Embedded Library Services: Beyond Chance Encounters for Students from Low SES Backgrounds

Anne Horn, Alexia Maddox, Pauline Hagel, Michael Currie, Sue Owen
2013 Australian Academic and Research Libraries  
This paper reports research that examined how the embedding of library services through the learning management system contributed to the experience of students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. To evaluate the embedded practice, the researchers used a mixed-method approach involving surveys with students and interviews with library and academic staff. Survey results showed gains in students' awareness of library resources and in their confidence and satisfaction using them.
more » ... participants reported benefits to students from the improved visibility of the library and involvement of students in conversations about information literacy. The teacher derived personal benefits in learning more about digital information resources while library staff benefitted from the research driven-nature of the practice which strengthened their collaborative partnership with academic staff. Based on the evaluation, an embedded approach has been adopted at the university in additional courses which have similar student profiles. The outcomes are relevant more widely in demonstrating both the potential benefits of embedded practice for supporting diverse student populations and how libraries can target their activities more effectively to national and university agendas for improving student outcomes. Keywords student outcomes, socioeconomic status, learning management system, embedded librarianship, teaching partnerships, evaluation Dee Mitchell was a student from a low socioeconomic status (SES) background. While she had earned a place at university on her own merits, Dee dropped out of university in her second year. Years later, she returned to complete her degree. Dee's 'interrupted pathway' through higher education is commonplace for students from low SES backgrounds. Students from low SES backgrounds are less likely than their higher SES peers to apply for admission to university, to be offered a place or to accept an offer (DEEWR 2010). Once they do enter university, students from low SES backgrounds have somewhat lower rates of retention than those from higher SES backgrounds (DEEWR 2011). Along with the participation and success rates of students from other under-represented groups (including indigenous, rural and remote, and students with disabilities) improving the participation and success rates of students from low SES backgrounds is a focus of Australian Government policy. In 2009, the former Australian Government adopted the goal that, by 2020, 20 per cent of higher education enrolments at the undergraduate level would come from those of low SES backgrounds. This goal was in support of the Government's overall target whereby 40 per cent of all 25 to 34 year olds in Australia would hold a qualification at Bachelor's level or above by 2025 (Australian Government 2009). However, Dee Mitchell's story indicates that improving the participation rates of low SES students will not necessarily translate into equivalent rates of progress. That is, higher education institutions need to be proactive in providing support for these students to improve their educational outcomes. While curriculum and teaching are at the forefront of efforts to improve student outcomes, university libraries also make an important contribution: they provide the resources and services that students need to learn and persist in their studies (Mezick 2007) . However, as indicated in the account by Mitchell (2011), for students who feel out of place the provision of library resources and services, alone, will not improve their outcomes. This paper examines a practice designed to better support students from low SES backgrounds through embedding library services within a unit in the learning management system (LMS). The paper first considers the measurement of SES in Australia before reviewing the literature about the circumstances of students from low SES backgrounds and the contribution that embedded library practice can make to their educational outcomes. The embedded practice and evaluation method are then described and discussed. The paper concludes by summarising the benefits of the embedded practice and identifying future directions for library services models within the institution.
doi:10.1080/00048623.2013.862149 fatcat:vuraeub63vgmdjk4nshy63hcfq