Book Reviews

Transforming Libraries to Serve Graduate Students. Crystal Renfro and Cheryl Stiles, eds., for the Association of College and Research Libraries. Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 2018. 445p. Paper, $88.00 (ISBN 978-0-8389-4606-0). LC Z711.92.G73 T73.

Book cover for Transforming Libraries to Serve Graduate Students

Graduate students are not a monolithic user population. A doctoral student in a faculty track has a very different trajectory from a master’s student in a professional track. Graduate education also varies widely by academic discipline. Variation is inevitable when the groups you serve span the full range of scholarly knowledge. The editors of Transforming Libraries to Serve Graduate Students acknowledge that there is a great deal of variation between graduate students. Section 1 of the book explores the variation in information needs between graduate students. Chapters in Section 1 address the needs of art students, music students, students studying for health sciences professions, business students, social work students, STEM students, graduate student instructors, Latinx students, and online students. It is clear from the beginning that collaboration is important in serving graduate students because no one librarian will be able to handle all the specialized needs outlined in this book. However, it is valuable for us to understand what our colleagues are doing, and several of the chapters in the section also have implications across disciplines. Chapter 4, on serving music students, has something to offer many librarians across fields, as it relates the experiences of a librarian teaching a semester-long graduate course for the first time. Chapter 12, on serving STEM students, is also cross-cutting, as it addresses how to help students pursue grant funding, find and use data sets, and navigate questions of scholarly communication, all of which are needs felt across campus departments.

Section 2 of the book is about adapting library services for graduate students. It examines library spaces, LaTex workshops, GIS training, online scholarly identity development, citation management instruction, and interlibrary loan services. Readers interested in disciplinary differences such as those outlined in Section 1 will also want to read the chapter on LaTex instruction for STEM students, although the images provided in the chapter’s appendix are not very readable. Readers may want to skip some of the chapters on adapting spaces and interlibrary loan, as multiple chapters are offered on those topics and they cover much of the same content. For example, the chapters on space share similar findings from graduate students desirous of quiet, security, and privacy in their study spaces.

Section 3 focuses on information literacy instruction for graduate students. Discussions of programs offering data services, data management instruction, information literacy, and creating online profiles are offered. Because Section 2 also addresses library instruction in several of its chapters, the content in Sections 2 and 3 blur together.

Section 4 examines the partnerships libraries can build to serve graduate students better. This section might also have been named “Graduate Student Outreach.” It describes programs such as open houses, a library staff working group, a partnership with a graduate school, and a graduate student advisory board. The partnership focus in this chapter alludes to one of the main values of Transforming Libraries to Serve Graduate Students: the possibility for collaboration within a library, within a campus, or with librarians at other institutions. If you are unsure of how to serve a group of graduate students on your campus, the book has a contact list of librarians who have done it and have recommendations on how to do it.

This volume would benefit from some reorganization. Some chapters include abstracts, but many do not. Since the book contains 34 chapters with very different topics, it would be useful for readers to have abstracts to rely on to decide which chapters are of the most use for their needs. The four sections of the book are unbalanced in length and could be more internally cohesive. Section 1 is much longer than the others and might have been limited to only chapters addressing discipline-specific needs. Discussions of how to support the transition from undergraduate to graduate and how to support graduate students online would have fit better in the middle chapters, which deal with cross-disciplinary topics. Several of the chapters in Section 2 are about information literacy instruction and therefore might more appropriately be placed in Section 3. For instance, the discussions of citation management instruction, GIS instruction, and helping scholars develop their online identities overlap with the content of Section 3. Given that there is some redundancy in the book, some chapters could have been edited and the two sections could have been combined for more efficient and intuitive coverage of graduate student services.

Section 1 is the most useful portion of the book, since it offers librarians a view into one another’s subject expertises. While librarians of all specialties will be familiar with concepts surrounding patrons’ need for study space, citation management training, interlibrary loans, and information literacy instruction, the particular needs of advanced scholars in each discipline are not obvious to those who haven’t worked closely with those scholars. Readers might have benefited if the credentials of the authors were listed with the chapters they contributed to, in order to provide a better sense of the subject expertise brought to bear on each topic. Because the book addresses differences in user needs across disciplines that are shared by undergraduates and faculty, the book is relevant to librarians serving other populations beyond graduate students. This book will be of the greatest use to librarians or libraries transitioning from serving undergraduate populations to graduate populations. That is a common occurrence, as librarians move to more research-intensive institutions and more institutions add additional graduate programs.—Sarah Rose Fitzgerald, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Copyright Sarah Rose Fitzgerald

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