Framework Spotlight on Scholarship: Dempsey and Jagman’s “‘I Felt Like Such a Freshman’: First-Year Students Crossing the Library Threshold”

Today’s Spotlight on Scholarship features the article “‘I Felt Like Such a Freshman’: First-Year Students Crossing the Library Threshold” [paywall, pre-print openly available here (PDF)] by Paula R. Dempsey and Heather Jagman, published in portal: Libraries and the Academy, Volume 16, Number 1, January 2016, pp. 89-107.

This article represents the first published example of librarians aiming to understand and develop further the proposed IL concepts in the Framework through direct analysis of reflective writing produced by students. The research project through which the student work was produced was part of the first ACRL Assessment in Action cohort, and this article reports on the second phase of analysis of the reflective essays produced by the students as part of a required first-year experience course. The essays documented the students’ process of completing an exercise that required them to search the library catalog for an item of interest, find and check out the item in the library, and reflect on both the steps taken and their attitudes toward the process as a whole. Dempsey and Jagman used qualitative analysis software as well as manual coding methods to discern themes and findings about students’ knowledge and understandings related to research and the library, and then interpreted their findings through the lenses of the IL concepts proposed and described by the Framework. The three frames most prevalent in student responses–whether documented as stumbling blocks or as concepts mastered–were “Scholarship as Conversation”, “Searching as Strategic Exploration”, and “Research as Inquiry”. The discussion of the findings using these frames really digs into the productive tensions the frames present to IL practitioners as we seek to engage and teach using the Framework. Through this detailed analysis, and centering students’ voices as their method of choice, Dempsey and Jagman offer a compelling case for IL pedagogical design that facilitates “self-directed, reflective learning” over “librarian-led sessions” in which students are typically led toward thresholds of understanding in a uniform manner; the evidence offered in this article suggests this uniformity is not how understanding is actually constructed in cohorts of novice learners. The assignment prompt is helpfully included as an appendix, inviting librarians to adapt this exercise for their own institutional context.  

Paula R. Dempsey is Research Services & Resources Librarian in the Richard J. Daley Library of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Heather Jagman is Coordinator of Reference, Instruction, and Academic Engagement in the John T. Richardson Library at DePaul University.

The “Framework Spotlight on Scholarship” column is a regular post series highlighting scholarship that uses, builds on, critiques, or responds to the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.