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Academic librarians' perceptions of creative arts students as learners: a discourse of difference and difficulty

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
  • Janice Conway
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Publication date2016
Number of pages223
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Academic Librarians, working in specialist arts universities, create resources, design services and provide information literacy sessions to enhance arts student learning. They work collaboratively as hybrid professionals and play a valuable role in supporting students to navigate the complexities of the information landscape and develop as independent learners.
This research explores librarians' perceptions of arts students as learners in the creative arts. It further considers connections between 'intentions', 'orientations' and 'practice', in terms of librarians' approaches to enabling student learning. A qualitative methodology was used to identify variation in understandings about these students and an interpretative analysis is offered which examines a discourse of 'difference' and 'difficulty' which threads through the narratives and connects the categories of description identified through this research.
Contextual factors are explored and the effect the identified beliefs and attitudes might have on librarians' practice and on their provision of art library services is examined. Consideration is given to how arts librarians might transition from some of their currently held assumptions about art students as learners to a more complex and complete understanding of art student learning.
This research finds that academic librarians conceptualise arts students in different ways, namely as problematic learners, practitioner learners, particular learners and proficient learners. Above all they find them to be 'different' to other students and other library users and often 'difficult' to support. The framing of arts student learners in these ways may be indicative of librarians' lack of confidence in the effectiveness of student learning strategies and uncertainty as to their own identity, role and purpose.
This study has implications for library research and theory and also for policy, practice and professional development. The research outcomes may enable arts librarians to reflect upon and explore new ways of approaching their practice and improve services to meet the specific needs of arts students and arts curricula. This will entail a transition from a discourse of 'difference' and 'difficulty' to one which is more congruent with the exploratory and experimental pedagogy of art and design.