Investigating first-generation students’ perceptions of library personnel

Steve Borrelli (Penn State, State College, Pennsylvania, USA)
Chao Su (Penn State, State College, Pennsylvania, USA)
Shenetta Selden (Penn State, State College, Pennsylvania, USA)
Lana Munip (Penn State, State College, Pennsylvania, USA)

Performance Measurement and Metrics

ISSN: 1467-8047

Publication date: 4 February 2019



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the perceived role of library personnel in supporting first-generation students at Penn State University Libraries, and also how students’ perceptions of library personnel change over time, and the various experiences that influenced their changes in perception.


This study employed focus groups to solicit input from first-generation students. A four-step team-based approach to qualitative coding process was developed including the development of a codebook informed by common themes and concepts drawn from the literature.


Findings indicate that operating from a deficit of library cultural capital often results in low awareness of available services and changes in perception are more influenced by personal exploration than limited interactions with personnel. Further, while currently employed interventions are well targeted, opportunities exist for enhancing efforts.

Research limitations/implications

As this is a case study, the findings are not generalizable. Per conducting only four focus groups, the experiences of participants may not represent the typical scope of personnel-related interactions.


This study adds to the limited body of evidence that first-generation students’ struggle from a deficit of library-related cultural capital.



Borrelli, S., Su, C., Selden, S. and Munip, L. (2019), "Investigating first-generation students’ perceptions of library personnel", Performance Measurement and Metrics, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 27-36.

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