-developed with representatives from minority groups, ensuring authenticity and inclusivity. Diversity initiatives can bring a broader range of activities to engage minority patrons. These initiatives can include workshops, lectures, and outreach programs that address the specific needs and interests of minority communities. In online environments, these activities may encompass sharing related posts in social media and sending emails from the library regarding specific cultural events and celebrations. It can also include sending sympathy emails following traumatic events such as wars, incidents of insecurity and violence in their home countries, as well as natural disasters like earthquakes and floods. The latter can be followed by providing therapy sessions, organising small gatherings, or facilitating one-on-one conversations. Moreover, continuous assessment is vital to ensure the effectiveness of these strategies. Libraries must actively seek feedback from minority patrons and adjust their programs and services accordingly. This involves creating spaces for open dialogue, surveys, and focus groups to ensure that the library remains responsive to the evolving needs and expectations of minority communities.

Dr Nasim Yazdani

Scholarly Services Librarian, Deakin University

Author Bio

I’m a Scholarly Services Librarian, Researcher, and Educator at Deakin University. I am professional in providing educational support to students, academics, and researchers to maximise research capabilities across systematic searching, publishing, open access, and research impact. My educational expertise includes a PhD (Deakin University) and a Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Management (University of South Australia). I am experienced in the design and delivery of face to face and online Library workshops and lectures to both UG and PG students at Deakin. I have also experience in teaching in the Global Challenge Unit – diversity and human geography at Monash University to UG Students. I have demonstrated skills in providing support to the students as well as the academic and professional community including advice on innovative digital literacy capability programs; in depth research consultations and advice on expert searching and systematic reviews; and research impact, bibliometrics and strategic publishing. I am an independent researcher with advanced knowledge in cultural studies including cultural landscapes and publishing research outputs. I have over eleven years of experience in research, scholarly communications, and research evaluation, both as a researcher and as a librarian. I have published six journal articles in high quality journals and participated in four conferences and delivered presentations.