Rebecca Donald, Director of University Library Services at Trinity International University, received a research grant from CARLI for her study “Caring for the Library Outsider: A Pedagogy of Care for Academic Librarians.” A pedagogy of care suggests that care should be a primary focus of education (Noddings 2005). Teachers and librarians are called to exhibit care for students and to help them learn to be more caring. A pedagogy of care has been developed for a number of contexts, including K-12 education, public libraries, and higher education. However, a pedagogy of care has not yet been applied to academic librarians. In her qualitative research project, Rebecca is in the process of interviewing twenty-five academic librarians to explore their views, experiences, and processes related to providing care to students.
“Library outsiders” are in particular need of the care of librarians. Library outsiders can be defined as anyone who does not feel like they belong in the library. For these students, the library and academia feel like a foreign country, with cultural norms and expectations that are unfamiliar to them. First-generation students, minority students, and students with disabilities, among others, may be less confident in facing the challenges of navigating academia. Libraries can be an ideal place on campus for outsiders to experience care and learn to be comfortable in higher education.
There are a variety of ways that librarians can show care for students, including through library space, collections, services, and information literacy instruction. In addition, librarians can foster opportunities for students to care for each other, including through social learning and transformative learning. This study will explore specific ways that librarians approach caring for students and fostering care in students.
The COVID-19 crisis has provided unique opportunities and challenges for librarians to care well. Students can be in greater need of care as they struggle to adapt to a new learning environment. The greater physical distance between librarians and students means librarians need to be more creative about how they can meet student needs and care for them. Although COVID-19 is not a major focus of the study, it is hoped that ideas and reflections related to caring during a crisis will emerge from the study.
Rebecca is currently interviewing librarians from a variety of academic libraries, including large public universities, small private colleges, community colleges, and specialized schools such as seminaries or nursing schools. She plans to conclude the interviews during the spring semester and share the results in the fall of 2021. She hopes that the study will spark further discussions among librarians about how they can better care for students. It is also hoped that librarians can become influencers on their campuses to encourage a greater focus on care throughout the academy.
If you have any questions or suggestions for the study, please contact Rebecca Donald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noddings, Nel. 2005. The Challenge to Care in Schools: An Alternative Approach to Education. New York: Teachers College Press.