ALA Annual: ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group

 Library Impact on Students, Student Retention  Comments Off on ALA Annual: ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group
Jul 072015

One way that libraries can demonstrate value is through impact on student retention. This blog post from Jaime Hammond has examples of three libraries pursuing correlation studies of library impact on student retention.

The ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group, formed in 2012 to “discuss methods, best practices, and assessment for developing case-by-case and programmatic efforts related to student retention,” met at ALA Annual in San Francisco. This year’s program featured panelists who had successfully demonstrated a relationship between their library and student retention at their institution.

The first panelist was Patricia Banach, Director of Library Services at Eastern Connecticut State University. Banach described a college-wide retention study that identified non-attendance in a mandatory library orientation program as being an early indicator of dropping out. Attendance at the orientation was one of the most significant variables relating to student retention and correlated with the admissions variable that indicated at-risk students. Anyone not already flagged as at-risk who missed the library orientation was placed in a proactive advising group early in the first semester. However, retention remained difficult to correlate to information literacy skills, despite efforts to collect baseline skills in the orientation.

Diane Bever, Reference and Information Services Librarian, and Yan He, Information Literacy Librarian, both from Kokomo Library, Indiana University were next to speak. Indiana chose to replicate the University of Minnesota study ( Publicizing widely across campus, they collected multiple types of data, including:

  • reference questions,
  • circulation statistics,
  • library instruction attendance,
  • material delivery and InterLibrary Loan requests, and
  • EZproxy log ins

Librarians then requested data from IR for those students, all of whom had used a special username to log in and had also signed an opt-in consent form. While only 75 students signed the consent form, the findings were representative of the campus as a whole. Students who used the library had a significantly higher GPA and 92% were retained from fall to spring of that year, compared to 47% of non-library users.

While pleased with the results, Bever and He stressed partnering with institutional research staff and early publicity as keys to success. They also felt that an opt-out consent would have yielded greater usable data, and swipe cards would make the process easier for students and prevent illegible handwriting from impeding data collection. Finally, they plan to collaborate with IT and the student writing center to collect more data and will share their findings with the library community as well as their own college.

The next panelist, Rachel Cannady worked with new students as the Scholarly Resources Librarian for Education at the University of Texas, San Antonio (and until recently, at Mississippi State).. Because these were new online students, they never set foot on campus, and so Cannady created a module in the college’s online orientation series on the library for both undergraduate and graduate students. The online module was very highly rated by participants. The goal of the program was to ease students into distance education- particularly because distance students thought they wouldn’t have access to the library. Cannady also shared research regarding the correlation between orientations and retention, and that students leave college because they feel as if they don’t fit in, especially during the first semester. She stressed the importance of sharing library data relating to retention and maintaining parity between on ground and online services.

Kathleen Pickens, the Coordinator of Information Services at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, stressed qualitative assessment. Pickens noted that funding in Ohio is directly tied to retention and completion, rather than enrollment. However, it is difficult to pinpoint impact on students because there are so many factors involved. Students coming to the library are asked, ““how did the library help you be successful this year?” Pickens also recommended demonstrating value by supporting services and providing resources to at-risk students, and then sharing that information in newsletters and other publications.

The session concluded with questions and answers on dealing with Institutional Review Boards, what data librarians can or cannot have access to, barriers to student success, and supporting student connectedness as a form of retention support. The ACRL Student Retention Discussion Group can be found in ALA Connect at, which includes a retention and libraries bibliography and updates on meetings and other activities.


Jul 032012

During this year’s ALA Annual Conference, I had the opportunity to lead a group of 50 librarians and library school faculty in the beginning stages of developing a national research agenda on the value of academic libraries.  Building on key portions of the initial research agenda outlined in the Value of Academic Libraries Report, participants focused on student learning, retention, and success as three key areas of interest shared by virtually all higher education institutions.

Workshop participants worked in small groups to generate research questions that can be engaged by practitioners, researchers, and students to advance the dialogue on academic library value nationwide.  They also brainstormed research methods, data sets, and stakeholder groups that may have key roles in future value research.

In the coming months, Value of Academic Library committee members will shape the ideas shared during the workshop into a draft research agenda.  This draft agenda will be shared and feedback will be solicited beginning in October 2012, initially at the Library Assessment Conference.

Handouts and flashcards used at the workshop are available online at the links below.

Handout  –

Revised Handout  –

Evidence Flashcards  –

Methods Flashcards  –

Purposes Flashcards  –

Stakeholder Flashcards  –


In last week’s blog posting, I mentioned the work the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus has been doing in collecting data to measure student success.  A summary of their project located on their blog states that their initial focus will be on undergraduates and the following questions:

  • How does use of print and digital collections correlate with course pass/fail rates, grades, or GPA?
  • How does use of instructional tools or attendance at instruction sessions correlate with course pass/fail rates, grades, or GPA?
  • Is there a correlation between library use and university retention measures?
  • Are there significant trends in departmental use (including use by students in various majors) of library resources and services?
  • Are students who use library instructional resources more or less likely to use library collections (print or digital)?

The project is being managed by a team of  University library staff members working closely with members in their Office of Institutional Research.  Team members are:

  • Shane Nackerud, Director, Web Development
  • Jan Fransen, Engineering Librarian
  • Kate Peterson, Information Literacy Librarian
  • Kristen Mastel, Outreach & Instruction Librarian
  • Krista Soria, Office of Institutional Research, Analyst
  • David Peterson, Office of Institutional Research, IT Professional

Their project encompasses several sections on Learning in the research agenda of the Value report, including student retention as well as student achievement.  As they showed in their presentation, they were able to examine 5,638 first year students and demonstrate that in that group,  students who used the library at least once were 1.54 times more likely to re-enroll.   Readers may refer to an earlier posting (March 12)  about Presidents and Provosts and the fact that among “84% of the provosts surveyed” “improving retention and degree completion as one of the top five challenges.”  This is a great example of demonstrating the impact that the library has at our institutions.

All members of the team, except David Peterson,  participated in the presentation held on April 27th.  A complete copy of their presentation will be found on their blog site.

There was a lively discussion after their presentation with a few members of the audience expressing concerns about privacy.  Shane has a blog posting as a response to that discussion that provides more details about what the University is using without violating privacy.  So for example, while they do not keep a record of the titles of the books checked out, they are able to retain how many books have been checked out.    “For the first time, we are retaining some user information in order to find out 1) who our users are, 2) what types of resources they use, and 3) how this use impacts their success in the classroom.” [A Word About Privacy, May 1, 2012] 

The University intends to continue with data collection this spring and explore additional issues.  More information on their work will be found on their blog. I am very much looking forward to their next presentation with further results of their studies.

In the meantime, are issues of privacy a factor in your ability to collect information on your campus?  Are you encountering barriers that are preventing you from gathering and making similar correlations?  Have you established a good working relationship with members of your Institutional Research department?  Or do you have stories of similar success that you’d like to share?

Please let us know what you are doing by filling out our survey, located on the right sidebar, or go directly to the survey here.

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