ACRL 2011 Philadelphia, PA

The research on which this poster session is based was conducted by Pam Baker, Mardi Chalmers, and Jacqui Grallo for the Teaching and Learning with First-year Students cooperative sponsored by the Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment at California State University, Monterey Bay.


The library is a valuable window into the college student experience, and can be a key player in efforts to retain students and help them succeed. Librarians at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) collected data concerning students’ non-research-related questions, and shared with stakeholders on campus their findings about information critical to student success. 

While the modern academic library still stewards physical collections of information resources, its role has broadened significantly. Today, academic libraries are more access- and service-focused than ever before, providing opportunities for students to engage with technology, their peers, and campus faculty and staff. In the fall of 2007, librarians at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) initiated an informal study to investigate the role of the academic library with respect to student persistence. We recorded non-research-related questions asked by students at both service desks, and shared with First Year Seminar (FYS) faculty our findings about information critical to success that students may not have been getting in a coordinated manner.

In this poster session, we will share our simple methodology, highlights of our findings, and strategies for making the academic library a key player in data-driven efforts to improve retention-focused programs and services. One significant finding was that about half of the non-research-related questions students asked had to do with computer hardware and software. Thus, we recommended to the FYS program that faculty make no assumptions with regard to incoming students’ technology-related skills and experience. We also suggested that FYS faculty further collaborate with university services to help students gain the computer proficiencies they will need to be successful in college.

 Because the results of a study such as this are most relevant to the institution where it was conducted, our session will focus on how libraries can collect, interpret, and share data to increase student success and ultimately improve retention rates. To engage our audience and illustrate the significance of this project, however, we will share selected student questions we found to be especially telling with respect to persistence. In doing background research for this project, we discovered that most of what has been written on connections between the academic library and student retention has focused not on the library’s role in helping students adjust to college life, but rather on specifics such as library collections, facilities, and instruction. We will take a broader approach and discuss how academic libraries are contributing to student persistence in ways that may not be explicit in their missions.

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California State University Monterey Bay is a state-supported, baccalaureate, Hispanic-serving institution, with an enrollment of approximately 4500 FTE, including a high proportion of first-generation students from working-class families in the predominantly rural/agricultural counties of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz.


Online Question Log:

New student FAQ:

Examples of students’ non-research-related questions:


Graduate program advising

How many credits do language courses usually have?

Interpret study guide from professor

Service learning placement, where to sign up

Where can I find course add slip online?

How do I print and how much does it cost?

Why won’t it print?

Why won’t the monitor come on?


Photoshop question

How to check print balance

How to attach a file to an email

How do I use SecureShell?

How do I use Blackboard?


How to (a) find the building number on class schedule and 

(b) find the building itself?

Is there a mailbox on campus?

Where do I get an ID card?

Where do I pick up packages?

Where is ASAP (tutoring center)?


Help with wireless connection

How to print from a laptop

How do I print and how much does it cost?

Why won’t it print?

Why won’t the monitor come on?


Campus Programs, Offices and Departments With Whom We Shared Our Findings

Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment 

Department Faculty

First Year Course Instructors 

First Year Experience Director/Coordinator 

Office of the Provost 

Student Information Systems

 Additional Sharing Possibilities

Academic & Career Advising Center

Academic Affairs

Academic and Centralized Scheduling

Academic Deans

Academic Department Chairs

Campus Information Center

Center for Student Success

Center for Academic/Instructional Technology

Dean of Students

Information Technology Department

Institutional Assessment and Research

New Student Orientation Programs


Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Office of the President

Office of the Registrar

Personal Growth and Counseling Center

Retention Advisors

Student Activities Program

Student Disability Resources

Student Housing & Residential Life

Student Life

Student Support Services

Technology Support Services

Web Planning and Advising Team

Contact Us

Pam Baker, Coordinator of Library Instruction
California State University Monterey Bay


Jacqui Grallo, Reference and Instructional Technology Librarian
California State University Monterey Bay