Library Support for Indigenous University Students: Moving from the Periphery to the Mainstream
Keywords:Indigenous Australians, cultural sensitivity, academic librarianship, university libraries, library support programs, minority groups
Objective – This research project explored the models of Indigenous support programs in Australian academic libraries, and how they align with the needs of the students they support. The research objective was to gather feedback from Indigenous students and obtain evidence of good practice models from Australian academic libraries to inform the development and enhancement of Indigenous support programs. The research presents the viewpoints of both Indigenous students and librarians.
Methods – The research methods comprised an online survey using SurveyMonkey and a focus group. The survey was conducted nationally in Australia to gather evidence on the different models of Indigenous support provided by academic libraries. The survey explored the nature of support services such as specialized study spaces and resources, information literacy education, and liaison services for Indigenous students. The survey also asked respondents to comment on
the challenges they encountered and improvements they would recommend in
providing Indigenous student support.
To provide a student perspective, a small cohort of Indigenous students at a small university in South East Queensland was interviewed in a focus group about their library experiences. The focus group explored Indigenous students’ perceptions of the library, their frequency of use and where they go for help with their studies.
Results – The survey found that 84% of academic libraries provide some specific support for Indigenous students with 89% of those support services being conducted in a place other than the library. Across the sector, Australian academic libraries have a strong commitment to the success of Indigenous students and considerable engagement with Indigenous issues.
The focus group found that Indigenous students’ needs and concerns about using the library were not differentiated by their cultural background. Rather their concerns were similar to issues being raised in the broader student population.
Conclusion – The survey results indicated that the main areas in which support for Indigenous students might be improved are greater inter-departmental communication and collaboration within the university, increased training of library staff in Indigenous cultural sensitivity, and the employment of Indigenous library staff members. The focus group was valuable in opening the communication channels between Indigenous students and library staff and highlighted the importance of engaging with students using both formal and informal channels.
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