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Library roles in advancing graduate peer-tutor agency and integrated academic literacies

Sarah McDaniel (Libraries and the Learning Commons, Western Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 8 June 2018

Issue publication date: 21 August 2018



This paper aims to apply integrated academic literacies and threshold concepts constructs to the development of graduate student literacies. Western Washington University has developed a graduate peer-tutors program to advance integrated academic literacies and graduate student agency. Graduate peer-tutors are expert-outsiders (Nowacek and Hughes, 2015): expert in conversations about literacies and outsiders to disciplinary expertise. Peer-tutors augment a support ecosystem that includes faculty advisors, subject librarians and others. Libraries should lead innovative programs to develop integrated literacies, and librarians should leverage both subject and literacies expertise as part of an ecosystem of support.


Drawing on library, writing center and higher education scholarship, the author draws on research methodologies from writing center scholarship to explore models for integrated graduate student literacies. The author collaborates with graduate peer-tutors to connect theory and practice in the Graduate Research & Writing Studio (GRWS).


Peer-tutor models offer a valuable layer of support for graduate students engaged in thesis-writing. Peer-tutors, faculty advisors and subject librarians play important roles in advancing development of integrated literacies. The role of peer-tutors is unique in advancing integrated literacies, and addressing affective barriers and equity concerns.

Practical implications

Economic pressures have transformed higher education, ushering new populations into graduate programs. Opportunities to enhance inclusivity cannot be realized without support for development of literacies. Libraries should lead with innovative services that address barriers to graduate student success.


The author leverages the unique laboratory offered by the GRWS and engages graduate peer-tutors in connecting scholarship and practice. Drawing on contemporary theoretical lenses on literacies, she argues for libraries’ leadership of programs that support integrated graduate student literacies.



The author thanks Roberta Kjesrud, Director of Writing, Western Washington University; Donna Qualley, Professor, English, Western Washington University; Graduate Research & Writing Studio; and Teaching Assistants Jo Ann Arinder, Ciera Mead and Maeve Pickus.


McDaniel, S. (2018), "Library roles in advancing graduate peer-tutor agency and integrated academic literacies", Reference Services Review, Vol. 46 No. 2, pp. 272-293.



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