Our director passed out the latest issue of Library Issues. The article is entitled "Keeping Them Enrolled: How Academic Libraries Contribute to Student Retention" and is written by Steven Bell. Retention is a big issue here this year because we have a very small class and don't know when the general economy will recover. Fortunately, we're in good financial standing due to very conservative trustees and president. But we still need to make an extra effort to all do our part in student retention. I doubt that we are alone in this issue.
I have been wondering since Monday's faculty meeting if we shouldn't explore how the library could get involved with prospective student days. Don't ask me how, but would it make any difference? The administration wants us to think about what makes us stand out, and we have an exceptional library. My husband, a biology prof., doesn't think that's really a big draw to students. It wouldn't have been with me 10 years ago, I just liked the pretty brick buildings and lots of trees (and being the furthest state school from my parents helped, too... I love them, really I do!).
In the article, Bell says the most commonly stated reason for leaving (or probably for staying) is the people. Some studies have been done that link library spending per student to successful retention rates. But it's difficult to argue. One of the big names in retention research is George Kuh, who writes that librarians can help by being involved in freshmen orientation, teaching 1st year seminars, collaborating with faculty, and getting involved with students in other ways.
One suggestion he makes is to work with the parents in various ways. To at least get them to contact us when the student is calling them for research help (and studies show they do!!!).
Librarians should do what they can, along with other campus employees, to help new students establish roots. Libraries should host social activities and programs to allow librarians to reach out to students.
There is a call for greater study, particularly a survey to graduating seniors on how much contact they had with librarians, how helpful the librarians were, and if that led to their academic success.
The suggestion that libraries should give preferential treatment to upperclassmen is ridiculous, though. I really doubt such unfair treatment will entice freshmen to stay at the college longer, and it breaks every code of librarianship. If anything, we should be more indulging to freshmen as we try to help them "establish roots" and encourage them to come back to the library. However, this article is of great interest and I recommend it... and it's short!
This is an interesting opener to a discussion I hope will bloom on our campus and in the library community.