University libraries and librarians play a key role in supporting student retention at higher education institutions according to an initial finding from a research study sponsored by the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), a consortium of libraries from large research universities.
Chaired by Melissa Bowles-Terry, head of educational initiatives at UNLV University Libraries, the GWLA Student Learning Task Force has spent the past several years investigating the effect of library instruction on the retention and academic success of college students.
The task force collected student data from 10 participating institutions, including UNLV, regarding library instruction interventions for first-year students during the 2014-15 school year. A total of 1,278 interactions were included in the study.
Of the 40,460 first-year students enrolled at the participating institutions, 21,597 received some form of library instruction during the year. Seven of the 10 institutions, including UNLV, reported highly significant results suggesting these interactions with library instructors are a contributing factor to higher student retention rates.
Previous studies on student retention have demonstrated that engaging in undergraduate research and developing a sense of belonging can make a major impact on student success. Library instruction plays a key role in student research and the library’s physical space offers students a welcoming environment on campus.
Further analysis of the data will help reveal correlations between specific instructional intervention and student success.
As the next phase of the study, the GWLA Student Learning Task Force intends to follow a cohort of students during the next several years to learn more about the impact of library instruction on retention and progression towards graduation. Information gathered from the study will be utilized by teaching librarians to further develop library instruction that reinforces student retention and academic success.