Building Community through Inclusive Research Guides  

Editor’s Note: Please join us in welcoming Nery Alcivar-Estrella, Reference and Instruction Librarian at California State University, Northridge, as a new First Year Academic Librarian Experience blogger for the 2023-2024 year here at ACRLog.

As a first year Academic Librarian, I have become immersed in a project at Cal State University, Northridge (CSUN) with Lisa Cheby, the Education Librarian, and Yi Ding, the Online Instruction Coordinator & Director of Affordable Learning Solutions. We have embarked on a CSU-wide effort inspired by the LibGuides Open Review Discussion Sessions also known as the LORDS Project, which was originally created by Cal Poly. My team and I use rubrics and frameworks from the CSU Wide Toolkit provided by the LORDS team at Cal Poly. Our own version, entitled Engaging Diverse Voices through Research & Resources, will help students research the perspectives of marginalized communities. It will provide students with jumping-off points like search strategies, databases, theoretical and methodological frameworks, community resources as well as reading recommendations to help them diversify their research. Students researching one or more forms of oppression, whether that’s sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, religious persecution, or linguistic discrimination would benefit greatly from using our LibGuide. The tabs located on the right side of the LibGuide have been organized by communities or identities that have been systemically excluded by academic institutions.

As a community of librarians and scholars, we must challenge traditional research practices and encourage critical reflection, particularly as it relates to referencing methods. Typically, academic librarians work with professors and instructors, who require students to cite scholarly or peer reviewed journal articles. Subsequently, many academic librarians have established a conventional way of approaching information literacy and research instruction. However, we must not oversee the importance of recognizing and uplifting different forms of authority. Because of institutionalized discrimination and systemic oppression within predominantly White, research-intensive institutions, publishing processes must be critically examined. As noted in the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, “Experts understand the need to determine the validity of the information created by different authorities and to acknowledge biases that privilege some sources of authority over others, especially in terms of others’ worldviews, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural orientations.” In this way, academic librarians may help students identify not only traditional authorities like peer-reviewed journal articles, but also alternative sources of information like blogs or podcasts. Our LibGuide, Engaging Diverse Voices through Research & Resources, will raise awareness about inclusive academic processes and citational justice.

In our LibGuide, Lisa Cheby will cover the section about citational justice and she will discuss its current role in research and scholarship. She asks, “How are we decentering, decolonizing, diversifying research practices?” With these questions in mind, we developed our LibGuide with the intention of fostering and supporting campus-wide discussions about inclusive research practices. We hope that our suggested readings and tools about citational justice will encourage educators and students from various disciplines to implement this practice into their own scholarship. Citational justice involves a critical awareness about who we are citing and why. Rather than just locating bibliographic information, citational justice involves a commitment to diverse perspectives and schools of thought. This includes questioning our own biases, learning about the identities of cited scholars, and embracing marginalized voices into our scholarly conversations.

As I begin my career as a Reference & Instruction Librarian, I have come to recognize the importance of digital learning objects. Since more students are becoming distant or hybrid learners, it is critical to provide various points of access, which includes online resources centered on inclusive research practices. Although our CSUN LibGuide will not be officially published until spring 2024, I will share our work-in-progress. Please feel free to explore our work and consider implementing a similar research guide at your own college or university. 

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