Literacies and the middle school library media program
Friese, Elizabeth Erin Gleeson
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This interpretive case study used ethnographic methods to develop a theoretically informed account of youth literacies in a school library media program. Data sources included 124 hours of participant observation over the course of 23 school weeks. The author conducted 32 semi-structured topical interviews with middle school students, classroom teachers, library staff, and the school principal. Artifacts and documents completed the data set. Bourdieu’s concepts of field, capitals, and habitus structured the conceptual data analysis. Using these concepts in addition to codes related to literacies and identity markers revealed the barriers and affordances to youth literacy learning in one school library media program. External social fields at the national, state, and local level shaped student access and purpose for using the school library media program. Restricting economic capitals led to constriction of the library media program and lost opportunities for literacy activities. Teacher attitudes about school libraries and literacies also affected student use of the library media program. Amid these constraints, some students found ways to read, write, and engage in digital literacies due to the school library media program. Investments of economic capital and pedagogic effort are necessary for school library media programs to fully realize their potential contributions to youth literacy learning.
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