As college libraries foster accessibility and student engagement, they contribute to the success of their students through increased graduation rates, increased retention rates, and higher GPAs. When college libraries contribute to student success, they increase institutional prestige while preparing future leaders to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s world.
As part of a three-year project to measure and demonstrate student success, the Association of College Research Libraries has begun to gather data from public land grant universities across the United States. The results are staggering. A research team of librarians at the University of Minnesota shows that first year students who go to the library once in their first semester are one and a half times more likely to reenroll for their second semester of study. In addition, these students had higher grade point averages than their counterparts who never attended the library.
While institutions of higher learning in the United States are just beginning their quantitative analyses of library usage and student success, several studies conducted at research institutions abroad have found positive results. A study at the University of Huddersfield in England shows higher levels of student achievement among students who access library e-resources and books. A similar study at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales shows a positive correlation between database usage and borrowing and students’ grades.
As college libraries across the United States are crunching the numbers to show the link between library usage and student success, and The Association of College Research Libraries has released a report to guide their research. The Value of Academic Libraries report shows that student retention and graduation rates are affected by the amount of contact and engagement students have with their institutions, and cites “efficient, convenient, and responsive libraries” as key to this engagement. In addition, the report emphasizes that student success is linked to information literacy, a skill at the heart of the college library. In a pilot program at Glendale Community College, librarians offered an information literacy workshop to teach students how to use library database tools. Students who completed this course had higher GPAs, completed more credit hours, and were more likely to continue their paths of study.
These findings present an exciting avenue for evolution and growth in college libraries. The college library is indispensable to the prestige of the greater institution, which is contingent on students’ access to the library catalog. By presenting quantitative data to their institutions, American college libraries can garner the support they need to support information literacy and the new technologies that make it possible.