Friday, June 06, 2014

Article Note: On Assessment of First-Year Undergraduate Students' Library Use, Academic Achievement and Retention

Citation for the article:

Soria, Krista M.,, "Stacks, Serials, Search Engines, and Students' Success: First-Year Undergraduate Students' Library Use, Academic Achievement, and Retention." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 40 (2014): 84-91.

Read via ScienceDirect. 

Assessment seems to be a big trend in librarianship now. There is at least one big conference out there on the topic, and it seems more librarians are showing interest. In fact, last week of May 2014, I was attending a workshop on assessment and academic library value (featuring Megan Oakleaf, one of the big voices in this), and the topic seems to be out there in Librarian Blogistan now and then. Even my college has a strong interest in the topic; heck, it is part of my job description. So when I find an article on the topic, I do try to read it. This one was a short piece, and for readers, unless you want to get technical, you can skip ahead to the discussion part of the article for the findings. The literature review also was good in giving a sense of where the assessment topic stands. The authors of this article do argue that there is still a lack of assessment, which "further translates into lack of research investigating the benefits of academic research libraries at their institutions. . . " (84). What I am going to say now is not scientific nor to be taken as gospel, but I get the impression a few people are doing assessment, and they are either writing it up, figuring out how to write it up, or presenting it at conferences to then revise it and write it up. From what I have done so far, assessment is work that does take a lot of time. I know; I am in the process here for our instruction program, and we are just getting started. So whatever publication I may get out of it is not going to be for a good long while yet. Anyhow, that's my brief musing. Let's move on.

The authors sought to investigate "whether students' use of academic libraries in several different areas is associated with their success. In particular, the purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between first-year undergraduate students use of the academic library, academic achievement, and retention to the second year of study" (84-85). To do that, they did regression analysis that predicted student GPA considering 10 data points of library usage. Variables and tables showing the work they did are included in the article for those wishing to look.

What's the bottom line? "The results of this study suggest that first-year students who used the academic library at least once during the academic year had higher GPAs and retention, on average, than their peers who did not use libraries" (89). It is a finding of the presence of positive relationships, not one thing causes another. Sure, some of the other findings may sound like a lot of "maybe," but they do have some evidence to back it up, or at least make some very good suggestions. For instance:

"Accessing databases, checking out books, reading electronic journals, meeting with peer research consultants, and receiving advice from reference librarians via online chats may represent activities that increase students' access to academic resources, enhance their information literacy, and enrich students' academic work, all potentially leading to higher academic achievement by virtue of higher grades on academic coursework" (90). 

A bit of what the authors recommend based on their findings (see pg. 90):

  • Libraries need to collect data related to student library usage in various areas. An area they did not look at is library as place. So try to get data on student use of physical spaces in the library. 
  • You can use other measures besides GPA. For example, measure student outcomes associated with information literacy competency. (This is actually a big part of what we are doing here now.)
And finally, the authors suggest also:

"Academic libraries do not exist in complete isolation-- students interact with libraries through classes, with their peers in study contexts, or while engaging in academic research activities with faculty and these interactions should be explored more fully to gauge the impact upon college students. Examinations into the time of the academic year in which students are interacting with library resources are also warranted, given the potential dramatic differences in academic achievement between students who first begin using the libraries early in the semester versus those who first use the library during finals week" (91).

Actually, that last part of time of the year and use is one that intrigues me, so I will keep my eye out for anyone who examines that, or maybe if I ever get to it, I may see what I can learn.

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