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Journal cover: Journal of Documentation

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Online from: 1945

Subject Area: Library and Information Studies

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Affordance theory: a framework for graduate students' information behavior

Document Information:
Title:Affordance theory: a framework for graduate students' information behavior
Author(s):Elizabeth (Bess) Sadler, (Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA), Lisa M. Given, (School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
Citation:Elizabeth (Bess) Sadler, Lisa M. Given, (2007) "Affordance theory: a framework for graduate students' information behavior", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 63 Iss: 1, pp.115 - 141
Keywords:Academic libraries, Ecology, Graduates, Information media, Librarians, Qualitative research
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/00220410710723911 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – This study seeks to apply ecological psychology's concept of “affordance” to graduate students' information behavior in the academic library, and to explore the extent to which the affordances experienced by graduate students differed from the affordances librarians were attempting to provide.

Design/methodology/approach – In-depth, qualitative interviews with graduate students and academic librarians explored how the students perceived and used the library's various “opportunities for action” (e.g. books, databases, instructional sessions, librarians, physical space, etc.) and compared these perceptions and behavior with librarians' intentions and expectations.

Findings – Findings indicate a disparity between expectations and experience and point to graduate students as an underserved population in this context, especially in terms of the library's outreach efforts. In addition, because graduate students are increasingly teaching introductory undergraduate courses, communication methods that bypass graduate students tend to miss undergraduate students as well.

Practical implications – Practical implications discussed in this paper include possible methods of improving communication channels between graduate students and academic librarians, and considerations for information literacy instruction.

Originality/value – This paper presents a unique perspective by using affordance theory to frame students and librarians' expectations about library services. The findings are particularly valuable for their implications for library-patron communication and information literacy.

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