It’s unlikely that we can directly, and certainly not singlehandedly, impact retention in the STEM disciplines. Emmons and Wilkinson are right on the money in the conclusions of their 2011 study, “The Academic Library Impact on Student Persistence.” They find a positive correlation between the ratio of professional library staff to students and retention when analyzing data from 99 ARL libraries. Rather than interpreting this as the direct impact of Superlibrarians, they thoughtfully propose viewing academic libraries as “part of a complex social system that includes the university in the environment of the surrounding community (p. 146).” Within that system, libraries likely engage students “as a specialized type of learning assistance center.” Although Emmons and Wilkinson analyzed retention of undergraduates and graduates in all disciplines, their conclusions provide a useful perspective on possible library contributions to the retention of STEM undergraduates.
Photo attributed to: Nancy Dowd. Super Librarian Launch 2007, Jan. 10, 2007.