Student Success and the Neoliberal Academic Library

Ian Beilin


Academic librarians are committed to promoting student success, and information literacy instruction plays a key role in this mission. But the definition of student success is narrowing as the university aligns itself more with neoliberal mandates. Librarians committed to social justice and to basic library values of openness, privacy, and intellectual freedom must increasingly resist this recasting of student success. How can a critical library praxis encourage and support students’ academic and career goals but still remain faithful to the struggle against the system of inequality and oppression that enables success? This article shows how closely linked the idea of success is today to neoliberal imperatives in higher education. It briefly traces the evolution of neoliberalism in higher education and describes and critiques the hallmarks of the neoliberal academic library. It suggests that within the current constraints imposed on them, students can both learn important skills and knowledge to advance themselves and also become better equipped to use those skills and knowledge to challenge and undermine that system and build a better world. Librarians can and must be facilitators of both kinds of success.


neoliberalism; neoliberal library; student success; information literacy; critical pedagogy


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Copyright (c) 2016 Ian Beilin CC-BY-SA

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