Academic librarians estimate that only 28% of first-year students are prepared for college-level research

In January & February of 2017, Library Journal surveyed college and university libraries about their services for first-year students. The survey was sent to 12,000 academic libraries. In total, 543 schools participated: 399 four-year schools, and 144 two-year schools. The results were initially shared at the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 conference.

Respondents reported that, in their opinion, only 28% of first-year students are prepared for college-level research. Four-year and two-year academic librarians agreed that evaluating resources for reliability is a major challenge for first-year students.

The majority of participating libraries (97%) reported that they offer information literacy instruction for first-year students. Most of the time information literacy instruction is optional. It was mandated at 22% of four-year institutions and 7% of two-year schools. Librarians embedded within courses is more rare, with 35% of four-year schools and 23% of two-year schools offering that option. While information literacy instruction is offered widely, only 23% of respondents have a specific information literacy or first-year experience librarian.  When asked about the ACRL Information Literacy Framework, Respondents most frequently used the “Research as Inquiry” and “Searching as Strategic Exploration” areas in their instruction, and least frequently used “Information Creation as a Process.”

Most respondents’ schools (90%) measure first-year student success. This takes a variety of forms, for example student retention rates, student satisfaction, and GPA. Not all academic libraries, however, have attempted to correlate information literacy or library experiences for first-year students with indicators of student success.  While the importance of information literacy is clear to librarians, what types of data could show a quantifiable connection between student success and information literacy?  Separately from the Library Journal study, librarians at the University of Minnesota have been researching this connection. Check out their studies for more information.

Note: This post is part of our series, “The LRS Number.” In this series, we highlight statistics that help tell the story of the 21st-century library.

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