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Student Persistence: How the library makes a difference.


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Presented and the 2016 California Academic & Research Libraries Association (CARL) Conference. March 31-April 2, 2016. Costa Mesa, CA.

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Student Persistence: How the library makes a difference.

  1. 1. Student Persistence: How the library makes a difference. Wil Weston
  2. 2. Review of the Literature Higher Education Literature Library and Information Science Literature
  3. 3. The story of how I became familiar with the Student Persistence Literature.
  4. 4. Once upon a time…  In 2002, Library Dean at the University of New Orleans asked me to serve on a University Committee on Student Retention @UNO.  Conversations centered largely on Teaching Faculty interactions with students and Student Services. We barely spoke of the library or library services (Generally thought of only academic support).  Which led me to my first question, "How DOES the academic library IMPACT student persistence?" <persistence vs. retention>  However, this committee was my first encounter with the student retention literature in the form of Vincent Tinto and Tinto’s model of student departure.
  5. 5. Tinto’s 1987 model.
  6. 6. Academic stuff?
  7. 7. Social Stuff?
  8. 8. Has anyone examined how the academic library support student retention? Well… yes…  Barkey (1965) found a correlation between grade point average and use of a college library.  Kramer & Kramer (1968) demonstrated a statistically significant correlation between library use and student retention among college freshmen.  (HEd) Panos & Astin (1968) found evidence in their study that it was less likely for students to dropout of college where the students were regular users the academic library.  Self’s (1987) study found that there was an apparent relationship between students' grades and library reserve use when examined in aggregate.  (HEd) Mallinckrodt & Sedlacek's (1987) study found that library use was related to persistence for all student groups (white, black, and international students) in their study. … but why? What are we doing and does it fit into Tinto’s model? Do student stay in school simply because we exist?
  9. 9. Then I found Kuh & Gonyea and Whitmire studies.  Kuh & Gonyea (2003) presented their study which found that “academic challenge is positively related to library use”, but they also determined that students at academically challenging institutions were assigned projects that required integrating ideas, putting different facts and ideas together, and applying class material to other areas in life. Furthermore, these students were more likely to ask a librarian for help. These students were successful and persisted!  Whitmire's (2003) findings in which she discovered that black students were more likely to take advantage of library services. Her findings suggested that the black students' use of the academic library was partially a result of their search for a sense of community, when they couldn't find it anywhere else on campus (JBHE, 2003). FIT ON BOTH SIDES of TINTO’S MODEL!
  10. 10. Other studies that were published in the 2000’s seemed to support this idea.  Tenofsky (2005) asserted that partnerships with the library could also support student persistence. Noting that "librarians can make a difference in these students' lives. They are educators who have an understanding of both faculty and students and are willing to be flexible and to improve services and teaching based on feedback from the students“ (Tenofsky, 2005, pg. 292).  De Jager (2002) also hits upon this same notion of an academic library's value not only being academic, but also social. In her article she concludes that her study's results suggest that the library adds value to the student experience through a combination of resources and services offered.(De Jager, 2002).  Kyrillidou (2002) drives this point home later by writing that "libraries are social institutions being part of the social capital available to a community. As such their value needs to be articulated in relation to the value they provide to the user, for the user, and by the user" (pg.43).
  11. 11. Is an Academic Library a Bridge between the Academic and the Social?
  12. 12. 2008 Study: Understanding the Integrative Role of an Academic Library for Undergraduate Library Student Workers. The results of this study provide new findings that the role of the library 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.  Porche exclaimed that she “practically lives at the library” and it was where she met her friends from class; “You can stay here and be loud. And you can sleep here in between classes.” (Formal Social)  Butch, who was a film student, expressed a keen interest in the Media Center. Butch stated, “Access to the Media Center because I’m very much into movies and music.” (Informal Social)  When asked what academic skills they were learning, Alice summarized, “Know[ing] that the library provides learning tools to students, so use them! Instead of using the internet for all [your] research . . . books and periodicals are also valuable resources.” (Formal Academic)  Jane entered into a mentoring relationship with a librarian. She explained that the librarian would help her “with her [school] work if [she] needed help . . . she was like a tutor.” Jane went on to explain, the librarian “taught me the ropes and introduced me to everyone . . . she’s helped me with work if I needed help.” (Informal Academic)
  13. 13. In 2010, Megan Oakleaf's The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report Published as a review on the current literature on the value of libraries, suggest way of demonstrating that value, and recommend directions for library research to take in describing an academic library's value in the future. Within the report is an overview of the literature on student persistence.  Student persistence is a key part of a college and university's mission.  Suggesting that the library integrate in their services into high impact practices suggested by Kuh (2008) like undergraduate research, capstone courses, and writing intensive courses.  Highlighted the academic library's contributions to teaching and quality of the learning environment. Largely focuses on the ACADEMIC SIDE of TINTO’s – pushes the Social Impact of the library largely as the business of the Public Library.
  14. 14. Within the last 5 years…  Emmons & Wilkinson (2011) posit that academic libraries are part of a complex social system in which the librarians interact with its students and faculty, leading to improved information flow and ultimately an organization which helps students succeed.  Soria, Fransen, & Nackerud's (2013, 2014) articles examine student persistence and how library services might be integrated into campus programming to promote student success. Their studies reveal that first-time, first-year undergraduate students who use the academic library have a higher GPA their first semester and higher retention than non-library users. Their studies also discovered that four types of library resources were significantly associated with students’ academic achievement: using the library workstations, use of online databases, use of electronic journals, and checking out books.  Eng & Stadler’s (2015) study noted that “high-impact information literacy activities can support student success and promote retention by emphasizing the value of creditable information. The library can serve as a bridge between social and academic engagement to produce learning outcome.” They argue that when librarians become part of a student’s support network a student performs better academically. The quality of the service is therefore vital to student persistence.  Murry, Ireland, Hackathorn (2016) Found that “freshman, checking items out, using electronic library resources, using the communication center, and using the library computer labs were all positive predictors of a greater likelihood of retention.” (pg.16) “Sophomores demonstrated a different pattern of predictive correlations between library use or non-use and retention. For sophomores, checking items o ut and using electronic library resources were the biggest predictors.” (pg. 17)
  15. 15. So, where am I now…  I’ve made a mess of Tinto’s model.  I’ve overly complicated a perfectly nice model and plopped this Bridge between the Social and the Academic. And said, “Here is where the library dwells!”  Braxton (2014) offers a new model. It is ALL SOCIAL. <Learning is at its best when it is social.>
  16. 16. Braxton (2014) Theory  A full understanding of student persistence must encompass the economic, organizational, psychological, and sociological perspectives.  In this revised theory, social integration is key because it is a result of a student's perceived social affiliation with others and the extent to which their attitudes, beliefs, and values are compatible with the social communities of a college or university. The resulting revised theory is composed of six factors that influence a student's integration into a residential college: (1) Ability to Pay, (2) Commitment of the Institution to Student Welfare, (3) Communal Potential, (4) Institutional Integrity, (5) Proactive Social Adjustment, and (6) Psychological Engagement.
  17. 17. Where would library services fit into this new theory.  (1) Ability to Pay: Traditional role, it would be access to books, journals, databases, computers, software, and technology – textbook programs, the CSU’s Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) initiative would also fit.  (2) Commitment of the Institution to Student Welfare: “valuing the students, respecting the students as individuals, and treating the students equitably” Extended study hours, and providing a secure/safe environment.  (3) Communal Potential: “The more a student receives the potential for community on campus, the greater the student's level of social integration" (pg. 87). Representation of staff/faculty diversity in library, dedication of cultural spaces (@SDSU Chicano Collection), welcoming environment.
  18. 18. Where would library services fit into this new theory.  (4) Institutional Integrity: The degree to which an institution actually adheres to its espoused mission and goals relative to the actions and behaviors of its administrators, faculty, and staff. Examples might include -- Clearly communicated library policies, involvement of student groups in library policy, planning, programming, and collection decisions. ABOVE ALL TRANPARENCY.  (5) Proactive Social Adjustment: The degree to which a student perceives that they do not fit in or are in conflict with the institution or it members (students, staff, faculty, administrators) will discourage their social integration and acceptance of the norms, values, and behaviors of the society they seek membership. The result of impressions made at Library Services Points, Librarian/Staff interactions – Student orientations (Non-traditional students, Transfer students, Military), other proactive measures like regular “Public service training” and SafeZones training for staff.  (6) Psychological Engagement: The amount of psychological energy students invest in their social interactions with their peers and in their participation in extracurricular activities. Creating the opportunity for social experiences through our spaces and programming. For example; building creative/interactive spaces. (to create music, games, videos). Perhaps, partnering with LGBTQ Studies Program to provide shared programming, exhibits – perhaps, curation of student work – or, simply partnering with Pride Center on events. Creating opportunities (places) for students to invest socially and intellectually.
  19. 19. Thank you, CARRRrrrrrrllll!