“Student success” and the “user experience” are terms that have gained prominence in conversations around the ways in which academic libraries support and engage with their student populations. Ethnographic methods provide a unique opportunity to incorporate student voices into these conversations. This study reports on a longitudinal ethnographic study conducted at two academic libraries in the United States. Through a semi-structured participatory approach using whiteboards, the researchers garnered more than 2,000 responses. By coding that qualitative data, the researchers were able to examine student usage of library spaces, how students create informal learning communities within these spaces, and how students define success for themselves. The research specifically highlights the importance of using transitional spaces, highly visible communal spaces not specifically set aside for academic purposes within libraries, to gather participatory data. This paper shares key findings to inform both library practice and further research.

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Pre-print Article

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Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2019 Taylor & Francis. Article first published online: 21 May 2019.

DOI: 10.1080/13614533.2019.1616308

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Full citation (Chicago):

Sandelli, Anna, and Sojourna Cunningham. "Ethnography in student-owned spaces: Using whiteboards to explore learning communities and student success." New Review of Academic Librarianship (2019): 1–16.