Atkins Library Black Student Experience Study

We have four primary goals for undertaking this study. 1) We hope to understand the distinct experiences of Black students at UNC Charlotte, specifically regarding their perceptions of Atkins Library’s spaces, services, and resources. 2) We intend to recommend improvements to the spaces, services, and resources of Atkins Library to improve the experience of library users who are Black students, and to publicize those recommendations so that they may benefit other, similar institutions. 3) We will implement improvements which increase the engagement of Black students with the spaces, services, and resources of Atkins Library and, as a result, make observable improvements to Black students’ academic success and sense of belonging at UNC Charlotte. 4) As part of this process, we will coordinate with campus partners to ensure that our efforts support shared University goals regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. We foresee a number of positive outcomes to students that will come about as a result of this study. Of course, we hope to see among Black students at UNC Charlotte an increase in their engagement with the library. Findings from our ongoing Student Engagement and Success study indicate that student engagement with the library significantly and positively improves their odds for success with respect to a variety of academic outcomes including year-1 to year-2 retention rates, 6-year graduation rates, and 4-year cumulative GPA. We hope that beyond academic success at UNC Charlotte, this increased engagement can lead to success post graduation. We also anticipate that strengthening the relationship between Atkins Library and UNC Charlotte’s Black student population will help us de-center whiteness in our institution and thus make the library a more welcoming, useful, and accessible space for all patrons. We also hope that this study will have a positive impact on the institution of UNC Charlotte and beyond. By serving as a model both for the rest of the UNC Charlotte campus and for other academic libraries, our study can contribute to a sea change in which the goals of racial justice and social justice are pursued by institutions of higher education. We seek to create a template which we can replicate in the future to apply to other communities of users who might have unique needs and experiences. We anticipate that the successful application of the methods in this study will be adaptable to future studies that will help to uncover specific needs and experiences of other student populations, for example Native American and Indigenous students, international students, or students with disabilities. More broadly, we also hope that the success of this study will contribute to a greater understanding and popularity of qualitative methods of gathering data like Photovoice, in which the literal expressions and voices of a community are better understood. We look forward to this opportunity to demonstrate the unique research value of elevating the voices of Black students. To measure the successful application of our methods, we have set a goal to recruit between 20 and 25 participants. In total, we expect at least a group of 5 participants in each of the following activities: 1 undergraduate focus group, 1 graduate focus group, 1 undergraduate Photovoice cohort, and 1 graduate Photovoice cohort. We anticipate the possibility that we may recruit enough participants to create another group of 5 participants for any of these 4 activities. To measure the successful implementation of any recommendations that we make as a result of this study, we plan to continue gathering extensive data about the engagement of users with the library and resultant metrics of academic success. These data are gathered already as a part of our ongoing Student Success and Engagement study. We will look especially to any long-term improvements to the academic success of Black students who engage with the library as evidence that points to the success of any changes we might make as a result of this study. Additionally, we plan to follow up with key stakeholders some reasonable amount of time after we implement improvements in order to reassess how their relationships with the library may have changed as a result. Specifically, we plan to follow up with any participants of the study who are willing and have not yet graduated. Additionally, we plan to collect feedback from campus partners, including student organizations that serve the Black student community and campus offices that focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through our biennial student survey, we will also be able to assess whether usage, awareness, and satisfaction with library services increase over time after the implementation of any changes that occur as a result of this study. An indirect measure of our success is the number of presentations and publications that take place as a result of this work. This will help us measure our reach beyond Atkins Library, to include the broader UNC Charlotte community, the UNC System, including the ULAC partner libraries (, and the broader higher education context.

Jon Moore
Assistant Professor, User Experience Librarian
Atkins Library
Is this initiative evidence-based?: