Indigenizing Library Spaces Using Photovoice Methodology

PURPOSE AND GOALS: The purpose of the study was to explore and understand how Indigenous undergraduate students experience their learning within informal library spaces and other spaces on campus. The results will inform and identify steps that the library might take to make the informal learning spaces more supportive of their learning. DESIGN, METHODOLOGY, OR APPROACH: Starting in January 2020 it is expected that the data will be collected by March 2020 and initial analysis will be completed by June 2020. Because the primary researchers are non-Indigenous librarians/researchers, we wanted to conduct research collaboratively with Indigenous students. We are experts in librarianship and education, but novices in Indigenous ways of knowing. We chose a research methodology that places student voices at the centre of the research: community –based participatory research (CBPR) framework, which Castleden and Garvin (2008) note has the potential to contribute to efforts to decolonize the university researcher-Indigenous community relationship. Indigenous students were recruited to act as co-researchers. Julien et al (2013) note that “due to the unique way Photovoice participants are involved in data gathering, analysis, and sometimes even the planning and dissemination phases of the study, they become researchers in their own right” (p. 259). They were asked to take photographs of informal spaces in the library and elsewhere on campus that inform such questions as “who am I as a learner?” and also share their reflective stories about learning that grow from the photographs. Through a series of workshops designed by the students we explored the meaning and relationship of space and learning from their point of view. Photovoice is a method designed to explore and uncover individual perspectives. By focussing on the informal spaces where students learn we uncover and explore the relationship that the Indigenous students have to space and learning. Students tell their stories that accompany the photographs allowing the student to explain to the researchers what was really going on in the photo. To augment the main research question, the researchers conducted both pre and post study interviews with the students to discuss their learning and their experiences in the study. The researchers also kept field notes during each workshop to further investigate the Photovoice study process. A final element in the study is a scoping review of the current literature on learning and learning services, supports and spaces for Indigenous students. FINDINGS: Although the literature is peppered with suggestions for Indigenizing libraries, such as the personal librarian program for first year Aboriginal students at U of Alberta (Farnel et al, 2018), there has been little attention specifically on Indigenous students’ lived experience of learning within academic library spaces. Encouragingly, recent studies have investigated Indigenous students’ experiences and perceptions of academic libraries. Neurohor and Bailey (2016) conducted a photo-elicitation study that explored the role of academic libraries in the lives of native students. The results focused on the tangible such as uncertainty about library services (using the collection, signage, and printers facilitating student work). However, the researchers did not investigate the students’ experiences of informal learning within the library spaces. The findings of this study will have the following results: 1. What is the perceived relationship between space and learning from an Indigenous point of view 2. What is the value of Photovoice methodology in uncovering students’ perceptions of space 3. What is the value/learning related to students as co-researchers 4. What does the literature tell us is the current state of library and learning services, supports and spaces for Indigenous students PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OR VALUE: We anticipate providing an authentic exploration of Indigenous students’ learning. Our study will help guide our library, as well as the academy, in Indigenizing learning spaces. We do believe that this research will be transformational for the students and for us as librarians/educators, the Library and the broader academic community. Our project is sustainable as it will bring to the forefront the ways in which Indigenous students learn in informal learning spaces, and will inform future initiatives on informal learning space design.
2020 Library Assessment Conference, Dec. 16, 2020 presented online. Program available at
library and information science, informal learning, library space design, informal learning spaces, Indigenous students, Photovoice
Beatty, S., Hayden, K. A., & Jeffs, C. (2020). Indigenizing Library Spaces Using Photovoice Methodology (Conference presentation). Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment.