Interesting Patterns Found When Academic and Public Library Use by Foreign-born Students Is Assessed Using ‘Super-Diversity’ Variables

  • Brittany Richardson University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library, Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States


A Review of:

Albarillo, F. (2018). Super-diversity and foreign-born students in academic libraries: A survey study. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(1), 59-91.


Objective – To evaluate the relationship between academic and public library usage and various characteristics of foreign-born students.

Design – Survey questionnaire.

Setting – Medium-sized public liberal arts college in the northeastern United States.

Subjects – 123 foreign-born students enrolled at the institution in fall 2014.

Methods – The researcher emailed a five-part survey to participants who indicated on a screening survey that they were foreign-born students currently enrolled at the college. Of the participants emailed, 94 completed the survey. The survey used a super-diversity lens to assess academic and public library use by foreign-born students in relationship to multiple variables, including student status, race and ethnicity, immigration status, first-generation student status, gender, age, age of arrival in the United States (US), years living in the US, and ZIP Code (used to approximate median income based on the US Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey). Respondents reported frequency of use on a Likert-type scale of 1=Never to 6=Always. The author adapted items from the In Library Use Survey Instrument (University of Washington Libraries, 2011). Usage types included: computer, Wi-Fi, staff assistance, electronic resources, physical resources, printing/scanning/photocopying, program attendance, and physical space. Independent sample t-tests were used to evaluate mean differences in reported library usage based on demographic variables. The author used Somers’ d statistical tests to explore the relationship between library use and age, age on arrival in the US, years lived in the US, and median income. The survey asked participants to describe both academic and public libraries in five words. To show term frequency, the author used word clouds as a visualization technique.

Main Results – The study reported on the results of the library use survey section. Overall, foreign-born students used college libraries more frequently than public libraries. The author reported on findings that were statistically significant (p ≤ 0.5), focusing on those with mean differences ≥ 0.5. Key findings included: undergraduate students used public libraries and Wi-Fi/e-resources onsite at college libraries more often than graduate students; first-generation students gathered at the library with friends more frequently; no significant difference was reported in library resource use by gender; and non-white students used the college library more frequently as a study space and for printing. The author was surprised no significant differences in usage were found between participants with permanent vs. temporary immigration status. Somers’ d associations showed an inverse relationship between age and Wi-Fi use and age of arrival in the United States and likelihood of eating in the library. Overall, both library types were positively described in open-ended responses as places with social and academic value.

Conclusion – The author suggested the concept of super-diversity equips librarians with a more inclusive approach to studying library user perspectives and behaviors. The author used survey data and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Diversity Standards (2012) to highlight library service considerations for foreign-born students. Examples of suggested service improvements included supporting printing in Unicode non-English fonts, cultivating a diverse library staff, and providing culturally appropriate library orientations and outreach. The author recommended that more research with foreign-born students was needed to assess culturally appropriate areas for eating and socializing, unique information needs, and expectations and awareness of library services. The author suggested first-generation students’ use of the library for socializing and non-white students’ higher use of libraries for studying as two areas for further qualitative study. The author also suggested creating services and partnerships between public and academic libraries could support foreign-born students, even recommending cross-training of library staff.


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Author Biography

Brittany Richardson, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Library, Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States

Web Services Librarian, Assistant Professor

How to Cite
RichardsonB. (2019). Interesting Patterns Found When Academic and Public Library Use by Foreign-born Students Is Assessed Using ‘Super-Diversity’ Variables. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 14(4), 182-184.
Evidence Summaries