Can the value of a library’s services be measured? Most of us would confidently wager that the students who use the library and take advantage of its services are at a distinct academic advantage over the students who do not. Can the advantage that library users gain by using a specific service be quantified? The Cofrin Library recently asked this question and carried out a research project that investigated the institutional use of interlibrary loan at UWGB and what correlations might exist between interlibrary loan use and student academic achievement.

Overall, we found that 19% of the student population uses interlibrary loan and that interlibrary loan use increases as students progress through the university: 12% of freshman use ILL, 16% of sophomores, 22% of juniors, and 27% of seniors.  ILL use also varies within academic disciplines: 39% of social science majors, 32% of humanities majors, 27% of natural science majors and 22% of arts and communication majors.  ILL use also spikes for upper level students in certain academic disciplines: 41% of junior social science students, 46% of senior social science students, 38% of senior humanities students and 35% of senior natural science students.

As for what correlations exist between ILL use and academic achievment, we found that ILL users achieve .20 GPA points higher than the students that do not use Interlibrary Loan.  ILL users averaged a GPA of 3.18 while non-users averaged a GPA of 2.98.  Further division of ILL users revealed even greater gaps in academic achievement with freshman ILL users achieving .42 GPA points higher than non-users and sophomores achieving .29 GPA points higher. Significant gaps also existed when ILL users were divided into their academic disciplines. Overall, we found the largest gaps in GPA to exist for adult degree ILL users (.35 GPA points), humanities ILL users (.29), social science ILL users (.25), natural science ILL users (.23), and professional studies ILL users (.22).

Two exciting institutional developments could arise from this study. First, if we consider the information seeking and research behaviors displayed by ILL users to be the type of model behaviors taught and reinforced in library instructional sessions across campus, we hope to further partner with faculty to incorporate this important library service into more courses.  Second, we hope this institutional analysis of interlibrary loan allows us to make informed collection development decisions that focus on the user groups that have proven to be heavy users of materials that lie outside of the Cofrin Library collection.

If you have any questions about this study or would like a more complete picture of the data and its analysis, please feel free to contact:

Mitchell Scott
Resource Sharing Librarian