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The impact of library instruction on student success

By Melissa Bowles-Terry, University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries | July 16, 2018

UNLV Libraries

UNLV Library. Photo Credit: Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services



This article is based on the author’s presentation in a recent Library Connect webinar titled “Library value: student success, research outcomes & collection impact.” The recorded webinar and slides are available here.


The Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) is a consortium of 38 research libraries located across the United States. In 2012 GWLA charged a student-learning task force to look at instructional interventions at member libraries and identify best practices that should be shared and built upon in order to maximize library impact on student learning and success. The task force gathered information from members and organized an event for GWLA members in 2013, where featured library programs shared their work on student-success projects. One of the outcomes of that meeting was an agreement to replicate a University of Wyoming study correlating library instruction with student success and retention, and GWLA members thought it would be particularly powerful to do a multi-institutional study to look at correlations between library instruction interventions and student-success measures including GPA, credit hours earned, and retention.


Correlation Between Library Instruction and Student Success


A group convened to begin the research project, led by Melissa Bowles-Terry of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The research questions that guided design of the project were:


  1. What effect does library instruction have on the retention of college students?
  2. What effect does library instruction have on the academic success of college students?
  3. What is the impact of specific library instruction methods on the retention and academic success of college students?


In 2014-2015, the first year of data collection, 12 institutions each submitted two sets of data for analysis. The participating institutions were:


  1. Arizona State University
  2. Baylor University
  3. Brigham Young University
  4. Kansas State University
  5. University of Missouri
  6. Southern Methodist University
  7. University of Houston
  8. University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  9. University of New Mexico
  10. University of Southern California
  11. Utah State University
  12. Washington State University


The data was cleaned, coded and merged. Results for the first year of analysis (2014-2015) were published in a 2017 white paper.


Highlights from 2014-2015


The GWLA Student Learning Outcomes task force analyzed the data from more than 42,000 first-time, first-year students and more than 1,700 distinct courses from 12 research institutions to determine the impact(s) of information literacy instruction integrated into course curriculum on several measures of student success.


Key findings include:


  • Student retention rates are higher for students whose courses include an information literacy instruction component.


  • On average, the first-year GPAs of students whose courses included information literacy instruction was higher than the GPAs of students whose courses did not include it.


  • Students exposed to library instruction interactions successfully completed 1.8 more credit hours per year than their counterparts who did not participate in courses containing information literacy instruction.


Future Years of Study


This is the first year of a six-year longitudinal analysis to determine if these gains are sustained and built upon with additional information literacy instruction in higher-level courses, and the impact this might have on graduation rates. Future years will also examine which teaching methods consistently show the highest student gains, so institutions can tailor their instruction programs to maximize the success of their students. The task force is now working with 2014-2017 data and will soon release a midpoint report.


Contact Melissa Bowles-Terry with questions: