Student Persistence: How the library makes a difference.
Student Persistence: How the
library makes a difference.
Review of the Literature
Library and Information
The story of how I became familiar
Student Persistence Literature.
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
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
Which led me to my first question, "How DOES the academic
library IMPACT student persistence?" <persistence vs.
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.
Has anyone examined how the academic
library support student retention?
Barkey (1965) found a correlation between grade point average and use of a college
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?
Then I found Kuh & Gonyea and Whitmire
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!
Other studies that were published in
the 2000’s seemed to support this
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).
Is an Academic Library a Bridge
between the Academic and the Social?
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.”
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
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
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
Highlighted the academic library's contributions to teaching and quality of the learning
Largely focuses on the ACADEMIC SIDE of TINTO’s – pushes the Social Impact of the
library largely as the business of the Public Library.
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)
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.>
Braxton (2014) Theory
A full understanding of student persistence must encompass the
economic, organizational, psychological, and sociological
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.
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
(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
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