Narratives of (Dis)Engagement: Exploring Black and African American Students’ Experiences in Libraries

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the authors
  • Reviews

Read an interview with the authors and a blog post about this Special Report now!

Using an evidence-based approach, including the authors’ own cutting-edge research, this Special Report shares antiracist recommendations for practice that will help librarians in all settings identify and address explicit and implicit racial bias.

Librarianship is still a predominantly white profession. It is essential that current practitioners as well as those about to enter the field take an unflinching look at the profession’s legacy of racial discrimination, including the ways in which race might impact service to users such as students in school, public, and academic libraries. Given the prevalence of implicit and explicit bias against Black and African American people, authors Folk and Overbey argue that we must speak to these students directly to hear their stories and thereby understand their experiences. This Special Report (which follows Narratives of (Dis)Enfranchisement: Reckoning with the History of Libraries and the Black and African American Experience) shares the findings of a qualitative research study that explored the library experiences of Black and African American undergraduate students both before and during college, grounding it within an equity framework. From this Report readers will

  • learn details about the study, which focused on the potential role of race in the students’ interactions with library staff, including white staff and staff of color;
  • gain insight into Black and African American users’ perceptions of libraries and library staff, attitudes towards reading, frequency of library usage, and the importance of family;
  • understand the implications of the study’s findings for our practice and for librarianship more broadly, including our ongoing commitment to diversifying the profession; and
  • walk away with recommendations that can be applied to every library and educational context, such as guidance for developing an antiracist organization and more equitable service provision.

Examination copies are available for instructors who are interested in adopting this title for course use. 


Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. About This Study
Chapter 3. Public Libraries
Chapter 4. School Libraries
Chapter 5. Academic Libraries
Chapter 6. Race and Library Experiences
Chapter 7. Conclusion


Amanda L. Folk

Amanda L. Folk is an assistant professor and head of the Teaching & Learning Department at The Ohio State University Libraries. She earned her PhD in social and comparative analysis in education from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education. Her research interests include exploring the sociocultural nature of information literacy and implications for teaching and learning, as well as examining the academic and library experiences of student populations that have traditionally been marginalized in higher education in the United States. In addition to serving as the editor in chief for The Journal of Academic Librarianship, she has been published in College & Research Libraries, portal: Libraries and the Academy, College & Undergraduate Libraries, the Journal of Library Administration, and International Information & Library Review. She was the recipient of the 2020 ACRL Instruction Section’s Ilene F. Rockman Instruction Publication of the Year Award.

Tracey Overbey

Tracey Overbey is assistant professor and Social Sciences Librarian at The Ohio State University Libraries. She earned a master’s degree in library information science from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include issues related to food desert communities and educating and exposing marginalized students to information literacy using library resources. She won an organizational award for implementing a seed library at The Ohio State University Libraries for students to come and obtain seeds from the library, to plant fresh produce within their residence halls. This initiative helped those students and faculty who live in food desert communities. She has also won state and local grants that expose students who live within economically strained communities to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) resources through programming and hands-on explorations. In addition, she serves on the Executive Board for the Black Caucus American Library Association, has published in Public Library Quarterly, and presented conference papers at the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conferences.

"The authors have stimulated a meaningful dialogue that is, quite frankly, long overdue in addressing several critical issues within the LIS profession. Both reports speak to topics such as systemic racism and white supremacy, confronting whiteness in American libraries, and instilling and promoting antiracist principles and values within our work environments ... Folk and Overbey’s research provides LIS professionals with tools and resources to enhance equity-centered work. I highly recommend both reports. I also strongly recommend that this research be included as a part of the LIS curriculum to educate the next generation of librarians, and that it be used as a professional development resource for current librarians and administrators. These reports offer the LIS community an opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversations about the state of our profession and to learn from the experiences of Black and African American library users, who have been historically excluded from our institutions, and often underserved."
— College & Research Libraries