Library wins grant to study retention

Student retention is a cornerstone of every university's mission. A grant to Radford University's McConnell Library will allow a team to study the issue in a new way.

McConnell is one of 75 libraries across the country chosen to participate in the first year of the program Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success (AiA), sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).

Using the resources provided by the AiA grant, the McConnell team will examine the library’s role in the retention of first-year students who complete the University 100 Freshmen Orientation, CORE 101 and CORE 102 courses, all of which include introductions to the library's many offerings.

"We devote a lot of time and resources supporting everyone on campus, especially first- and second-year students," said Eric Ackermann, head of reference services and library assessment. "Is it helping? Is it doing anything to advance learning?"

Since 2003, McConnell Library’s instruction team has taught a library component to more than 95 percent of the University 100 sections.

According to the RU team's proposal, McConnell Library does not take sole credit for student retention, which is a complicated issue, but thorough research into the library's influence on student satisfaction will only help the campus community, Ackermann said.

The AiA program will be the library’s first effort to formally link its assessment efforts with a university program in support of the stated RU outcome of student retention. In addition to team leader Ackermann, a diverse group from across campus will be involved: Director of Academic Assessment Bethany Bodo, Director of Student Success Michele Jenkins and Head of Information Literacy and Outreach Candice Benjes-Small.

Dean of the Library Steve Helm said, "Retention is a vital focus for Radford University, and this project will measure the impact of the library instruction in University 100 on retention. Ultimately, we aspire to continue assessing the value of library services as it impacts other areas such as graduation rates, faculty research, student engagement and student learning. This project is an exciting first step in a complicated matrix of assessment of the value of academic libraries."

ACRL chose 75 institutional teams from a pool of 98 applicants to participate in the first year of AiA. The program is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and carried out in partnership with the Association for Institutional Research and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

The teams, representing all types of institutions, come from 29 states and three Canadian provinces. In their applications the institutions identified their teams, each of which comprises a librarian and at least two additional team members. They also identified goals for their projects.

"The top applications were distinguished by the team composition, their readiness and the quality of their project goals," said Terri Fishel, vice chair of ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries Committee and library director at Macalester College. "We also looked for strong institutional support to help the teams see their projects through to completion."

Learn more about AiA and see a complete list of participating universities, visit the Association of College and Research Libraries website.

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Apr 25, 2013
Dan Waidelich
(540) 831-7749