14 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 290 2017 There are some limitations to this study that are noteworthy for instance, data utilized in this study were drawn from a large, public, research- extensive university, a factor that may limit generalization to other institutional types.36 Although we used propensity score matching analyses to achieve a degree of balance in the covariates, it is indeed possible that important unobserved covariates were not included in analyses that may contribute to students’ use of academic library resources, their completion of the SERU survey, or their learning and development. Without inclusion of variables such as academic motivation, estimated treatment effects of library use may be biased and should be interpreted with caution.37 Additional limitations are related to the sample size: 472 students reflects only 8.5% of the entire 2014 first-year class (n = 5,530). The sample was also skewed significantly in terms of students’ sex—in 2014, 52.5% of the first-year class was female and 47.5% was male—a trend that we have observed in our surveys on this campus. We were not able to capture additional variables related to students’ use of libraries that may be important markers of their libraries experiences such as study rooms or other physical spaces in the library.38 These limitations should be taken into consideration by readers and future researchers. Recommendations for future research include studying a different type of university population, using a larger sample that is equally composed of females and males, and including students’ self-ratings of their academic motivation and students’ use of specific types of library spaces as covariates. The results of this study suggest that first-year students who used a library resource at least once were significantly more likely than their peers who did not use the library to report development of critical thinking and analytical skills, written communication skills, and reading comprehension skills.
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