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portal: Libraries and the Academy 3.2 (2003) 353-354
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Making the Grade: Academic Libraries and Student Success,ed. Maurie Caitlin Kelly and Andrea Kross. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2002. 143 p. $18.00 (10% discount ACRL members) (ISBN 0-8389-8177-1)
Student success and retention have become topics of increased focus and concern for colleges and universities. Changes within higher education, as well as the advent of technology, accountability, and assessment are among the factors that have shaped this focus. Research has shown that freshman courses, orientations, and programs increase student persistence rates by introducing students to the university experience and allowing for the successful development of skills. Libraries, too, have begun to focus efforts and to more actively participate in the "academic support, services, and outreach that play an important role in student success." (p. iv) This collection of eight essays, edited by Maurie Caitlin Kelly and Andrea Kross, demonstrates how the academic library contributes to the goal of student retention. Kelly is State GIS Librarian and Coordinator for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Kross is Implementation Consultant for Innovative Interfaces, Inc. Both have prior academic library experience, including outreach and collaboration. They detail examples of contributions libraries have made toward the success of students, both independently and in collaboration with faculty, administration, and the community at large.
Essays cover a variety of topics, including effective mission statements, diversity, technology, information literacy, and library instruction. Each not only demonstrates the value of the library in the lives of students but also the value of collaboration and involvement in retention programs to the library through increased visibility and prestige. Two essays stand out in particular.
Cindy Pierard and Kathryn Graves's (University of Kansas Libraries) survey of library outreach to freshman courses is especially noteworthy for its comprehensive look at student retention and the relevant research. Their essay is a particularly good fit for the theme of the collection, as it offers an overview of the problem of student retention, along with an examination of how libraries contribute to the solution [End Page 353] through outreach and collaboration. The authors begin with a discussion of the origins of the freshman course concept within the framework of attrition. Pierard and Graves cite research into student success, most notably that of Vincent Tinto (e.g. Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition, University of Chicago Press, 1993). Tinto's research and model of retention, based on integration of students within the social and academic environment of their institution, is significant for influencing colleges and universities to develop retention programs. Additional research has confirmed the effectiveness of the Tinto model, demonstrating that the more a student is integrated into the campus environment, the greater the chance for success. The authors go on to outline the history of library outreach to freshman programs, as well as current practices detailing numerous freshman courses, seminars, and orientations. They also point to the need for libraries to assess the effectiveness of their efforts.
Darla Rushing and Deborah Poole's (Loyola University) essay on a multi-faceted retention program is also of note. It is particularly interesting that Loyola's program began as an attempt to reduce turnover of student workers within the library. A retrospective study by the Cataloging Department revealed not only that their efforts had reduced turnover but also that library student workers had a higher persistence rate than the overall university population. The library has since become significantly involved in the university's retention efforts through library instruction, a peer counseling program, and partnerships with Academic and Student Affairs. The visibility of the library's efforts and their success has brought recognition of its role and strengths within the academic community.
The depth and success of the programs and activities detailed in this collection make it recommended reading for anyone interested in the library's role within the academic community and in increasing student success and retention. The examples are models for academic library collaboration, participation, and connectedness to the institution and community...