Graduate school is a transformative time for many students. For some students, this is an exciting adventure that allows them to explore new ideas and more fully express themselves. However, many graduate students experience feelings of anxiety, frustration, and exclusion because they don’t feel like they belong to this academic community. Socially-based struggles frequently lead to reduced levels of retention among graduate students. Because librarians typically work outside departmental or graduate school hierarchies, we often strive to act as information brokers for graduate students as they navigate their learning communities. In this paper, we critically reflect on two theories—Social Capital and Information Poverty—to provide a lens for examining graduate students’ existing social networks.
We use a graduate student persona to illustrate what it might look like to apply these theories to our practice. Because of the different experiences of historically marginalized and underserved students, we also explore how the social capital model might impact them in unique ways. Finally, we provide practical relationship-driven options for increasing librarians’ engagement with graduate students.