Integrative Role of a Library for Undergraduates


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This was my ACRL Presentation in Seattle, WA in March. It is a shorter version of my doctorial work and focused more to a library and information science audience.

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Integrative Role of a Library for Undergraduates

  1. 1. Wil Weston
  2. 2. Wil Weston  Head of Collection Development and Engineering Librarian, San Diego State University Library, 2006 – current  Engineering Librarian, University of New Orleans, 1999 – 2006  Recent Ph. D. graduate in Higher Education Administration & Leadership, May 2008, from the University of New Orleans.
  3. 3.  “Persistence” is a student‟s postsecondary education continuation behavior that leads to graduation.  “Retention” is a measurement showing how many students re-enroll at an institution that they attended the previous year.  “Attrition” is the diminution in numbers resulting from lower student retention. -National Center for Education Statistics
  4. 4. Literature:  (Persistence) Abbott (1996) library is a significant predictor in the persistence of women.  (Success) Kuh&Gonyea (2003) positive relationship between library use and student success.  (On-Campus Employment) Cuccaro-Alamin& Choy (1998) that on campus part time work may facilitate social integration.  (Achievement) Well (1995) found a positive correlation between undergraduate academic achievement and library resources and services used.
  5. 5. So while we are seeing some very effective “academic” uses of library resources… … we are seeing some decidedly non-academic uses of library spaces and some that seem to be fairly social in nature.
  6. 6. Tinto‟s (1993) model was used.  General and broad. Unlike other models doesn‟t focus upon a specific aspect. (Cabrera – self-efficacy or St. John – financial/economic).  Other studies that mentioned the academic library as a significant predictor of student persistence used Tinto‟s Model. (remember Abbott)  Tinto‟s model used as a tool to explore.
  7. 7.  Exploration.  Library not assumed to be either Academically or Socially integrative.  Interested in the students experiences.
  8. 8. How do undergraduate library student workers at an urban, 4-year public institution perceive their work experiences in an academic library contributing to their social and academic integration in college?  How do undergraduate library student workers conceptualize the library?  How do undergraduate library student workers use the library in an academic and/or social context?  What are their work, academic, and social experiences in the academic library?  What do they perceive as possible benefits of library employment?
  9. 9. Porche Biology Gov. Docs. Dierdre Psychology Gov. Docs. Dot Non-major Gov. Docs. Marilyn Sociology Circ. Jack Comp. Sci. Copy Serv. Butch Film Micro. & Periodicals Chuck Non-major Micro. & Periodicals Ginger Comm. & Geography Media Center Alice Child and Fam. Dev. Media Center Freddy Mech. Engineering Media Center Rodger Marketing Copy Services Victor Film Lib. Instruction Hugo History Lib. Instruction Maggie Art Lib. Instruction Jane Criminal Justice Reference Tina English Micro. & Periodicals Phyllis Kinesiology Micro. & Periodicals
  10. 10.  17 interviews conducted (repeating information at 7) Semi-structured interviews.  Purposeful selection initially, then chain referral by students.  Currently enrolled and employed.
  11. 11. Presented in three categories.  Conceptualization of the Library.  Academic Integrative.  Social Integrative.
  12. 12.  Perceptions of Coworkers: All the students related positive descriptions of someone who works in a library. Tina stated that someone employed in the library should be “very helpful, polite, and knowledgeable about the library.” Most of the students indicated this quality of friendliness in some form, either as “helpfulness” or “outgoing,” but only Hugo, Victor, Jane, Chuck, and Ginger used the word “friendly.”  Job satisfaction: All of the students seemed to have experienced a high level of job satisfaction and most of their positive experiences centered on successfully helping a library user. When asked to recall something negative, they all related a negative interaction with a patron who was either frustrated with not finding his or her desired material. Freddy‟s negative experience “not being able to help someone” (Dierdre off- campus job–flexibility)  Familiarity with library: All the students in various statements indicated that they had benefited in becoming more familiar with the library. (From “learning a lot of people skills”, using software, to knowing where to get information.)
  13. 13.  Formal academic integrative: (Directly related to the completion of a specific educational objective) Porche specifically indicated two assignments in which she had used the library. Alice, “Know[ing] that the library provides learning tools to students” (Where library has appeared in past persistence studies)  Informal academic integrative: (Those faculty and staff interactions which students may have that take place outside the classroom) Jane entered into a mentoring relationship with a librarian. Alice and Marilyn‟s encounters with faculty members. “They always say „hi‟”. Victor and his encounter with his Film Professor asking him questions about his work in the library. (School related, but outside the classroom and related to the students‟ work on campus.)
  14. 14.  Formal social integrative: (Those social interactions and activities that result from being on campus as a part of the formal social structure or resulting from campus-related events ) “study groups and making contacts”, location for social networking, Dierdre sought the library as a refuge, but also it was “really [the] only place to meet and get studying done.” , and “place to study and meet and rest in between classes.” Also, Marilyn described her job as “my only „extracurricular‟ activity.”  Informal social integrative: (Those social experiences that are a result of a student‟s social choices and interactions not related to an academic experience.) Freddy mentioned “hanging out with his friends”, Marilyn stated, “I use it to check books, surf the internet, and rent movies . . . we [the library] don‟t charge like Blockbuster.” (meeting place on campus and facilitates other informal social activities: internet, movie watching, playing games, email and chat) Jane‟s comment about how the librarian helped her with personal issues when her father passed away is more of a mentoring and nurturing relationship. It is evidence that the close working relationship between staff, faculty, and student worker can be tremendously influential. While Jane‟s experience with the faculty member is somewhat blurred between a formal and informal social integrative experience, it is a very good example of both.
  15. 15.  How do undergraduate student workers’ think about the library? Academic and personal resource. Environment as “laid back” – “relaxing”. Meeting space.  How do library undergraduate student workers’ use the library? Coursework, papers, Academic and social uses. Meet friends, play online games, email, nap between classes.  What are undergraduate student workers’ work, academic, and social experiences in the library? Making friends with coworkers. Use of library as a space. Heavy technology use for school and recreation – Multimedia & Computers.  What do undergraduate student workers’ perceive as possible benefits of library employment? Flexibility of hours. Interactions with peers, faculty, library staff. Socially integrative experiences. Felt their work contributed to university.
  16. 16. How do undergraduate library student workers at an urban, four-year public institution perceive their work experiences in an academic library contributing to their social and academic integration in college?  Academic: All of the students perceived an academic benefit to working in the library and that the library had contributed to their academic integration. Some recognized that just simply being on campus and the convenience of having their work and school in one place was a benefit academically. Others seemed to recognize that they benefited academically in just simply understanding where things were in the library or at least understanding where to go to get assistance. Several of the students used this knowledge to facilitate study groups for their classes or used library resources they were particularly familiar with for their classes.  Social: The students recognized that they benefited socially from their employment in the library as a place where they made friends and networked. However, all of the students when asked specifically if their library work experience contributed to their social integration to college, said “yes.” Their social integration to college was also reflected and supported by all of their reported usage of the library, which was proportionately not for academic purposes.
  17. 17.  Role of the library perhaps should not be described solely as a formal academic experience, but should instead be considered to also provide socially integrative experiences for the library student workers and, perhaps, students in general.  Library experiences may not fit neatly in a single category as a formal academic integrative experience, but may encompass all of these experiences.  This study‟s evidence also lends support the belief that different models may be needed for each group of individuals as opposed to a single overarching model because the library experience does not fit neatly into just one side of Tinto‟s (1993) model.
  18. 18.  Assignment of Jobs. How the library places students in their job should be considered.  An untapped resource. Utilizing these students in library orientations or at least consider regularly interviewing these students to gain insight into how the library might better serve new students.
  19. 19. The library outside of the university is considered a public and community resource. The public library represents a community meeting place, a cultural center, an internet access point, a place to decompress and escape, a place to learn a new hobby, and a place to get movies and video games. Is this not Social? The public library is also often our children’s first exposure to reading. Why would an institution (libraries) so rich in social experience suddenly transform into a purely academic one just because we placed the word “academic” in front of it? I suspect it does not. The academic library does takes on additional meaning and responsibility. Truly, the reason why it is often said that the library is the heart of every campus is the same reason that a public library is the heart of every community. To consider academic library and its effects on the integration of students into college, we should consider both the possible social and the possible academic influences it has upon a student, not just one.