First-Year Resources

The First-Year Experience and Academic Libraries:
A Select, Annotated Bibliography

Scott Walter
University of Kansas
(prepared as part of the Association of College and Research Libraries First Year Experience Task Force, September 2004)

Over the past ten years, a powerful partnership has developed between first-year experience (FYE) programs and academic libraries. While special academic programming aimed at helping first-year students adjust to the social and academic demands of college life has existed for over a century and library skills instruction has been a common feature of such programming for almost as long, it has only been in the last decade that truly collaborative efforts between FYE programs and academic librarians have resulted in the effective integration of higher-order information literacy skills into the FYE curriculum.

The essays cited below represent an introduction to the literature describing the first-year student's experience with information literacy instruction, and to the various ways in which academic librarians have worked in collaboration with classroom faculty to integrate information literacy instruction into the first-year experience. First-year-experience models described in the library literature include extended orientation seminars (Dabbour, 1997; Sugarman & Mosby, 2002), academic seminars with uniform content across sections (Blakeslee, 1988; Lindsay, 2003; Parks & Hendrix, 1996), and academic seminars on various topics (Burtle & Sugarman, 2002).


I Core Collection

The following essays represent an effective introduction to both the history of library involvement in the first-year experience, and to current practices in collaborative programming. Anyone with an interest in the integration of information literacy instruction into a first-year-experience program should start by reading the following:

Boff, C., & Johnson, K. (2002). The library and the first-year experience course: A nationwide study. Reference Services Review, 30 (4), 277-287.

Reports on the first national survey of information literacy instruction in first-year-experience programs. Boff and Johnson report on the integration of information literacy instruction in 368 FYE programs across the country and provide a framework for understanding the case studies reported in other essays. Aspects of FYE programming illuminated by this study include the degree to which a distinct “library component” exists in FYE programs across the country, the number of programs that include librarians as lead instructors for FYE sections, and the instructional content most often included in the “library component” of FYE. Since earlier national surveys of FYE programs conducted by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition have included little information about information literacy instruction, Boff and Johnson provide a critical starting point for future research on the place of academic librarians and information literacy instruction in the first-year experience.

Gardner, J. N., Decker, D., & McNairy, F. G. (1986). Taking the library to freshman students via the freshman seminar concept. In G. B. McCabe & B. Kreissman (Eds.), Advances in library administration and organization, vol. 6 (pp. 153-171). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, Inc.

An early call for librarian involvement in first-year-experience courses. The authors provide an historical overview of academic programming for first-year students that complements Pierard and Graves (2002) and make an argument for the benefits that will accrue to academic libraries and librarians should they become more closely involved in the design and delivery of first-year-experience programming.

Pierard, C., & Graves, K. (2002). The greatest problem with which the library is confronted: A survey of academic library outreach to the freshman course. In M. C. Kelly & A. Kross (Eds.), Making the grade: Academic libraries and student success (pp. 71-89). Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.

Pierard and Graves provide a unique historical overview of academic library involvement with academic and co-curricular programs aimed at first-year students. Demonstrating a variety of approaches to providing library skills and information literacy instruction to first-year students over the past century, the authors highlight the ways in which the evolution of the first-year-experience movement has opened the door to more substantive opportunities for librarian involvement not only in instruction of first-year students, but also in FYE program development and assessment of student learning. Also provides an effective introduction to a range of FYE models that have proven amenable to integration of information literacy instruction.

II Additional Resources
The following essays build on the foundation provided by the core collection above by elaborating on specific aspects of information literacy instruction for first-year students and providing examples of effective integration of information literacy instruction across a variety of first-year-experience program models.

Armstrong, A. (2003). First year experience research skills survey. In E. F. Avery (ed.), Assessing student learning outcomes for information literacy instruction in academic institutions (pp. 53-59). Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.

Briefly describes changes to the way in which the University of Cincinnati approaches delivery and assessment of information literacy instruction for first-year students. Describes the impact of the creation of a First-Year-Experience Librarian position on the instruction provided to first-year students, and provides an example of a survey instrument designed to assess first-year student information literacy competencies. Additional examples of simple survey instruments can be found in: Merz, L. H., & Mark, B. L. (2002). Assessment in college library instruction programs [CLIP Note No. 32]. Chicago: College Libraries Section, Association of College & Research Libraries.

Blakeslee, S. (1998). Librarian in a strange land: Teaching a freshman orientation course. Reference Services Review, 26 (2), 73-78.

Blakeslee reports on her experience teaching “Introduction to University Life” (UNIV 001) at California State University, Chico. Like Sugarman and Mosby (2002), the author was responsible for teaching a section of a generic first-year-experience course, but, unlike them, the “major focus” of her course was information literacy and computer literacy skills. Blakeslee reports both on the course and on the workshop programming she prepared for other UNIV 001 faculty prior to the launch of the course to help them address their own concerns about having to teach a first-year course with a strong information literacy focus.

Brodsky, K., & Toczyski, S. (2002). Information competence in the freshman seminar. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 6 (4), 46-51.

Describes how academic librarians provided instruction both for faculty and for students involved in the first-year-experience program at Sonoma State University (CA) as part of the California State University “Information Competence” initiative. Like Lindsay (2003), the authors describe how information literacy instruction was developed both for students and instructors in the FYE program in order to fully integrate information literacy into course assignments and objectives. Especially useful for its description of the “train-the-trainer” workshops used to introduce information literacy skills and concepts to FYE instructors.

Burtle, L. G., & Sugarman, T. S. (2002). The citizen in the information age. College & Research Libraries News, 63 (4), 276-279.

Complements Sugarman & Mosby (2002) by describing another aspect of the first-year-experience program at Georgia State University - a thematic seminar designed and taught by librarians on the topic, “The Citizen in the Information Age.” While Blakeselee (1998) describes the experience of a librarian serving as an instructor in a generic “student success” FYE program, Burtle and Sugarman provide an example of how information literacy issues can form the curricular core of a thematic FYE program.

Dabbour, K. S. (1997). Applying active learning methods to the design of library instruction for a freshman seminar. College & Research Libraries, 58 (4), 299-308.

Describes information literacy instruction provided for the University Studies 100 course at California State University, San Bernadino. Argues for the importance of using active learning techniques (e.g., discussion, small group work) as part of information literacy instruction for first-year students.

Gardner, J. N., & Hardesty, L. (2004). The reform movement for the first year experience: What is the role of librarians? Library Issues: Briefings for Faculty and Administrators, 24 (5).

Provides a general overview both to the foundations of the first-year-experience movement through Gardner's work at the University of South Carolina and to the fundamentals of information literacy instruction as represented by the Association of College & Research Libraries' “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” Reiterates the call for librarians to be more involved at the level of policy-making for campus-based FYE programs and for faculty and administrators to think creatively about the ways in which librarians and information literacy instruction can be integrated into both academic and co-curricular programming aimed at the first-year student.

Geffert, B., & Christensen, B. (1998). Things they carry: Attitudes toward, opinions about, and knowledge of libraries and research among incoming college students. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 37 (3), 279-289.

Reports the results of a survey given to first-year students at St. Olaf College (MN) (n=521) to determine the degree to which student demographic characteristics and previous experience with library research relate to demonstrated mastery of information literacy skills. Results suggest a significant correlation between performance on an introductory test of information skills and: (1) gender; (2) high school class size; (3) high school grade point average; and, (4) previous experience with library research. In an interesting complement to the description of “Generation Y” self-assessment of information technology skills found in Manuel (2002), the authors found “little relationship between self-confidence and knowledge of several basic library concepts.” As in Manuel (2002), the suggested conclusion is that even incoming students raised in the “information age” require formal information literacy instruction in order to effectively navigate the demands of first-year college instruction.

Harley, B. (2001). Freshmen, information literacy, critical thinking and values. Reference Services Review, 29 (4), 301-305.

Harley describes his involvement with the Freshman Success Program at San Diego State University (CA). Harley describes the activities associated with a section of the FYE “university seminar” that he created in collaboration with a classroom faculty member to focus on the relationship between value judgments, critical thinking, and information literacy.

Jacobson, T. E., & Mark, B. L. (2000). Separating wheat from chaff: Helping first-year students become information savvy. Journal of General Education, 49 (4), 256-278.

Jacobson and Mark provide an excellent overview of the wide variety of ways in which librarians interact with the first-year curriculum through credit courses, General Education requirements, and first-year-experience programs. Aimed at a non-librarian audience, this essay effectively introduces the concept of information literacy and its relationship to critical thinking instruction. The authors also describe librarian involvement with FYE programs at the State University of New York at Albany and Messiah College (PA), including discussions of information literacy instruction and the strengths and weaknesses of each program in terms of planning for, and assessing, student mastery of information literacy skills and concepts.

Johnson, C. M., McCord, S. K., & Walter, S. (2003). Instructional outreach across the curriculum: Enhancing the liaison role at a research university. The Reference Librarian, 82, 19-37.

Provides an introduction to the information literacy instruction program at Washington State University by highlighting successful approaches to integration of information literacy in the first-year-experience and College of Pharmacy programs. Complements Lindsay (2003), but provides a broader context for the discussion of library participation in campus FYE programs.

Knight, L. A. (2002). The role of assessment in library user education. Reference Services Review, 30 (1), 15-24.

Presents a multi-faceted approach to assessment of student learning of information literacy skills as part of a first-year seminar. Complements Ursin, Lindsay, & Johnson (2004) by demonstrating ways in which student mastery of information literacy learning outcomes can be effectively assessed as part of a library-based instructional program.

Lindsay, E. B. (2003). A collaborative approach to information literacy in the freshman seminar. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 7 (3). Retrieved May 13, 2004, from

Describes the involvement of academic librarians in the Freshman Seminar Program at Washington State University. The WSU program focuses on critical thinking instruction and the integration of print and electronic information resources into a Web-based presentation evaluated by faculty and staff in student affairs, General Education, and the university libraries. Also describes the development of a credit-bearing course aimed at making the FSP “peer facilitators” information literate as part of their training to lead independent FSP sections. Highlights the integration of information literacy instruction, critical thinking instruction, information technology instruction, and peer learning as part of an first-year-experience learning community.

Malone, D., & Videon, C. (2003). First year student library instruction programs [CLIP Note No. 33]. Chicago: College Libraries Section, Association of College & Research Libraries.

In this national survey of small and mid-sized colleges and universities (153 respondents reported student FTEs between 585 and 17,000), Malone and Videon provide an overview of the information literacy instruction provided to first-year students as part of campus-wide writing and first-year-experience programs. The authors report that 68% of respondents offered instruction to FYE programs, but identify a number of challenges facing librarians working to integrate ILI into FYE programs, including: (1) diversity of learning objectives within FYE programs; (2) lack of consistency in formal integration of ILI into FYE curriculum; and (3) lack of consistency in faculty commitment to integrating information literacy into FYE assignments. These challenges are consistent with the diversity in FYE programming reported in The 2000 National Survey of First-Year Seminar Programs (2002).

Manuel, K. (2002). Teaching information literacy skills to Generation Y. Journal of Library Administration, 36 (1/2), 195-217.

Provides an introduction to current research on “Generation Y” college students and their learning styles. Identifies ways in which differences in learning styles may influence student perception of the need for information literacy instruction, as well as the most effective means of designing information literacy instruction for today's students. Provides a useful bridge between research on distinctive characteristics of today's college students, the dynamic information environment of the 21st-century university, and best practices in information literacy instruction.

Nims, J. K., & Andrew, A. (Eds.). (2002). First impressions, lasting impact: Introducing the first-year student to the academic library: Papers presented at the twenty-eight national LOEX Library Instruction Conference, held in Ypsilanti, Michigan, 19-20 May 2000. Ann Arbor, MI: Pierian Press.

Provides an overview of a number of programs through which academic librarians provide information literacy instruction to first-year students [i.e., a practitioner-based complement to the historical overview provided by Pierard and Graves (2002)]. One essay on the first-year experience notes that earlier studies failed to describe the use of “train-the-trainer” approaches to supporting information literacy instruction in an FYE program, but this lacunae in the literature has since been partially addressed by Brodsky and Toczyski (2002), and Lindsay (2003). Like Malone and Videon (2003), this collection provides a useful snapshot of the wide variety of ways in which first-year students are introduced to information literacy.

Parang, E., Raine, M., & Stevenson, T. (2000). Redesigning freshman seminar library instruction based on information competencies. Research Strategies, 17 (4), 269-280.

Describes the evolution of information literacy instruction provided as part of the first-year-experience course at Pepperdine University (CA). Useful for its discussion of how information literacy instruction must be effectively articulated across multiple first-year courses to avoid duplication of effort, and how a mix of Web-based and face-to-face instruction can be used to make more effective use of librarian and student time spent preparing to meet information literacy-related instructional objectives.

Parks, J., & Hendrix, D. (1996). Integrating library instruction into the curriculum through Freshman Symposium. Reference Services Review, 24 (1), 65-71.

Provides an overview of information literacy instruction provided as part of the Freshman Symposium/First-Year Colloquium program at Southwestern University (TX). Highlights the importance of administrative support for FYE instruction within the library and of involvement of key individuals within the library in the ongoing development of the FYE program. Although the actual IL skills integrated into the FYE program described in this article were limited to skills such as use of the library catalog to locate a known item and the use of periodical indexes to locate book reviews, the authors provide a useful description of the ways in which information literacy instruction can become a valuable part of an existing FYE program.

Pedersen, S. (2003). Learning communities and the academic library. Olympia, WA: Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education.

Prepared for the Association of College & Research Libraries and the American Association of Higher Education, this slim monograph provides a broad overview of the evolution of learning communities within the first-year experience and of the contributions made to LCs by academic libraries and librarians. A useful introduction both to the history of learning communities and information literacy instruction, and to the best practices represented by model programs at California State University, Hayward, the University of Hawaii, Bellevue Community College, Portland State University, LaGuardia Community College, Washington State University, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, and others.

Sonntag, G. (1999). Using technology in a first-year experience course. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 6 (1), 1-16.

Sonntag describes the development of a Web-based information literacy module designed for inclusion in a first-year-experience course at California State University, San Marcos. “Getting Published,” a course module designed to introduce students to the publication cycle, is described and its strengths and weaknesses assessed. Includes a substantive appendix that provides two versions of the curriculum for the “Information and Society” segment of the FYE course.

St. Clair, L. (2002). The “LEAPing” librarian's role in a campus learning community. College & Research Libraries News, 63 (1), 24-26, 29.

Describes the development of information literacy instruction for a full-year first-year-experience program at the University of Utah. Unique for the extent to which independent library sessions have been incorporated into the FYE curriculum with 10 individual meetings between students and librarians over the course of an academic year.

Stelling, P. (1996). Student to student: Training peer advisors to provide BI. Research Strategies, 14 (1), 50-55.

Describes the integration of information literacy instruction as part of a broader program of training for peer advisors in a College of Education. While not directly related to first-year-experience programs, Stelling's discussion of the value of peer learning as part of an information literacy instruction program is echoed in FYE-focused essays such as Brodsky and Toczyski (2002) and Lindsay (2003).

Sugarman, T., & Mosby, A. P. (2002). Making a weak link stronger: Incorporating information literacy into a semester-long freshman seminar. Georgia Library Quarterly, 39 (2), 12-16.

Describes the authors' involvement as instructors in the first-year-experience program at Georgia State University (GSU 1010). GSU 1010 is an FYE course that covers a number of issues related to student success and the transition from high school to college. Sugarman and Mosby describe their efforts to include information literacy instruction into the broader curriculum required of all GSU 1010 sections. They describe specific assignments, as well as student reactions to the assignments, to the inclusion of ILI into GSU 1010, and to the FYE program, as a whole. Useful for academic librarians who have the opportunity to serve as instructors in a campus-wide FYE program.

Taylor, T., & Stamatoplos, T. (1999). First-year learning communities: Redefining the educational roles of academic librarians. In H. A. Thompson (Ed.), Racing toward tomorrow: Proceedings of the ninth national conference of the Association of College & Research Libraries, April 8-11, 1999 (pp. 2-5). Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.

In this brief conference paper, Taylor and Stamatoplos provide an introduction to first-year experience programs and highlight the FYE programs at DePaul University and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Both programs demonstrate effective means of including librarians in the development and implementation of FYE programming that includes an integrated approach to information literacy instruction. The authors also pose a number of questions that must be addressed by any academic library planning to become involved in provision of instruction for large-scale FYE programs.

Ursin, L., Lindsay, E. B., & Johnson, C. M. (2004). Assessing library instruction in the freshman seminar: A citation analysis study. Reference Services Review, 32 (3), 284-292.

Builds on the description of the Freshman Seminar Program at Washington State University found in Johnson, McCord, & Walter (2003), by assessing the impact of information literacy instruction through an analysis of the print and electronic resources cited in first-year student projects. Citation analysis suggested limited impact on student information resource choices based on existing instructional programming. Discusses potential changes to the library support to the FSP based on the limited success of existing programming identified by this study.

Ury, C. J., & King, T. L. (1995). Reinforcement of library orientation instruction for freshman seminar students. Research Strategies, 13 (3), 153-164.

Describes a first-year experience program at Northwest Missouri State University in which information literacy instruction is provided primarily by FYE faculty members with librarians serving as consultants in the development of course assignments, instructional materials, and strategies for the assessment of student mastery of information literacy skills and concepts.