Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date



Much has been made of the challenges first-generation (FG) students face as they begin their college experience; graduation and retention rates are lower than for other students,1 anxiety about the adjustment to college life is higher,2 and studies of their experiences and performance in the first year reinforce a narrative of struggle, obstacles, and barriers.3,4 Colleges and universities have responded to these findings by offering additional support and programming specifically for FG students. These efforts can be read in two ways. On one hand, they suggest that institutions of higher education are increasingly aware of the diverse needs of their students; on the other hand, institutional anxiety about retention and reputation summers under the surface, suggesting that the attention and resources devoted to FG students are also shaped by institutional needs.

What are the implications of this tension for libraries? As professionals eager to meet user needs, how can librarians support FG students' success and see them for more than their perceived disadvantages? This chapter begins with an overview of the literature on FG students' experiences, challenges, and outcomes. It then contrasts these approaches with critiques of the "first generation" category itself. Next existing literature on FG students' library use and information-seeking habits are examined in relation to both approaches. Finally, the author suggests ways in which libraries can recognize and respond to FG students more holistically than a deficit-focused approach generally permits.


Ngoc-Yen Tran & Silke Higgins


Association of College and Research Libraries




9780838946626, 9780838946633

Publication Information

Supporting Today's Students in the Library: Strategies for Retaining and Graduating International, Transfer, First-Generation, and Re-Entry Students