African American Undergraduate Students’ Perceived Welcomeness at a Midsized University Library




Objective – This project assessed African American students’ feelings of comfort and belonging about engaging with library resources and services at a public regional comprehensive university in the midwestern United States.

Methods – This study used an explanatory sequential design. First, we surveyed degree-seeking African American undergraduates on their perceived welcomeness regarding the library’s collections and spaces, staff and users, and atmosphere and marketing. We then recruited focus group participants from the survey, and in focus group sessions, participants expanded on feedback provided in the survey, with particular emphasis on their feelings about their interactions and experiences with the library.

Results – Most students who participated indicated the library is a place where they felt safe and welcomed, although the library felt to some like a neutral space rather than a place that actively supported them. Focus group participants shared several easily implementable suggestions for making the library a more attractive campus space for African American students.

Conclusion – Student recommendations will shape the services we provide for an increasingly diverse student body. Changes to make the library as physical place more welcoming include exhibiting student artwork and featuring African American themes in displays. The library as a social space can become more welcoming in several ways. Hiring a diverse staff and providing staff training on diversity and equity topics, offering engaging student opportunities for congregation in the library, and collaborating with African American student organizations will help to foster a sense of belonging among these students. Facilitating opportunities for connection will contribute to African American undergraduates’ academic success.


Download data is not yet available.


Bass, S. A. (2023). Redesigning college for student success: Holistic education, inclusive personalized support, and responsive initiatives for a digitally immersed, stressed, and diverse student body. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 55(2), 4–13.

Becher, M. L., & Flug, J. L. (2005). Using student focus groups to inform library planning and marketing. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 12(1–2), 1–18.

Booth Library. (2020). 2020–2025 strategic plan. Eastern Illinois University.

Booth Library. (2022). Library patron satisfaction survey [Unpublished data]. Eastern Illinois University.

Borrelli, S., Su, C., Selden, S., & Munip, L. (2019). Investigating first-generation students’ perceptions of library personnel: A case study from the Penn State University Libraries. Performance Measurement and Metrics, 20(1), 27–36.

Brook, F., Ellenwood, D., & Lazzaro, A. E. (2015). In pursuit of antiracist social justice: Denaturalizing Whiteness in the academic library. Library Trends, 64(2), 246–284.

Brooms, D. R. (2018). Exploring Black Male Initiative programs: Potential and possibilities for supporting Black male success in college. Journal of Negro Education, 87(1), 59–72.

Chapman, J., Daly, E., Forte, A., King, I., Yang, B. W., & Zabala, P. (2020). Understanding the experiences and needs of Black students at Duke. Duke University Libraries.

Crist, E. A., & Clark/Keefe, K. (2022). A critical phenomenology of whiteness in academic libraries. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 48(4), 102557.

Eastern Illinois University. (2020). Eastern Illinois University key publication facts.

Eastern Illinois University. (2021). Fall enrollment tables.

Elteto, S., Jackson, R. M., & Lim, A. (2008). Is the library a “welcoming space”? An urban academic library and diverse student experiences. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 8(3), 325–337.

Folk, A. L., & Overbey, T. (2019). Narratives of (dis)engagement: Exploring Black/African-American undergraduate students’ experiences with libraries. In D. M. Mueller (Ed.), Recasting the narrative: The proceedings of the ACRL 2019 Conference, April 10–13, 2019, Cleveland, Ohio (pp. 375–383). Association of College and Research Libraries.

Folk, A. L., & Overbey, T. (2022). Narratives of (dis)engagement: Exploring Black and African American students’ experiences in libraries. ALA Editions.

Guest, G., MacQueen, K. M., & Namey, E. E. (2012). Applied thematic analysis. Sage.

Kim, J.-A. (2017). User perception and use of the academic library: A correlation analysis. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 43(3), 209–215.

Kracker, J., & Pollio, H. R. (2003). The experience of libraries across time: Thematic analysis of undergraduate recollections of library experiences. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54(12), 1104–1116.

Lilburn, J. (2017). Ideology and audit culture: Standardized service quality surveys in academic libraries. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 17(1), 91–110.

Merriam-Webster. (2023). Microaggression. In dictionary.

Murphy, M. C., Gopalan, M., Carter, E. R., Emerson, K. T. U., Bottoms, B. L., & Walton, G. M. (2020). A customized belonging intervention improves retention of socially disadvantaged students at a broad-access university. Science Advances, 6(29), eaba4677.

Murphy, M. C., & Zirkel, S. (2015). Race and belonging in school: How anticipated and experienced belonging affect choice, persistence, and performance. Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship in Education, 117(12), 1–40.

Oldenburg, R. (1997). The great good place: Cafés, coffee shops, community centers, beauty parlors, general stores, bars, hangouts, and how they get you through the day (2nd ed.). Marlowe & Co.

Ryan, G. W., & Bernard, H. R. (2003). Techniques to identify themes. Field Methods, 15(1), 85–109.

Sare, L., Bales, S., & Budzise-Weaver, T. (2021). The quiet agora: Undergraduate perceptions of the academic library. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 28(1), 18–36.

Schaller, S. (2011). Information needs of LGBTQ college students. Libri: International Journal of Libraries & Information Services, 61(2), 100–115.

Schlesselman-Tarango, G. (Ed.). (2017). Topographies of Whiteness: Mapping Whiteness in library and information science. Library Juice Press.

Seal, R. A. (2015). Library spaces in the 21st century: Meeting the challenges of user needs for information, technology, and expertise. Library Management, 36(8/9), 558–569.

Seale, M. (2017). Efficiency or jagged edges: Resisting neoliberal logics of assessment. Progressive Librarian, 46, 140–145.

Shoge, R. C. (2003). The library as place in the lives of African Americans. In Learning to make a difference: The proceedings of the ACRL 11th National Conference, April 10–13, 2003, Charlotte, North Carolina. Association of College and Research Libraries.

Stanley, M. J. (2007). Case study: Where is the diversity? Focus groups on how students view the face of librarianship. Library Administration & Management, 21(2), 83–89.

Stewart, B., Ju, B., & Kendrick, K. D. (2019). Racial climate and inclusiveness in academic libraries: Perceptions of welcomeness among Black college students. The Library Quarterly, 89(1), 16–33.

Stewart, D. W., Shamdasani, P. N., & Rook, D. W. (2009). Group depth interviews: Focus group research. In L. Bickman & D. J. Rog (Eds.), The Sage handbook of applied social research methods (2nd ed., pp. 589–616). Sage.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). 2020 decennial census redistricting data (P.L. 94-171): Table P1: Race: Charleston city, Illinois. U.S. Department of Commerce.,+Illinois+in+2020&tid=DECENNIALPL2020.P1

Wahl, D., Avery, B., & Henry, L. (2013). Studying distance students: Methods, findings, actions. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 7(1–2), 183–209.

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: Race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 82–96.

Welburn, W. C. (2010). Creating inclusive communities: Diversity and the responses of academic libraries. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 10(3), 355–363.

Whitmire, E. (1999). Racial differences in the academic library experiences of undergraduates. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 25(1), 33–37.

Whitmire, E. (2003). Cultural diversity and undergraduates’ academic library use. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 29(3), 148–161.

Whitmire, E. (2004). The campus racial climate and undergraduates’ perceptions of the academic library. portal: Libraries & the Academy, 4(3), 363–378.

Whitmire, E. (2006). African American undergraduates and the university academic library. Journal of Negro Education, 75(1), 60–66.

Wiegand, W. A. (2005). Critiquing the curriculum. American Libraries, 36(1), 58, 60–61.

Wiegand, W. A. (2011). Main Street public library: Community places and reading spaces in the rural heartland, 1876-1956. University of Iowa Press.

Wiegand, W. A. (2015). Part of our lives: A people’s history of the American public library. Oxford University Press.




How to Cite

Duffin, K., & Corrigan, E. (2023). African American Undergraduate Students’ Perceived Welcomeness at a Midsized University Library. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 18(3), 3–25.



Research Articles