Providing enhanced information skills support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds: Western Sydney University Library Outreach Program

Judy Reading

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Widening higher education participation is a key priority for government and universities around the world because improving the education level and skills of the population as a whole is seen as key for national and individual economic wellbeing and as a key tool in achieving a more equitable society. Can addressing information literacy skills improve the chances of academic success for students who might in the past not have had the opportunity to attend university? Who are these students and what do they need? The Outreach Program at Western Sydney University was established to develop enhanced Library support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The 18 month pilot project was initially funded by the Australian Government HEPP (Higher Education Participation and Partnerships) Program (2010-11) and the next 3 years (2011-15) were supported by Western Sydney University Strategic Initiatives funding. This article will outline what was learnt from the Program about the skill support needs of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the needs of students struggling with academic demands in their first year of university study. An important lesson was that the two are not synonymous. Low socioeconomic status (LSES) students at Western Sydney University, at least based on the HEPPP 'postcode' measure of disadvantage, are not particularly associated with academic failure. However many students, particularly those coming to University with low levels of prior academic achievement and those with English as a second language, do struggle to achieve a passing grade. This article will review the strategies used by the Outreach Program to identify and address the difficulties of struggling students, for evaluating the effectiveness of Library skills support and for embedding sustainable enhanced skills programs. It is envisaged that this article will be of interest to the many academic librarians grappling with the important task of supporting widening participation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)694-704
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Academic Librarianship
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


    • information skills
    • low SES students
    • 'At risk' and struggling students
    • disadvantaged students
    • widening participation
    • transition to university
    • first year experience
    • academic and information skills in higher education in Australia


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