The academic library’s role in student retention: a review of the literature

Silas M. Oliveira (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Publication date: 4 July 2017



This paper aims is to present and discuss the personal and educational underpinnings of undergraduate and graduate students’ persistence decision, identify initiatives and strategies academic libraries are adopting which correlates positively with student retention, identify and discuss the main causes leading to attrition and present James White Library’s experience contributing to student retention efforts at Andrews University.


A bibliographic search using databases in the areas of education and library and information science was conducted to review the literature on the relationship between library use and services and university students’ retention.


The main overall factors which contribute to student retention are: user-centered philosophy; involvement and engagement; student identification and sense of belonging; academic success and achievement; and point grade average (GPA) in the context of libraries, the main factors which contribute (or correlate) to student retention are: library instruction; spaces which provide social interaction and learning; and general materials’ use.

Research limitations/implications

This study does not provide results of actual in-person investigations conducted at libraries, rather, identifies presents, and discusses reported studies in the Education and Library & Information Science (LIS) literature.

Practical implications

A summary and structured presentation of the main issues concerning the library’s role in university student’s retention identifies the main personal, including non-academic and academic problems leading to student’s attrition, as well successful efforts and strategies which libraries are adopting to curtail this pressing problem within academic institutions. The paper can be used as general guidelines which academic library managers and library service providers can adopt to contribute to the university’s overall efforts to increase its graduation rate.

Social implications

Higher education presupposes large expenditures from providers (Universities) and students. Millions of dollars are spent by both parties each year without yielding the expected results, considering that attrition levels can reach more than 40 per cent at any given university during an academic year in the USA. Also, purposeful or intentional expensive recruitment efforts and programs can be greatly curtailed by high attrition rates. However, these can be greatly diminished by successful retention strategies. Also, society is greatly benefited with the talents, skills, and services rendered by a professional with a higher education degree.

Originality value

This study organizes and systematizes the many study results, ideas, and considerations concerning academic libraries and student retention which are dispersed in the literature of the field, allowing the reader and practitioner to better understand the theoretical and practical issues concerning this subject. It provides the reader with practical experiences and data which will enhance one’s decision-making process in developing retention policies and strategies at the library level.



Oliveira, S. (2017), "The academic library’s role in student retention: a review of the literature", Library Review, Vol. 66 No. 4/5, pp. 310-329.

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