Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Reducing Library Anxiety in First-Year Students: The Impact of Computer-Assisted Instruction and Bibliographic Instruction

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Reducing Library Anxiety in First-Year Students: The Impact of Computer-Assisted Instruction and Bibliographic Instruction

Article excerpt

This study examines whether computer-assisted instruction (i.e., a computer-based tutorial) and traditional bibliographic instruction sessions led by library staff reduced library anxiety among first-year college students. Students who participated in each method of instruction were surveyed before and after instruction and were compared to a control group consisting of students who did not participate in either type of instruction. Data from 238 student surveys were used for the analyses. Using Bostick's Library Anxiety Scale, this study found that students who took part in bibliographic instruction led by a library staff member experienced significantly less overall library anxiety compared to the control group. The same could not be said for students completing the computer-based tutorial. Controlling for previous library experience and prior knowledge of the library did not alter this finding. This study also separately examined each of the five subscales of Bostick's Library Anxiety Scale. Analyses revealed significant differences between groups for two of the five subscales (the "Barriers with Staff" subscale and the "Affective Barriers" subscale). Discussion focuses on how these findings are important for academic librarians conceptualizing instructional programs.


The transition from high school to college can be frightening for first-year college students. With making new friends, living on their own, and becoming familiar with new surroundings, college can be an overwhelming experience. Along with these lifestyle changes, college classes and course-work also confront students. In order for students to do research for a project or a paper, they will need to enter a place where many have never been before: the college library.

Librarians recognize that certain skills are needed to perform college research. Accordingly, colleges and universities have implemented library or bibliographic instruction sessions in their curricula to orient first-year students to research procedures and sources. Ideally, bibliographic instruction also assists students in increasing their levels of information literacy and acquiring life-long learning skills. With the advancement of technology and the Internet, traditional bibliographic instruction sessions are being augmented or replaced entirely by computer-based tutorials at some universities and colleges.

A primary goal of both traditional bibliographic instruction and computer-based tutorials is to teach students how to properly use the college library (e.g., to locate sources within the college library). Even with libraries providing traditional bibliographic instruction and computer-based tutorials, many students remain uncomfortable using college libraries. The discomfort many students feel about library research is referred to as library anxiety. Library anxiety was first identified by Mellon in a qualitative study of college students' feelings about using the library. (1) Through further studies, library anxiety has been defined simply as "negative feelings toward using an academic library." (2) More recently, Jiao, Onwuegbuzie, and Lichtenstein added more substance to the library anxiety concept, explaining that students' uncomfortable feelings lead to cognitive, affective, physiological, and behavioral ramifications that interfere with their abilities to accomplish library tasks. (3)

The question asked by this study is whether library anxiety is reduced by different methods of library instruction. More specifically, do library staff-led bibliographic instruction and computer-based tutorials reduce library anxiety in first-year students? Literature reviewed covers the research on library anxiety (specifically use of Bostick's Library Anxiety Scale), bibliographic instruction and computer-assisted instruction, and previously used evaluation methods for instruction. Following this literature review, the methodology section describes the operational definitions, the procedures for sampling, the design of the study, and the analytic framework. …

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