Conventional wisdom holds that libraries play a vital role in academic scholarship and that good scholarship means student success.
Recently, that wisdom has been put to the test. Libraries are being asked to prove that they have a positive impact on their users. Merely tracking the number of library users or the number of things used is not an indicator of impact and so, new research is seeking to find the relationship between what the library does and a student’s academic performance.
In response to the call for greater accountability, academic librarians from across North America are participating in the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) three-year program, Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success (AiA).
Launched in 2013 by ACRL and partners, AiA is helping over 200 post-secondary institutions of all types investigate the library’s impact on student learning and academic success. By promoting library leadership in campus-wide assessment projects, libraries are demonstrating contributions to issues of institutional significance.
The results of these investigations are providing compelling evidence for library contributions to student learning and success in four key areas. They affirm the great work Alloway Library already does in promoting information literacy, providing great services and resources. The finding also encourage us to explore new partnerships across campus.
The research results are particularly strong because they consistently point to the library as a positive influencing factor on students’ academic success. In particular:
1. Information literacy instruction provided to students during their first year helps them acquire a common set of competencies for their undergraduate studies. The assessment findings from numerous AiA projects underscore that first-year students receiving information literacy instruction perform better in their courses than students who do not.
2. Library use increases student success. Several AiA studies point to increased academic success when students use the library. The analysis of multiple data points (e.g., circulation, library instruction session attendance, online databases access, study room use, interlibrary loan) shows that students who use the library in some way achieve higher levels of academic success (e.g., GPA, course grades, retention) than students who did not use the library.
3. Academic library partnerships with other campus units, such as the writing center, academic enrichment, and speech lab, yield positive benefits for students (e.g., higher grades, academic confidence, retention).
4. Information literacy instruction strengthens general education outcomes. Several AiA projects document that libraries improve their institution’s general education outcomes and demonstrate that information literacy contributes to inquiry-based and problem-solving learning, including critical thinking, ethical reasoning, global understanding, and civic engagement.
Additional areas of library impact are also being investigated by AiA campus teams. While these impact areas may not have been studied as extensively as the four areas described in the above or the project findings may not be as consistently strong, the assessment results do build evidence for positive connections between the library’s services and resources and student learning and success as noted below:
• Student retention improves with library instructional services.
• Consulting with librarians boost student learning.
• Library instruction adds value to a student’s long-term academic experience.
• The library promotes academic rapport and student engagement.
• Use of library space relates positively to student learning and success.
A more detailed discussion of the findings is available in the full report, “Documented Library Contributions to Student Learning andSuccess: Building Evidence with Team-Based Assessment in Action Campus Projects,”