How Do Students' Perceptions of Their Library Usage Influence Their Educational Outcomes

Article excerpt

How does the library affect students' educational outcomes and gains? By using analysis of variance and correlation analysis from a survey of students' perceptions regarding their educational experience, this study reveals that students on average use the library for multiple reasons and that many times it is taken for granted during their educational experiences. Suggestions and implications are given at the end of the study to maximize students' educational gains with usage of the library.

Introduction

There remains a glaring lack of research on the effect the library environment has on students' educational gains or outcomes. In two influential studies conducted on libraries and student outcomes, Knapp (1966) and Snider (1965) both found that students most exposed to library skills programs report lower attrition rates, greater academic performance, higher standardized test scores, and greater success as they progress through college than do their peers not participating in such programs. There have been additional studies demonstrating a significant correlation between library use and student persistence in college and academic performance (Kramer & Kramer, 1968; Hiscock, 1986). Powell (1992) suggests that there is tremendous pressure on libraries to be more accountable in their delivery of services and their contributions to students' educational outcomes. Most studies that are conducted on libraries are related to the effectiveness of the services provided, and not designed to assess how the services affect students' cognitive and affective outcomes. User studies, for example, are limited because they have not examined the library's actual contribution to the patron (Zweizig, 1977).

Does the library make a difference in the educational experiences of students? This study attempts to determine the affect a university library has on students' educational outcomes from their perceptions. There were two questions that guided the study. How are students actually using the library? Which library services or programs contribute to students' educational outcomes?

This research is intended to add to the much-needed literature for practitioners, educators, and politicians who are concerned about the future of the library, how it influences educational outcomes, and how the academic community utilizes its resources.

Methodology

Population. The students in this study represent a sample of students who were enrolled spring semester at a public state university. Of the 560 collected surveys, 34.5 percent were Freshmen, 23.8 percent sophomores, 17.2 percent juniors, 18.7 percent seniors and 5.3 percent graduate students. The ages of the students ranged from 17 to beyond 40, however, most of the students were between 17 and 25 years of age. Majors for the study included students from all colleges represented at the univesity.

Instrumentation

The data collection instrument, the Library Assessment Instrument for Student Learning (LAISL) was developed by the author. The LAISL includes sixty-eight questions across three difference areas: (a) students' background and characteristic information, (b) students' perceptions of and experiences with the library environment, and (c) their perceptions of how the library has increased their educational gains

Variables

Aesthetics and Perceptions: Questions 13 through 28. This section asks students to report their perception of the library's structure and ecology. Technology and Services: Questions 29 to 34 ask students to rate their experiences with the library resources. This section is different than the previous because it illustrates the students' actual efforts. Academic: Questions 35 through 46. This section was created to examine student effort regarding the library and instructor requirements and demands. Social: Questions 47-57. The purpose here is to examine students' experiences with the library as a social meeting place on campus. …