Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Winslade, John


This study took place on the campus of a Hispanic-serving institution, and used Q methodology to assess the attitudes and perceptions of academic librarians toward a social justice role for the university library. Among librarians and others in higher education, there is a great deal of confusion around social justice as a concept because over the past forty years, it has often been subsumed under, or diverted by the neoliberal discourse of multicultural education, which conflates social justice with providing equal opportunities for under-represented students primarily as a means of enabling them to obtain jobs and become consumers in our neoliberal capitalist society. Unfortunately, this perspective dovetails neatly with the positivist traditions of the library profession, which also eschews political involvement and exhorts librarians to remain neutral in the services and collections they provide. Within this discourse, universities and their libraries are stripped of their political and social potential for addressing the structural problems and inequalities which circumscribe the lives of the very students they purport to serve.

The results of this study indicate that many librarians believe that their profession’s ethos of neutrality renders the debate over social justice within the library moot. These librarians equate social justice as equivalent to giving equal access to materials that promote the advancement of marginalized groups, and to those that encourage the continuation of the status quo or opposition to equality. Only a small number of librarians envision themselves as well positioned to promote social justice by empowering students to use the resources currently available within the library.

Despite the different viewpoints represented by the factors uncovered in this study, there did emerge areas of consensus from which library leaders can mediate conversations aimed at uncovering and evaluating the principles, practices, and attitudes within the library that arise from the dominant White worldview and hinder the library’s ability to serve all students equitably. Conversations about topics such as those implicated in this study, including institutional racism, diversity, social justice, and White privilege are not always comfortable conversations, but they are required if the library is to enact the changes necessary to allow it to serve all students more effectively and more justly. These discussions are especially needed at this time, when academic librarians as a profession remain 86 percent White, while many of our campuses are becoming increasingly racially diverse. If the library is to retain its place as the center of social and political discourse within the university, it is critical that it fully represent and respect the perspectives of non-dominant groups and recognize alternative epistemologies. Breaking with the positivist traditions of the library will allow opportunities for librarians to authentically connect with more of our students, which is particularly needed at Hispanic-serving institutions.