PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to explore how an innovation in the University Management Information System was leveraged to incorporate library data by an initially sceptical strategic management team. The rationale was to extract evidence of correlations between library use and student achievement. This kind of information is of particular interest to the institution, which is at present dealing with crises popularly summarised in the slogan “#FeesMustFall” among students who suffer from the effects of poverty and exclusion in higher education. Comment is offered on some of the relationships between student library behaviour before, during and after the nationwide disruptions that destabilised universities and threatened their survival at the end of 2016, just before the final examination period.Design/methodology/approachData were extracted from the data warehouse from the comparative demographic perspectives of students’ degrees of disadvantage in an effort to uncover any hitherto hidden patterns of library use.FindingsThe use of the library as expressed by footfall and loans was mapped against students’ pass rates and their collective GPA, indicating that increased library use correlates positively with better academic performance. Some of the initial correlations between student library behaviour before, during and after the nationwide disruptions that destabilised universities and threatened their survival at the end of 2016 just before the final examination period are explored. The effects that library closures (under threat of damage) at a critical time in the academic year might have had on library use and on student performance are interrogated.Practical implicationsStudents on financial aid, which was used as an indicator of disadvantage, come from schools and environments where access to information technology and libraries is very limited, so that library habits are either poorly established or not at all. At the University of Cape Town (UCT), considerable support is in place for students to encourage the development of library habits. An analysis of available data indicates that students who have acquired library habits regardless of unfavourable financial circumstances do not exhibit behaviour and academic outcomes markedly different from that of their more privileged peers.Originality/valueCombining library data with data from the university data warehouse is a new approach in South Africa. It is an approach that is of value both to the library and the institution at large and has brought meaningful insights into the role the academic library might be seen to play in promoting student academic achievement.
Performance Measurement and Metrics – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 5, 2018