Dismantling Deficit Thinking: A Strengths-Based Inquiry Into the Experiences of Transfer Students In and Out of Academic Libraries

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In the Library with the Lead Pipe


Library research on transfer students tends to focus on the idea of the “struggling” transfer student and creating solutions to “fix” them. While we might assume transfer students will falter because they missed our institutions’ first-year offerings, this oversimplifies their vast and heterogeneous experiences. Our study complicates the narrative of the lagging transfer student. We surveyed and interviewed students to gain a holistic understanding of their lives in the workplace, the classroom, and the library. We encouraged them to explore their identities as students, researchers, caretakers, employees, and more. We found that most had previously received information literacy instruction, some had 4-year degrees, and the majority had extramural experiences that gave them confidence and knowledge to navigate higher education. This paper explores the harm of deficit thinking, identifies how a strengths-based approach can inform librarianship, and shares data on transfer student experiences, challenges, and barriers. It offers readers an opportunity to consider how they might leverage transfer students’ strengths, rather than fixating on perceived shortcomings.


Library and Information Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences



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