Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Intangible Factors Influencing the Successful Completion of Graduate LIS Coursework by Non-Traditional Students: A Case of Two IMLS-Funded Scholarship Projects

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Intangible Factors Influencing the Successful Completion of Graduate LIS Coursework by Non-Traditional Students: A Case of Two IMLS-Funded Scholarship Projects

Article excerpt

This paper examines two IMLS-funded scholarship programs that targeted non-traditional LIS students, documenting non-academic aspects of the programs that participating students identified as most important to the successful completion of their academic programs and to their establishment as contributing members of the professional library community. Formative analyses conducted during the programs pointed to the importance of ongoing and extensive administrative and emotional support for participants, and this paper provides an analysis of the value of these intangible sources of student support. Using online surveys and semi-structured interviews of selected participants from both scholarship programs, this study found that multiple forms of intangible support, from multiple sources inside and outside the academy, that surpassed institutional norms, were crucial to the academic and early career success of non-traditional LIS students.

Keywords: student support; non-traditional students; distance learning; intangible support; survey and interview methods

Introduction

For the future of the LIS professions and the success of individuals, it is crucial that LIS students begin to build their professional networks during their academic LIS programs (Kazmer, 2006). The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Laura Bush 21st Century Librarians program has been instrumental in funding the education of the next generation of LIS professionals. Many of the scholarship projects funded through this program have been designed to recruit and prepare librarians to serve underserved or at-risk populations. These projects often include activities intended to socialize scholarship recipients - many of whom are from backgrounds that lead to their being considered non-traditional students - into their professional communities and provide them with administrative and logistical support.

To determine which aspects of LIS students' educational programs have been most effective, it is important to look beyond the scholarship funding periods and follow the graduates as they begin their professional careers. Are IMLS-funded graduates benefitting from the educational initiatives in which they participated? Did the additional administrative support made possible by grant funding factor into their success? Are graduates connecting with the people and institutions that will help them become effective library leaders? Do their professional networks include their classmates? This study addresses these questions by documenting the intangible factors recent graduates of two online IMLS-funded scholarship programs targeting non-traditional students at Florida State University identified as being instrumental to their academic and early career success.

Background

Research about the non-financial support of graduate students has tended to focus on support for learning (Shepherd & Bolliger, 201 1), often within individual courses (Lee, Srinivasan, Trail, Lewis, & Lopez, 201 1). Other research in the area of support has focused on how librarians can support students in a wide variety of educational settings and for varying purposes, including higher education (Mortimore & Wall, 2009; Stoffle & Cuillier, 2010) and K-12 schools (Farmer, 2009). Research about the support needed by online LIS students began soon after the first wave of LIS programs moved to web-based platforms in the mid-1990s (e.g., Hara & Kling, 2000; Kazmer, 2000), and continues to be an area of study as e-learning becomes more common and the technologies used for it change rapidly (Hank, Sugimoto, & Pomerantz, 2012; Mon, 2012).

Master's students in LIS are frequently in need of support beyond that offered at the level of the course (i.e., dedicated toward learning); they need support at the program and professional preparation level (Cherry, Duff, Singh, & Freund, 201 1). This is especially true for distance students who may encounter more roadblocks in accessing traditional means of support (Lee, 2010). …

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