A Place I Belong

“Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.” – Take Me Home, Country Roads, John Denver, 1971

While the all too popular song, written by Bill Danoff, Taffy Nivert, and John Denver, began as a little ballad about the winding country roads in Maryland, it has since become a meme (see singing cowboy cat) and a song one just can’t help but jump in and sing along with. Whether it’s the smooth vocals or the opportunity to passionately sing out “West Virginia”, you just can’t help but be drawn in.

The part that sells the emotional draw of the song, in my very humble opinion, is the line “to the place I belong.” These five words can mean so much to so many. After all, that’s what we’re all seeking, right, a sense of belonging? Whether it’s heading to West Virginia or finding people who just “get you”, we as humans naturally seek out these little pockets of comfort.

In the world of higher education, conversations are taking place regarding what it means to provide a space of belonging. A recent study by Neil M. Boyd, Xiaoyan Liu, and Kevork Horissian found that “SOC [sense of community – which contains a subconstruct of belonging] was the strongest predictor of [student] thriving and psychological well-being measures compared with academic achievement, engagement, and SOC-R [sense of community responsibility]” (2020).  They also found that this was especially important during the first semesters of a student’s higher education experience.

In the library, we strive to ensure our space is inclusive and welcoming, so it’s only natural that we’d also start having conversations about how we can contribute to a student’s sense of community/belonging.

Recently, I’ve attended a few conferences that offer BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) only sessions. These sessions are a space where members of the BIPOC community can gather and just belong.             They’re free to express their struggles, chat, and feel that strength that comes from a community. As a person of color, I get thrilled when I see this community space offered and immediately add it to my calendar (bonus note, one session even came with its own Spotify playlist which I loved). The sense of validation and belonging I get from attending these sessions is something I never realized I needed in my life.


To clarify, in my current position as the Student Success Librarian, my colleagues have never made me feel like I didn’t belong. We work extremely well together, and I couldn’t be happier with the group I get to work with daily. However, it’s undeniable that I am currently the only BIPOC librarian at the Mary and Jeff Bell Library. I have experiences, struggles, and societal pressures and even restrictions placed upon me simply because I’m BIPOC. While my colleagues understand and even empathize, it’s not something they’ve fully experienced. This is what makes these conference offered BIPOC only sessions all the more important to me.

I’ve also attended a few conference sessions that discuss the importance of affinity groups, which are groups that gather people with common interests or goals (like a BIPOC affinity group, LGBTQIA+ affinity group, or even a hiking affinity group) and community targeted programming in the library (like at the conferences I attended – offering BIPOC only events, Ace/asexual individuals only events, etc.).

My knee-jerk reaction to the community targeted programming is “umm, maybe not.” Thoughts of, “I’d hate to exclude others” or not being sure if it’s cool to target a group/community, all come to mind. Interestingly, as I stated earlier, the moment a conference offers a community targeted session, I jump on it without hesitation and benefit greatly from it. The reasoning behind my thoughts and my actions conflicting is probably a discussion for another time, but the main point is these are conversations the library is currently having to better serve our student users.

That said, I’d love to hear what you think about community targeted programming. Do you think the library should start having these types of events? As a student, would you attend? As Faculty/Staff, do you think you or your students would benefit from them? Is the library the place to host such programming or should we simply see an increase at the university level?

Share your thoughts by visiting the library’s suggestion box!

Whatever path the library decides to take, know that we are dedicated to serving you and making sure we’re doing our best to make this library your library.

Take care!