Academic Library Resources and Services for Online Distance Learners: An Exploratory Study

Author/s: Roseanne Michele Sasso, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Dissertation
Year: 2016

Abstract: In this study distance learning library resources and services as provided by member institutions belonging to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) were examined. The goals of this study were (a) to identify the types of distance learning library resources and services being provided, and (b) to gain insight into the experiences and perspectives of Association of Research Libraries’ library personnel in delivering library resources and services to their distance learning library patrons. This exploratory study consisted of two phases, where both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Phase one involved a content analysis of member institution’s distance learning websites and library subject guides to reveal the types of library resources and services offered to their online, distance learners. ARL member institutions were analyzed: (a) if the institution is an academic library, and (b) if the institution has either a distance learning website and/or a library subject guide. Phase two of the study entailed personal, semi-structured interviews with library personnel at ARL member institutions. Library personnel were selected based on the number of library resources and services offered at their respective institution. The purpose of interviewing library personnel was to gain a deeper understanding of the librarian’s experiences, perceptions, challenges, and opportunities in delivering distance learning library resources and services. Content analysis findings revealed that an academic libraries’ web presence provides a prime gateway for distance learners to access library resources and services at their point of need. Conversations with academic librarians revealed efforts towards educating users, marketing their collections and services, and discovering/identifying the information needs of their distance learning library users in order to meet them where they are. These findings offer academic librarians and institution administrators information on current practice, trends, and considerations for future planning and improvements related to the support of distance learning library users.


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