ACRL report shows compelling evidence of library contributions to student learning and success

Wed, 04/27/2016

Contact:

Kara Malenfant
Senior Strategist for Special Initiatives
ACRL

CHICAGO - A new report issued by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), "Documented Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success: Building Evidence with Team-Based Assessment in Action Campus Projects," shows compelling evidence for library contributions to student learning and success. The report focuses on dozens of projects conducted as part of the program Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success (AiA) by teams that participated in the second year of the program, from April 2014 to June 2015. Synthesizing more than 60 individual project reports (fully searchable online) and using past findings from projects completed during the first year of the AiA program as context, the report identifies strong evidence of the positive contributions of academic libraries to student learning and success in four key areas:

  1. Students benefit from library instruction in their initial coursework. Information literacy initiatives for freshmen and new students underscore that students receiving this instruction perform better in their courses than students who do not.
     
  2. Library use increases student success. Students who use the library in some way (e.g., circulation, library instruction session attendance, online databases access, study room use, interlibrary loan) achieve higher levels of academic success (e.g., GPA, course grades, retention) than students who did not use the library.
     
  3. Collaborative academic programs and services involving the library enhance student learning. 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, and retention).
     
  4. Information literacy instruction strengthens general education outcomes. 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.

The three-year AiA program is helping over 200 postsecondary institutions of all types create partnerships at their institution to promote library leadership and engagement in campus-wide assessment. Each participating institution establishes a team with a lead librarian and at least two colleagues from other campus units. Team members frequently include teaching faculty and administrators from such departments as the assessment office, institutional research, the writing center, academic technology, and student affairs. Over a 14-month period, the librarians lead their campus teams in the development and implementation of a project that aims to contribute to assessment activities at their institution.

"The findings about library impact in each of the four areas described above are particularly strong because they consistently point to the library as a positive influencing factor on students’ academic success," said  Karen Brown, who prepared the report and is a professor at Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science. "This holds true across different types of institutional settings and with variation in how each particular program or service is designed."

In addition, there is building evidence of positive library impact in five areas, although they have not been studied as extensively or findings may not be as consistently strong:

  • Student retention improves with library instructional services.
  • Library research consultation services 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.

In addition to findings about library impact, participant reflections reveal that a collaborative team-based approach on campus is an essential element of conducting an assessment project and planning for subsequent action. Kara Malenfant, contributor to the report and a senior staff member at ACRL, noted, "The benefits of having diverse team members working together are clear. They achieve common understanding about definitions and attributes of academic success, produce meaningful measures of student learning, align collaborative assessment activities with institutional priorities, create a unified campus message about student learning and success, and focus on transformative and sustainable change."

Read more in the full report "Documented Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success: Building Evidence with Team-Based Assessment in Action Campus Projects." The executive summary is available as a separate document, formatted to share broadly with campus stakeholders.

Join a free ACRL Presents live webcast to hear more from the report authors on Monday May 9, from 1:00 — 2:00 p.m. Central time (11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Pacific | 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Mountain | 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Central | 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. Eastern.  Convert additional time zones online.) Submit your free registration online by Friday May 6, 2016. Login details will be sent via email the afternoon of May 6. The webcast will be recorded and made available shortly after the live event.

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The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 11,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL is on the Web at acrl.org, Facebook at facebook.com/ala.acrl and Twitter at @ala_acrl.