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Student Retention Annotated Bibliography: Highlighted Research Articles

Literature review about student retention performed in Spring 2020

Highlighted Research Articles

Allison, D. (2015). Measuring the academic impact of libraries. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 15(1), 29–40.

Focused primarily on library usage and student GPA, but did also track library usage and retention. “This study also shows that library use is lower among the students who leave the university in their freshman through junior years. Because library use is correlated with student retention, libraries should participate in university programs that target at-risk students to help them improve their grades, which can aid efforts for retention at the university.”

The literature review includes several articles about the library and student retention. Those articles found that schools with larger staffs and budgets retained more students.


Barnhart, A., Teske, B., DiCarlo, M., & Cahoy, D. (2013). Libraries and student persistence at southern colleges and universities. Reference Services Review, 41(2), 266-279.

Evaluated 2010 IPEDs and NCES data of Southern Regional Education Board four-year colleges and universities, looking for correlations between library data and retention as well as six year graduation rates. Study uses Pearson’s r coefficients and predictor values, and compares findings with two earlier studies. Book expenditures were the strongest correlation with retention and graduation rates, although there were other somewhat strong correlations. Helpful data, but written for the statistician.


Black, E. L., & Murphy, S. A. (2017). The out loud assignment: articulating library contributions to first-year student success. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 43(5), 409–416.

Discusses an assignment given to first year students. Students who were given the assignment had a statistically significant higher GPA. Students who were given the assignment on the main college campus, versus a regional campus, were also over 10% more likely to be retained for the following year. Retention rates at the regional campus were much lower.


Blake, J., Bowles-Terry, M., Pearson, N., & Szentkiralyi, Z. (2017). The impact of information literacy instruction on student success: a multi-institutional investigation and analysis.

Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) Research Study. Article focused on the impact of library instruction. One small section looked at library instruction and retention in two areas: one, what teaching methods (active learning, lecture, etc.) were successful for retention; and two, what instruction type (one shots, library tour, etc.) was successful for retention. The study found that any teaching method was successful for retention, and that one-shots and subject guides were successful for retention.


Crawford, G. A. (2015). The academic library and student retention and graduation: An exploratory study. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 15(1), 41–57.

Evaluated 2010 IPEDs and NCES data of all institutions (1,328) which submitted data to both, comparing graduation and retention rates with expenses per FTE on library, instruction, research, public service, academic support, and student service. Library expenses had the highest correlation with graduation rates and second highest (behind instruction) with retention rates. Helpful, although dated, information.


Emmons, M., & Wilkinson, F. (2011). The academic library impact on student persistence. College & Research Libraries, 72(2), 128-149.

Evaluated 2005-06 Annual Survey of ARL Statistics and 2006 IPEDS of 99 ARL institutions, comparing graduation and retention rates with staff, collections, use, and services. The study controlled for race, gender, and financial aid. Staffing and staff wages had the strongest correlations with retention and graduation. “In the population from which the sample was drawn, a 10 percent increase in the ratio of professional library staff predicts a 1.55 percent increase in retention.” This study is cited frequently in newer studies that have duplicated similar results.


Eng, S., & Stadler, D. (2015). Linking library to student retention: A statistical analysis. Evidence Based Library & Information Practice, 10(3).

Reproduces Mezick (2007) study with newer data. Evaluated 2010 and 2011 ACRL Metrics data of 1,179 (for 2010) and 1,194 (for 2011) institutions, comparing retention rates with total library expenditures, total salaries of professional staff, the professional staff full-time equivalent (FTE), and the fall semester student enrollment. The study and the one it replicates found a correlation between professional staffing levels and student retention.

The single category that has remained constant for all institutions is professional staff.


Haddow, G., & Joseph, J. (2010). Loans, logins, and lasting the course: academic library use and student retention. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 41(4), 233–244.

Tracked first year students at an Australian college over their first semester, comparing library usage with retention to the second semester. Library usage included the number of items borrowed, number of logins to a library computer, and number of logins to library online resources. Students who used library resources, particularly e-resources, were more likely to stay on compared to those who did not.


Krieb, D. (2018). Assessing the impact of reference assistance and library instruction on retention and grades using student tracking technology. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 13(2), 2–12.

Study at a community college which looked at “fall-to-fall” retention for all students, comparing students who either consulted the reference desk or attended a library instruction session. Correlations were strong for students who used the library reference desk or attended a library instruction session and returned the next year. It was not found for GPA to be impacted by attending library instruction sessions.


LeMaistre, T., Shi, Q., & Thanki, S. (2018). Connecting library use to student success. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 18(1), 117–140.

Examined student EZProxy logs to determine if there were differences between library users and non-users in retention rates, academic standing, and GPA and found that 85% of library users were retained, while only 66% of non-users were retained. The study controlled for high school GPA, gender, first-generation status, and Pell recipient status, and determined that library use significantly affected GPA, academic standing, and retention.  


Murray, A., Ireland, A., & Hackathorn, J. (2016). The value of academic libraries: Library services as a predictor of student retention. College & Research Libraries, 77(5), 631–642.

Examines the impact of the use of eight different library resources on retention. They found that a first year student who used the library was 9.54 times more likely to return for their sophomore year, and sophomores who used the library were 4.23 times more likely to return for their junior year.   


O’Kelly, M. (2017). Academic libraries and student retention: The implications for higher education. 2016 Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment, Association of Research Libraries, 485–490.

Study at one regional university which found correlations with retention and students who attended library instruction sessions, as well as retention and students who had a professor work with a librarian (even if the student themselves were not in a class with library instruction). Author’s hypothesis from both findings is that faculty who engage in high-impact practices (such as engaging with the library) help increase student retention.


Soria, K. M., Fransen, J., & Nackerud, S. (2013). Library use and undergraduate student outcomes: New evidence for students’ retention and academic success. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 13(2), 147–164.

Looked to see what impact library usage had on academic success of students and found that “first-time, first-year undergraduate students who use the library have a higher GPA for their first semester and higher retention from fall to spring than non-library users.”


Soria, K. M., Fransen, J., & Nackerud, S. (2014). Stacks, serials, search engines, and students’ success: First-year undergraduate students’ library use, academic achievement, and retention. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(1), 84–91.

Collected student library usage data in 10 ways and analyzed it. Found higher student GPAs and retention rates associated with higher library usage.

Stemmer, J. K., & Mahan, D. M. (2016). Investigating the relationship of library usage to student outcomes. College & Research Libraries, 77(3), 359–375.

Study using data from a campus-wide survey given to students in four different years about why they used the library. They found a positive association between a first-year student’s use of the library and retention and GPA.


Thorpe, A., Lukes, R., Bever, D. J., & He, Y. (2016). The impact of the academic library on student success: Connecting the dots. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 16(2), 373–392.

Examined library usage and its effect on student retention and found that 85% of students who used the library were retained, while the university-wide retention rate was only 67%.