Students Who Used the Library in Their First Year of University are More Likely to Graduate or Still be Enrolled After Four Years
A Review of:
Soria, K. M., Fransen, J., & Nackerud, S. (2017). The impact of academic library resources on undergraduates’ degree completion. College & Research Libraries, 78(6), 812–823. https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.78.6.812
Objective – The researchers sought to measure the effect of accessing library resources on academic retention and graduation after four years while accounting for external factors that may influence academic outcomes.
Design – Quasi-experimental observational study.
Setting – A large public university in the Midwestern United States of America.
Subjects – 5,368 first-year, non-transfer undergraduates; an entire freshman class.
Methods – Using already collected student and library records data, the researchers grouped the population into those that had accessed one of five library resources at least once (treatment) and those who had not (control). The five treatment variables studied were circulation use, electronic resource or website access, library computer workstation logins, enrollment in open registration or course-embedded library instruction, and use of two reference services (online chat and peer research consultations).
The researchers then performed a series of propensity score matching and regression analyses to compare the treatment and control groups’ outcome measures—graduation or continued enrollment after four years. These statistical models controlled for ten covariate measures that included SAT scores, first generation status, on campus residency, college of enrollment (e.g., business, engineering, education, biological sciences, design, or food, agriculture, and natural sciences), and demographic profiles. The regressions included subset analyses of the treatment group to determine if some treatment variables were associated with better outcomes than others.
Main Results – The researchers found that students in the treatment group (n = 4,415) were 1.441 times more likely to graduate and 1.389 times more likely to still be enrolled after four years than those in the control group (n = 953). Both results were statistically significant at p < 0.01 and p < 0.001 respectively. The subset regression analyses revealed that accessing an electronic resource at least once was associated with the best graduation odds at 1.924 times (p < 0.001) and the best continued enrollment odds at 1.450 times (p < 0.001). Students who had accessed computer workstations and either of the two reference services studied were no more likely to have graduated or still been enrolled after four years than those who had not (p < 0.001 and p < 0.05).
Conclusion – Accessing library services during the first year of university is associated with improved academic outcomes after four years. More research is needed to accurately measure this impact for methodological reasons. Libraries should document contact with students as much as possible for later assessment.
Copyright (c) 2018 Judith Logan
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