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Retention Rates and the Librarian

Academic librarians should be involved in the discussion of retention at their educational institutions. Combine all the research about this topic with the need to demonstrate efforts to improve retention rates for the accreditation bodies, regional, national and programmatic, and you will see several threads that weave through the dialog that librarians can get involved in. Institutions, in trying to improve retention rates, have discovered they must identify, intervene and repeat the process. And they must do this fast and as soon as possible in the student’s program.

So how can the librarian help?

At-risk students have outlying characteristics and are most likely to become frustrated and quit. So ascertain how you can be involved in the early warning process and the support system. Students are far more likely to quit early in their degree process, hence, the need for Orientations to be embedded in class instruction and independent webinars. Students can become frustrated with a myriad of different things. A simple example - the effort to find information, even the information to do course assignments or readings. But this is a major category with many facets. Use this for the library discussion and talk about autonomous learning – which has many great instructional tools in the online learning environment.

All those library surveys. What use are they if they do not help the institution to help the student finish their program? So really look at how you use usage data which you may be collecting. Maybe satisfaction surveys about the eresources tells more than long summaries of how much an eresource is used. More and more institutions offer web-based learning and thus the walk-in student population slowly shrinks. Help is no longer just a building or a desk or even a friendly librarian face. It must be easily visible on line. And this may be a part of the problem – a resulting issue in today’s digital world.

Students have many reasons for not returning to their program. None of them can be remedied by the librarian. But, the librarian can be part of the triage team before the student quits. Trying to help the academic team assist the student through their personal challenges – as they relate to the library. The librarian can focus on the type of support available that the frustrated student may have missed when they got lost in the maze of multiple databases, ebooks and eresources.

Contact the Virtual Librarian Service ( )if you have would like help with finding a role for the Librarian on the Retention Team.