Recent Research Connecting Academic Libraries and Student Achievement

In late November 2011, ACRL held two National Summits (supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services) on academic library value, and I was tapped to design and facilitate these summits.  To inspire one brainstorming session, I highlighted library value publications and presentations that have appeared in the 15 months since the release of the Value of Academic Libraries (VAL) Report.  Some of the most exciting and interesting have been in the area of “student achievement,” and I wanted to share a few with all of you.

Student achievement, as defined in the VAL Report, is one of several dimensions of student learning.  Student achievement is typically represented by GPA and professional/educational test scores such as the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, CAAP, CLA, MAPP, and licensure or certification tests.  Certainly, student learning is only one element of GPA as grade inflation in recent decades has made clear.  Student grades are sometimes based on attendance, assignment completion, or tangential skills other than the specific course or program learning outcomes grades purport to represent.  Like grades, test scores also do not map directly to learning outcomes, as many other attributes impact student testing abilities.  Despite these flaws, GPA and test scores remain well accepted surrogates for student learning.

In recognition of public acceptance of grades and tests as indicators of learning, one of the VAL Report recommendations encourages librarians to consider tracking library influences on increased student achievement in the form of GPA and tests (VAL Report, pg 14).  Indeed, at least one library investigated connections to GPA years ago:  Glendale Community College studied the impacts of information literacy programs on student GPA, completion of semester hours, and overall persistence (cited in VAL Report, pg 40).

Recently, non-US librarians have been hard at work exploring correlations between library interactions and grades.  Researchers at the University of Huddersfield have found correlations between book and e-resource use (but not library building visits) and student attainment as a part of the Library Impact Data Project (  Librarians at the University of Wollongong have found similar correlations between book borrowing and database usage and student “marks” (  At Hong Kong Baptist University, librarians have uncovered either positive or no correlations (but no negative correlations) between book/AV checkouts and GPA ( as well as library instruction and GPA (

In the U.S., there are multiple projects investigating connections between library interactions and student grades currently underway, and I look forward to hearing the results when they are shared.  I also hope that more librarians will engage the “student achievement” research agenda (VAL Report, pg 114) or undertake another VAL Report recommendation–to follow the lead of our school librarian colleagues by investigating relationships between library interactions and professional/educational test scores and/or conducting test audits to identify specific test questions that assess information literacy skills.

In the coming months, the members of the ACRL VAL Committee will be reinvigorating this blog with posts summarizing and updating the VAL Report, highlighting new library value projects, and announcing new developments in ACRL’s VAL Initiative.  We hope that you will take the time to comment and share your thoughts and experiences in order to develop a community of practice around assessment and library value issues.  Also, we invite those of you who are engaging in assessment and value research to identify yourselves so your efforts can be included in our ongoing conversation about academic library value.

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