Academic Library Services for First-Generation Students
by Xan Arch and Isaac Gilman
July 2020, 149pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-7017-0
$70, £52, 61€, A95
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7018-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Identifies many ways that libraries can be important to college and university efforts to recruit and retain first-generation students.

Presenting strategies for improving academic library services for first-generation students, this timely book focuses on programs and services that will increase student academic engagement and success.

Demographic data and secondary school graduation rates suggest that colleges and universities will enroll growing numbers of first-generation students over the next decade. Academic Library Services for First-Generation Students focuses on ways academic libraries can uniquely contribute to the successful transition to college and year-to-year retention of first-generation students.

The practical recommendations in this book include a wide range of ideas for the design and modification of library services and facilities to be more inclusive of the needs of first-generation students. All of the recommendations are specifically aimed at addressing challenges faced by first-generation students. Topics covered range from study spaces and service points to information literacy instruction and campus partnerships. The book makes the case—both explicitly and implicitly—that academic libraries can help address known risk factors (e.g., by helping students build academic cultural competencies) and thereby improve success, persistence, and retention for first-generation students. Academic library professionals in both leadership roles and public service positions will benefit from the actionable strategies presented here.


  • Includes practical strategies for modifying existing library services to be more inclusive of first-generation student needs
  • Incorporates suggestions for new services targeted toward first-generation students
  • Offers insight into first-generation students’ perspectives on academic libraries
  • Builds understanding of the role libraries can play in first-generation student success and retention
Xan Arch is dean of the Clark Library at the University of Portland. Arch has published and presented nationally on topics ranging from library technology to best practices for managing through change. In 2013, she was awarded the Esther J. Piercy Award by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) for a librarian who shows “outstanding promise for continuing contribution and leadership” in collections and technical services. Prior to becoming dean, Arch was head of collections at Reed College, managing technical services and teaching information literacy to undergraduates at the college.

Isaac Gilman is dean of University Libraries at Pacific University. A founding editor and publisher of the Journal of Librarianship & Scholarly Communication, Gilman has published several articles and book chapters and is author of Library Scholarly Communication Programs: Legal and Ethical Considerations. As dean, he also serves as director of the Pacific University Press and has experience in both the editing and production of books and scholarly journals. Prior to becoming dean, Gilman managed Pacific’s repository and publishing services and taught information literacy and research methods in both undergraduate and graduate programs at the university.


"Librarians will appreciate the list of questions that lets them analyze their own institution’s situation, the spotlights on successful programs, and the sample surveys. For academic librarians looking to help first-generation college students flourish."—Library Journal, October 1, 2020

"Arch and Gilman provide a necessary text that both defines what a first-generation student is while arguing for dismantling the middle-class structure that describes most academic institutions. This work is difficult to do, yet they do it with elegance and poise. This book is a must-have for any academic library working with a large population of first-generation students."—College & Research Libraries, January 8, 2021

"A handy resource for examining core library services and making academic libraries inclusive for all students."—Technical Services Quarterly, April 30, 2021

"A thoughtful, engaging, and first-generation–affirming text that makes a strong case for the transformational role of library services. Strengthened by considerable research, the book is filled with concrete steps for consideration. This project leads the way in terms of 21st-century support for first-generation college populations."—La'Tonya Rease Miles, PhD, Director, First Year Experience, University of California, Los Angeles

"This exceptional treatise on the unique characteristics, experiences, and needs of first-generation college students is long overdue in the library field. Arch and Gilman bring together their passionate perspectives and the results of their own research with a thorough examination of the historical context and previously disparate studies and scholarship to provide strengths- and assets-based strategies that can be used to improve library spaces, instruction, and outreach for these students. This convincing work is a call to action for all practitioners in higher education who wish to break down the institutional, systemic barriers that exist for all underserved students in our complex environments."—Adriene Lim, PhD, Dean of Libraries, University of Maryland
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