ALA Unit/Subunit: ACRL
Meeting Type: Program
Cost: Included with full conference registration.
As colleges, universities, and academic libraries work to adapt their student recruitment, retention, and support services to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, one group of students merits special attention: first-generation college students. Trends indicate that growing numbers of first-generation students will enroll in college over the next decade (see, e.g. Bransberger & Michelau, 2016; Ryan & Bauman, 2016). However, despite the predicted growth of this population and the unique challenges these students face (particularly a lack of social capital and familiarity with academic culture), there are indications that academic libraries may actually be creating barriers to success for first-generation students.
Current academic library services are generally designed for an undergraduate population that has historically been largely white and either socially or economically privileged—attributes that do not describe a more diverse and less advantaged first-generation student community. As libraries engage in innovative service and space design initiatives in order to heighten the distinction of their institutions, we may be creating barriers to success for first-generation students and others who bring more traditional expectations of library facilities and services. For example, Brinkman et al. (2013) observe of first-generation students that, “Influenced by their past use of small school or public libraries, participants’ idea of the library was traditional, either a place with books or a place to study. Their positive experiences of the past and the confusion of the academic library led students to report, ‘I’ll never use this. I didn’t see any books. There was nothing but computers and little lounge areas.’“
This program will present the results of research into the challenges first-generation students face in effectively using academic libraries as well as an initial set of best practices for supporting these students’ academic success that can be adopted by libraries in a variety of institutional environments.