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3 Key Insights on Student Library Usage
Spoiler alert: students “love” their libraries – but there’s room for improvement in supporting course success
What do students value most about their academic libraries?
Are they using the library primarily in-person, online or both?
What are some areas where libraries could improve their services for students?
These are just some of the questions the recent Library Journal Student Library Usage survey were designed to answer. Conducted in partnership with ProQuest, part of Clarivate, this survey sampled more than 400 U.S. undergraduates currently enrolled in four-year and two-year college programs, who attended either in-person, online, or a combination of both.
The goal of this survey was to learn how students use and value their academic library and how the library contributes to student success.
Unsurprisingly, results revealed students have various relationships with libraries depending on field of study, as well as whether they attend classes remotely, in-person or a combination of both. However, despite these variables, the survey also uncovered several consistent findings, including the generally positive perceptions students have of their libraries, the kinds of library resources that are most in demand, and the role of the library in supporting course work.
3 key insights on student library usage:
- Good news: Students love their libraries
What word would students use to describe their library?
Respondents were given a list of words and asked to select the one most relevant to their library experience. “Welcoming” was the top response, selected by 46 percent of the students survey, followed by “helpful” (42%), “quiet” (30%), “engaging” (29%), and “reliable” by (23%). Only a small number of respondents selected terms that could be considered negative.
Additionally, respondents were asked “what more could your library be doing to help you?” and invited students to write in their answers. Recurring comments included suggestions like “be open more hours,” “update technology,” “better navigational aids” (both in-person and online), “more resources/books/ebooks,” “more staff,” and “have quiet areas”—or, alternatively, “have group study areas.”
However, many of the comments were along the lines of “nothing—I love my library.”
- How libraries are used – and opportunities for improvement
When it came visiting the library in person or online, students reported they used it to access digital resources (61%), as a study space (48%), and to conduct research for a course assignment or project (44%).
Ebooks topped the type of resource most sought by students (52% of respondents), followed by textbooks or other course reserves (52%), and databases (50%). More than twice as many students accessed electronic journals as did print journals (43% vs. 21%). Print books are reportedly used by a third of students and streaming film and video was viewed by a quarter.
Students are generally pleased with the quality of the electronic resources at their disposal through the library, with the majority (86%) categorizing them as “excellent” or “good,” though it is important not to overlook the remaining students whose needs are not being met in this area. Libraries may want to investigate or further assess their collections for deeper insights into which e-resources are being sought by students.
Most respondents (84%) noted the quantity of relevant articles and content available to them was “excellent “or good” and (84%) said the ease-of-use of electronic platforms and features was excellent or good. Students indicated less satisfaction with how well the library’s electronic resources integrate with their course, with nearly half ranking them as “good” (46%) and fewer “excellent” (34%).
- Opportunities for libraries to support coursework
Students were asked to rate how easy or difficult it is for them to begin the research process research for a class assignment or paper. On a seven-point scale, almost half (47%) gave a 5, 6, or 7 rating (on the difficult end of the scale). Just over a third, 35 percent, put themselves on the easy end of the scale (1, 2, or 3 rating). About eighteen percent gave a “4” rating, right in the middle.
More than half of respondents (58%) reported that the pandemic made it more difficult to succeed in their coursework with two-thirds (70%) agreeing that it made engaging in class more challenging.
Just over a third (35%) noted they accessed library materials through a course reading list, indicating room for growth in this area. Faculty and librarians may find opportunities for collaboration through tools like the Leganto resource list management solution. These tools can make it easier to deliver course materials through the library, reducing costs as well as better supporting online, on-campus and hybrid learning.
- Good news: Students love their libraries
Read the survey report from Library Journal in its entirety or learn more about the Engaging Every Student initiative from ProQuest, part of Clarivate. This program is designed to promote academic success through the development of engaging learning experiences for every student – whether online, on-campus or in a hybrid learning environment.