Many people on campus recognize the library as a central place where students go. If you think of any campus tour you might have seen, the library is usually on it! The library is especially important to new students in helping them academically and also in helping them establish themselves in the university community. Beyond the physical space of the library, there are several other ways the library helps students.
Academic Success and Resources
Library literature suggests that students who utilize the library, its space, and its services are more likely to persist in their studies and be academically successful (LeMaistre et al., 2018; Mayer et al., 2020; Soria, 2013). Knowing about library resources can also simply make a student’s life easier! Often when I teach a library session for an upper level class, students tell me emphatically “This would have been so helpful my first year of college!” Librarians often know that students can get by without using the library, but knowing how to use library resources and where to find them can help students complete projects more efficiently and effectively. If students know about these resources from the beginning, it can help them over the entirety of their college career.
Besides offering valuable resources for students to support their academics, librarians themselves can also serve as additional sources of academic assistance. There are a lot of places where students can seek academic help including tutors, academic success centers, and office hours for classes. Librarians are often an overlooked source of academic assistance because they are defined more by the resources that they offer as opposed to the assistance that they give. However, in order to guide students to appropriate library resources for a project, a librarian often has to help students interpret assignments, develop topics, or discuss different facets of a project. I have a whiteboard in my office where I often diagram a student’s project and workflow as we’re looking over library resources. Even though a lot of library resources are electronic, a face to face interaction is often helpful for talking through these points and lining up resources to a student’s project.
Another way that librarians work to contribute to student success is by simply being available and accessible. Many librarians take great strides to do this! Outreach and answering student questions constitute a large part of a librarian’s job. Librarians regularly teach library sessions in classes or speak at orientation sessions. We realize that library resources are only useful if students know about them. While librarians still have other on-campus commitments, our primary reason for being on campus is to be available for student questions or consultations. Even when librarians are not on campus, libraries typically are open late hours and have reference staff available to answer in person student questions. Aside from in-person offerings, libraries also have virtual chat and electronic books and articles that can be accessed from off campus. Librarians are also not bound by a normal working day. Oftentimes, librarians will conduct workshops at night or teach in classes outside normal working hours in an effort to reach students. Some librarians even travel to satellite campuses in order to facilitate library use.
University Community Space
Finally, the library space serves as a way for students to feel connected to the greater university community. The library is often referred to as “the campus living room” reflecting a place where students go to socialize, study, hang out, and even sleep! Libraries are embracing this idea and creating “commons” areas that utilize movable furniture, coffee shops, and places where groups can gather to work. Many students are also employed by the library as student workers, underlining a student’s feeling of importance to the university community and offering them a chance to assist other students with library use. Other services or offices such as tutoring or writing centers are often located in the library as well. The library also frequently allots space for outside groups to hold workshops, lectures, or speakers. All of these activities bring students and others into the library where librarians hope they are also discovering all of the other things the library has to offer!
Libraries continue to serve an important and unique role in student success and retention. Although our physical space is what often brings students through the doors, I hope I have showed some other ways that librarians serve students and help contribute to their overall success.
Mayer, J., Dineen, R., Rockwell, A., & Blodgett, J. (2020). Undergraduate student success and library use: A multimethod approach. College & Research Libraries, 81(3), 378-398.
LeMaistre, T., Shi, Q., & Thanki, S. (2018). Connecting library use to student success. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(1), 117-140.
Soria, K., Fransen, J., & Nackerud, S. (2013). Library use and undergraduate student outcomes: New evidence for students' retention and academic success. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 13(2), 147-164.
Alyson is an Assistant Professor and Business Librarian at Texas A&M University Libraries. Her research interests center around best practices for providing library services to business researchers and entrepreneurship, as well as exploring ways to promote business library services to interdisciplinary entrepreneurship programs.