Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Article Note: On Libraries, Retention and ROI

Citation for the article:

Mezick, Elizabeth M. "Return on Investment: Libraries and Student Retention." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 33.5 (September 2007): 561-566.

Read via E-journals from EBSCO.

The essence of this article is that the author looked at library expenses and staff hiring to measure the impact of those factors on student retention. I have been thinking about retention here and there and in some other places. The article reinforces the common argument that libraries cannot afford to be complacent, and that they need to be more accountable to their constituents.

Things that made me think:

  • "Retaining a student is fundamental to the ability of an academic institution to carry out its mission. A high rate of attrition is indicative of a failure on the part of an institution to achieve its purpose" (561). Basically, if you are losing a lot of students, especially half or more, there is definitely something going on that needs to be addressed.
  • "Libraries need to be able to demonstrate how expenditures for resources and services result in significant contributions to academic and social environments that positively impact institutional outcomes such as student persistence" (561). You not only need to build the facilities and staff, but you also need to document how exactly these things contribute to the mission of the campus and to student success.
  • On the importance of information literacy: "Attainment of information competency and related skills, such as the ability to research effectively using print, online, and electronic retrieval systems, is essential to the learning process" (562). Our instruction librarian and I are pretty much in agreement on this. She is very passionate about the idea that if students do not learn the necessary research and information literacy skills early on then they will not be able to succeed later when they will need to apply those skills in new ways.
  • More on the role of the librarian: "Librarians, acting as teachers and counselors, address student needs on a daily basis. Through their observation of and interaction with students, they are aware of deficiencies in student skills that may be indicative of high-risk students" (562). This is something that a lot of people on campus, including administrators, do not give us credit for. We do a lot of work with students, and as a result, we learn a lot about their needs and how to help them be successful. I am thinking that this is a conversation that we need to be having between librarians and the teaching faculty as well as some administrators. Librarians learn so much about student needs just in their daily work, and I can attest to that from my days as an instruction librarian. I am willing to bet that I knew more about a good number of those students than their professors.
The article provides a literature review on the topic of retention. It then moves on to the methodology, which I will admit was a bit heavy for me once it went into variables and coefficients. I do understand the concept of correlations though. So, what did the author find when it was all said and done?

  • "These findings appear to be consistent with earlier studies that found providing quality library resources to students insures better academic performance and, in turn, leads to student persistence" (564).
  • "Through use of measures of association and other performance indicators, library administrators can demonstrate the academic library's positive impact upon institutional outcomes. Such evaluative techniques may also be used to identify areas where use of limited economic resources may have the greatest impact" (565).

No comments: