Don’t Panic! Managing Library Anxiety with a Library Survival Guide

Elizabeth DiPrince (, Amber Wilson (, and Chrissy Karafit ( serve on the library faculty at University of Central Arkansas; Amanda Bryant ( is library supervisor and graphic designer at the University of Central Arkansas; Chris Springer ( is a former library faculty at the University of Central Arkansas.

Many academic library users, particularly incoming college freshmen, are unsure about what the library offers, how it is useful, where they can receive assistance. A library guide or handbook, if designed to appear interesting and relevant to students, can address these issues. This article examines the creation, distribution, and assessment of a library survival guide given to incoming college freshmen. The goal of the guide was to decrease library anxiety and familiarize new students with library resources and services. Results and revisions of future editions of the guide are also discussed.

The demands, rigors, and expectations of college research can often leave incoming freshmen feeling overwhelmed because they are not aware of the services available at the library. Libraries are undergoing a metamorphosis that is bewildering at times to librarians and library users alike. As libraries gradually transform from information warehouses into a third space for collaboration and learning, perhaps it is understandable that library users are unaware of the vast array of resources and services encompassed by the word “library.” In many libraries, quiet rooms have been replaced by collaborative workspace, laptops and projectors check out alongside books, and databases have invisibly expanded information access to the smartphone in each student’s pocket. Yet awareness of so many new services remains limited. Accurately and effectively communicating the value of library resources and services takes time and careful packaging. How can librarians get today’s digitally distracted students to take notice?

With these issues in mind, a group of librarians devised a Library Survival Guide to mitigate these problems among the new student users of Torreyson Library. Torreyson Library is the main library of the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), which serves 9,800 undergraduate and 1,800 graduate students, including concurrently enrolled, international, non-traditional, and distance education students, as well as doctoral candidates. Torreyson Library operations are managed by eleven faculty members and thirty staff members, plus the assistance of thirty-five student workers. When classes are in session, the library remains open twenty-four hours a day for five days each week, with additional daytime hours on weekends. Research assistance is available by phone, email, or in person at the reference desk from 7:00 a.m. to midnight whenever the library is open. Providing and promoting library services to such a diverse service population is challenging. Various library programs and initiatives have sought to meet these challenges, including the Library Survival Guide project.

Marketing library resources and services is the first step in promoting information literacy and alleviating library anxiety. The goal of the Library Survival Guide project is to market the library to new students and equip them with the introductory information literacy skills required to take advantage of library resources and services. Based on the observations of UCA reference librarians, it is evident that students often do not have enough knowledge to know where to look, or even what questions to ask, leading to anxiety and uncertainty.

Mitigating library anxiety at the beginning of their academic careers will give students a better understanding of library services and a familiarity with librarians, so they are comfortable expressing their research needs. A concise library guide or handbook can serve as a single source to new students, communicating general information about how to use the library and what services the library offers. A guide can also provide a place to address library policies and acceptable behavior in the library. In order to make the guide appear interesting and relevant to students, the committee carefully considered elements of design and organization, tone, and terminology. Strategies for distribution and assessment proved integral to the process. As demonstrated by the results, the library survival guide project was effective in communicating library services and introducing basic information literacy skills.

Literature Review

Library Anxiety/Library Complacency

Many students today still struggle with the anxiety identified by Constance A. Mellon in her 1986 study of “Library Anxiety,” feeling overwhelmed by the volume of information, confused by library systems, and uncertain where to begin their search. When asked about their experiences doing research in the library, instead of discussing difficulties with the search process, the students in Mellon’s study “discussed feelings of fear that kept them from beginning to search or that got in the way of their staying in the library long enough to master search processes.”1 Sharon Bostick described five dimensions of library anxiety: barriers with staff, affective barriers, comfort with the library, knowledge of the library and mechanical barriers.2 Library anxiety may stem from simple but unfamiliar procedural tasks, such as checking out a book, but also from more complex research activities.3

In addition to library anxiety, librarians today also face the challenge of library complacency, seeking to prove “the continuing relevance of the library as an information source . . . including consultations with librarians.”4 Simple observation of information seekers anywhere suggests that many students today turn to Google to answer questions, while the idea of the library seems arcane, or does not even enter their minds as a source of information. A basic grasp of information literacy can help students look beyond Google to the resources and research help available at the library. Hence the conundrum that librarians can teach users information literacy, yet users must have some rudimentary information literacy to recognize the value of the library.

Library Handbooks

Raising awareness of library resources and services can be interpreted as the first introductory step to information literacy. Information literacy involves knowing how to search for accurate information and assess the reliability of information sources, and recognizing that librarians can facilitate this effort. Prior to the surge in online resources, many academic libraries created printed handbooks as an orientation to collections and services. A handbook compiles all of the “general information about a library,” including contact information and hours of operation, into one succinct resource.5 In addition to marketing the library, library guides represent one method of teaching students how to utilize library resources and services effectively.6 Today, many academic libraries use tools, such as LibGuides, to produce online research guides for specific subjects or courses. Print and online guides “extend the library’s educational role when they are placed in context and given an appropriate label so that students see them as tools for specific needs.”7 By promoting awareness of research assistance, a library guide can help to initiate information literacy and reduce students’ library anxiety or complacency.

As digital resources initially became more common in library collections, librarians identified the need for written instructions to help students discover and use these resources. In the early 1990s, Metter and Willis developed a library handbook that was intended to partially replace library instruction classes at the Auraria Library at the University of Colorado.8 Metter and Willis never stated that their handbook reduced the number of library instruction classes provided or requested. However, they did indicate that the handbook saved time by providing general information so that the instructional librarians could spend more time demonstrating how to search specialized databases and the catalog.9 In a sense, Metter and Willis’s handbook may have served as a social marketing tool by raising awareness of library services available and recommending students use library resources and services as a strategy for academic success.10 As Bhatt notes, “marketing selects target markets and does not seek to be all things to all people.”11 Thus a general library guide is not suited to replace face-to-face library instruction; it is targeted for a specific population of users that are unfamiliar with library resources and services, or unaware of how these resources and services may benefit them.

Obviously a print handbook cannot meet all need for information literacy instruction, considering the diversity of information needs on a college campus. Metter and Willis note that an academic library may serve a variety of students, including international, undergraduate, and doctoral students.12 Individualized instruction is needed to serve the information needs of diverse populations.13 However, a general introduction and orientation to a library’s collections and services would be useful to anyone who is unfamiliar with the particular library, regardless of their level of information-seeking sophistication.

Based on a review of current literature, few academic libraries today are publishing library handbooks or guidebooks in print format. According to Kelly, some libraries noted budgetary restrictions and the need to frequently update information about library services as reasons for favoring electronic promotional media over print media.14 Library websites often house promotional content, containing descriptions of resources and services, but users often must navigate through a number of pages and links to find the desired information. For new users, the library website may simply contribute to the “library noise” that Jane Keefer described as an overwhelming flood of call numbers, signs, maps, computer systems, and indexes bewildering to new students.15 A library handbook can reach students who would otherwise never come to the reference desk or attend instruction sessions.16 A print handbook has an easily discernible beginning and end, whereas a website can prove interminable in its web of links to additional pages. Moreover, a handbook can help students who never find the library’s website in the information ocean of the Internet.

Instruction through Library Handbooks

Unfortunately, librarians are limited in their ability to help students who never articulate a need for research assistance. Metter and Willis note that many students “receive no course-integrated library instruction.”17 Many college students lack sufficient information literacy skills, and faculty may not recognize this limitation.18 Regardless, faculty may not have sufficient time to incorporate a bibliographic instruction session into their course.19 Moreover, as Adams notes, students do not always ask for assistance when they need it.20 Murtagh and Williams’ study of students’ information seeking behavior found that students who did not ask a librarian for help with library resources would seek assistance through use of a library guide.21 Library anxiety or other social challenges may hinder some students from asking for help face-to-face. Malvasa, Rudowsky and Valencia posit that students with high anxiety and low confidence may be intimidated by group instruction, and do better with anonymous resources, such as an online tutorial, where they can avoid judgement from their peers.22 A library handbook also can direct students to alternative sources of assistance, such as the library website and reference services via email or phone. A handbook can “serve as textual reinforcement” for information provided at a service desk or in a library instruction session.23 A handbook is “available when students are ready to look at it, when its information is most relevant to some pursuit,” such as when a student begins work on a specific research assignment.24 Students do not remember all of the information relayed in a reference desk interview or an instruction session. Professors in every field use textbooks because students cannot master a field of study simply by listening to lectures. Why should teaching information literacy be different?

In addition to raising awareness and utilization of library research assistance, a library handbook may also enhance the impact of face-to-face instruction. Adams argues that good reference librarians should endeavor to teach users “basic skills that may be utilized for the next problem.”25 Active learning experiences reinforce what is learned in classroom instruction.26 Learning by doing and self-teaching activities result in improved comprehension and retention. Signs and maps empower users to find their own way, to seek a specific piece of information and use it to achieve a goal.27 Similarly, guides and handbooks allow the student to have control, to select only the information that is needed and to proceed independently.28 Like the college experience, libraries should equip students to operate effectively in a professional arena. A handbook is one of the tools libraries provide to support self-teaching and information seeking behavior. While a library handbook cannot replace the value and functionality of a library website or a bibliographic instruction class, it can provide critical, entry-level information and refer to appropriate sources for more detailed information.

Print vs. Digital Marketing

Librarians struggle with the idea of marketing library collections and services, but marketing does not predicate a commercial agenda. If students are not aware of library resources and services, or “the potential value” of these resources, then the collections have no purpose.29 Promotion and advertising make students aware of services. Onwegbuzie et al. concluded that easily accessible and informational brochures “can help reduce the initial anxiety and disorientation of users by providing guidance in the largely self-service environment and by saving them from the frustration of having to search blindly or ask trivial questions.”30 A library handbook is only one of many potential tools for promoting libraries. Kennedy and Kelly separately found that libraries used a variety of physical media for marketing e-resources, including posters, flyers, calendars, bookmarks, etc.31 Empey and Black utilized a variety of marketing formats to target different campus audiences with carefully packaged information about library services.32 Each medium varies in how much information it can communicate with regard to library collections and services. Some media are fixed, like a poster or banner, whereas other materials like brochures can be taken home for close, detailed reading. Kennedy documented thirty-eight unique marketing techniques, which she categorized as either human interaction, e-communication, physical items, or training.33 Kennedy identified “use guides” as online format and categorized them as a training method, while the flyers/brochures were in print format and therefore categorized as a physical item.34 Just as different information formats are preferred by students with different learning styles, diverse marketing approaches will appeal to a broad range of potential library users. Despite librarians’ lingering reservations, library marketing appears inextricable from research assistance.

A number of studies indicate that a significant population prefers reading in print rather than digital format, especially when the reading is for academic purposes. In the study of e-book usage conducted by Briddon et al., 38 percent of students surveyed indicated they did not use e-books, and first-year college students proved least likely to use e-books.35 In survey comments, students reporting non-use of e-books indicated that they found print books easier to read and annotate, and they found it easier to concentrate when reading a print book.36 The study conducted by Revelle et al., regarding opinions of e-books at Miami University, identified four distinct categories: Book Lovers, Technophiles, Pragmatists, and Printers.37 Both preferring print format, Book Lovers represented 34 percent and Printers represented 26 percent of the 735 undergraduate, graduate student and faculty respondents.38 Cull argues that online reading typically involves more skimming and is performed in quick bursts, while individuals reading print resources tend to read more slowly and deeply, taking time to reflect on the content.39 Foasberg found that students usually choose to do course-related reading in print format.40 Participants in Foasberg’s study also reported difficulty concentrating on electronic texts, frustration with their inability to interact with electronic texts like a print source, and concern about the cost of e-reader devices.41 Gerke and Maness found a correlation between students’ impressions of the physical library and valuation of the library’s digital collections, and recommend “integration, rather than disintegration, of print and electronic resources, services, and facilities in college and research libraries.”42 It is important for librarians to develop an awareness and understanding of how students access and discover the library through physical and virtual channels, and how experience in one environment impacts perceptions of other service environments.43 Librarians’ awareness of diverse user needs for collections and services in both physical and virtual formats can inform continuing efforts to reduce student anxiety about libraries and the research process.

Creation Process

To address issues of library and research anxiety as well as complacency, a committee of librarians proposed to develop a marketing tool to introduce basic information literacy for new students. A library guide could initiate library orientation by introducing new first year students to library collections and services.

In the initial stages of this project, there was much discussion regarding whether the library survival guide should be presented in a print or online format. A large amount of the information selected for inclusion in the guide already existed on the library webpage and LibGuides; thus the committee considered the necessity of creating a print guide versus creating more online content. Observation of students in the library has revealed that students demonstrate a significant preference for reading information in print format. This predilection for printed information is supported by the large amount of printing done in the library (1.25 million prints between September 2013 to May 2014). Assuredly students prefer the facility of searching for information online, but when students need to read an article that is longer than a few paragraphs, observation indicates that a significant proportion of students will print the document. Some students may print articles for the purpose of in-depth reading, and some may read online yet print the article for later reference, but the fact remains that these students spend time and money in order to have print copies.

UCA students’ apparent preference for print is also supported by numerous reference interviews in which students have expressed unwillingness to use e-books. While some students are willing to use e-books to keyword search for a small piece of information, such as to use part of a chapter as a supporting source in a research paper, the majority of students are unwilling to use e-books for extended reading. If the books must be read in entirety as part of required coursework, UCA students invariably select print over electronic format. This tendency toward print format is supported by the studies of Briddon et al., Revelle et al., and Foasberg.44

The survival guide committee also considered that a print version lends itself more easily to browsing, which can be difficult online, and may reach students that online content misses, such as students with lower technology skills, and students that learn better with printed material. Print resources can provide information without the need for any device, batteries or power; print does not require time to load the next page; print is tactile and can be highlighted and underlined; and print is not susceptible to being forgotten amongst the legion of websites. Kennedy’s 2010 study of library marketing found that seven out of fifteen university libraries used print flyers and brochures to market library services, suggesting that the Torreyson Library is not alone in attributing some unique value to print marketing tools.45

In planning a print library guide, the committee understood that cost and distribution must be considered in the design and content decisions. Printing costs and budgetary limitations dictated details such as size, page count, binding, and total copies. Size and page limitations necessitated succinct explanation of only the most critical and common questions. Due to a small starting budget, supplying a guide to every first year student was not possible, which led the committee to explore creative methods of distribution. While selecting print as the primary format, the committee also opted to place a digital copy of the print survival guide on the library website to extend access to distance education students and others who did not receive a print copy. This decision also enables students who prefer to read in digital format to access the same introductory information in the format of their choice.

Once the medium was selected, the committee focused on the content, tone, and design of the library survival guide. One of the goals of this project was to create an eye-catching resource that students would want to pick up, flip through, and keep handy for easy access. It was essential to consider the existing library branding, including consistent fonts, colors, and logos, previously implemented in signage, handouts, web content, and other informational library material. It is important for students to immediately recognize the survival guide as an official UCA Library publication and know that it was customized for the UCA library experience. With this consideration in mind, the committee included at the beginning of the process the library staff member responsible for all graphic design work in the library.

The committee understood that most user guides aimed at younger generations are not meant to be read cover to cover. Most people only consult guides when they have a specific informational need. Thus the committee worked to make the library guide an easy reference tool more substantial than a flyer, something that would not be thrown away without a thought, but that users could read in its entirety or keep handy until needed. Utilizing an informal tone, the familiar purple and gray UCA colors, and a minimalist design helped to keep the feel of the guide light and user friendly. Also, several references in the guide pay homage to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (see figure 1). The librarians expected that some readers would appreciate the literary humor.

Developing the content of the library guide required some tough decisions about what to include and what to omit. The committee wanted to cover a lot of basic information about library services and collections while maintaining a concise text. Content development began in a brainstorming session by considering the needs of first year students and creating a list of the most common questions asked at the reference desk. Questions were expanded into explanations of larger subjects. The guide opened with basic contact information, library hours, and a welcome message from the library director (see figure 2). Next, a message challenged students to take pride in their library by keeping noise levels down, cleaning up trash, and being respectful.

The committee decided to organize the guide into two sections: first, a short section answering the most common research-based questions, and second, an alphabetical list of library terms and services. This organization eliminated the need for a table of contents or index, allowing for greater brevity. The committee organized the most common questions into five categories: how to do research, find books, find articles, access library resources off-campus, and cite a resource (see figure 3). The alphabetical list of resources and services allowed for deeper explanation of library terminology, such as interlibrary loan, databases, etc.

Next, all additional information was organized into an A-to-Z list for easy reference, including such common topics of inquiry as printing, call numbers, check-out policies, maps, study space, etc. Each of these entries was formatted with a vertical tab and label located on the outer edge of the page for easy topic location by simply “flipping” to that desired topic. While the guide does not have an entry for each letter, the contents begin with “A” for archives, and the committee agreed an entry for “Z” should conclude the guide. In keeping with the light-hearted tone and survival theme, one committee member suggested including how the library can help students survive a zombie attack. This entry provided a space to mention non-research related library features that are nonetheless valuable to students: namely the availability of vending machines and Starbucks within the building (see figure 4). While the committee thought the zombie entry was a fun way to engage with students, the library director expressed concerns about its appropriateness. Ultimately the committee compromised by including a dictionary definition of humor at the bottom of the page, to clarify the satirical nature of the entry. The back cover of the guide simply displays library contact information for readers’ quick reference.

As the library guide committee represented only a portion of the library faculty, the committee sought input from the rest of the library faculty. In the interest of time, we gave the other library faculty a week to review the guide and provide feedback. The faculty responded positively, only suggesting some minor changes to content and correction of typos. After reviewing final proofs, the committee submitted the guide for printing.

Assessment Process

Once the guides were designed and printed, the committee sought to determine if the guide is effective in creating a better prepared and well-informed library user. Evaluating the success of this tool allowed for data collection on the impact of outreach efforts and could inform future marketing projects. The University of Central Arkansas is a data driven institution, and securing the funds for future printing would require the ability to demonstrate the guide’s impact on easing students’ library anxiety and increasing their knowledge of library resources and services.

The committee’s hypothesis was that students who received the print Library Survival Guide will more quickly obtain accurate information about library resources and services than those who did not receive a print guide. The committee selected a pre-test and post-test data collection method to test this hypothesis. Test question topics were selected to measure student awareness of basic library services like printing, study space, extended hours, and research help. Questions were formulated to emphasize library features that students need and value (see appendix). Raising awareness of these features would demonstrate the relevance of library services and alleviate initial feelings of intimidation and anxiety among new students. The pre-test and post-test were scheduled two weeks apart in order to limit the time in which students could gather information about the library from other sources. In order to make the process more appealing to student participants, it was decided to conduct the test online. Students often respond positively when permitted to use mobile devices for classroom activities, so the committee projected that this would increase student participation. Also, online implementation would make data collection and analysis much easier.

The guide’s target audience is new Torreyson Library users, and the easiest way to reach a majority of new users is to target incoming first year students. In order to reach the greatest number of incoming first year students, the committee focused on the first required writing class, WRTG 1310: Introduction to College Writing. While it is impossible to collect a pure sample, and a few upperclassmen might be present in the test population, the vast majority of enrollees in this course are first year students. Thus the committee began planning the logistics of how to implement the provision of guides and testing for effectiveness.

Writing faculty endorsement of the library guide was key for a successful implementation. The committee contacted the First Year Writing Director, requesting to make a presentation about the guides during the First Year Writing Orientation, which requires attendance for all Introduction to College Writing professors. During the presentation, each professor received a copy of the guide, and the committee members demonstrated some of its basic features and uses. The initial response was very positive, with several faculty commenting on its professional appearance, and others laughing about the zombie page. The guide’s faculty appeal was a critical element, because the implementation process would require a minor amount of disruption to their normal classroom schedule. Committee members answered faculty questions and communicated intent to follow up with select professors for the trial and to schedule class visits.

All student participation in the testing process was completely voluntary. In order to use human test subjects, the committee secured Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from the University of Central Arkansas. The assessment method and data collection process were innocuous enough to secure exempt status. Prior to administering both tests, committee members announced to students that their participation was completely voluntary. Additionally, the committee provided letters of consent to all participants, requesting that the students read and keep them for their personal records.

The committee selected twenty classes, categorizing half as the control group and the other half as variable. Students in all twenty classes completed the pre-test. Afterwards, the variable groups received the library survival guide, while the control groups did not. After approximately two weeks, both groups completed the post-test and the data/results were compared. Once the control groups participated in the post-test, they received a copy of the guide. At this time, the online version of the library survival guide was made available on the library’s website. Striving to collect a random sample of test subjects, the committee selected a variety of professors and classes occurring at different times. While this strategy made the logistics of deploying the test more difficult, a randomly selected, unbiased sample offered the best opportunity to collect clear results and measure the effectiveness of the library guide.

Explanation and completion of the test and distribution of the guides required approximately ten minutes per class. Once the professor called the class to order, the test administrators introduced themselves and handed out the informed consent letters. The web address of the online test was written on the board, and students were directed to use their mobile devices to navigate to that address.

Each class had about twenty students, most of whom were predicted to have some type of mobile device, allowing for easy deployment of the test. Anticipating the possibility that some students might not have a mobile device, might not have brought their device to class, or might have a low battery, test administrators brought several iPads from the library. Library iPads had the test pre-loaded for the students to borrow as needed. Occasionally students would have trouble accessing the test, but this was generally due to entering the test web address incorrectly, or wireless/data connectivity issues. None of the students voiced negative reactions about having to take the test, and a few even followed up by asking questions of their own about the library.


The test sample included 183 participants in the control group pre-test, 155 participants in the control group post-test, 159 participants in the variable group pre-test, and 147 participants in the variable group post-test. Fluctuation in number of participants can be explained by varying class attendance, drop/add rates, and the voluntary participation policy. This pool of participants represented approximately 10% of enrolled UCA freshmen for fall 2014.

Results of the test were mixed (see table 1). Questions regarding uses for UCA ID cards (question 1), printing services (question 3), and study rooms (question 5) elicited the greatest increase in library awareness from the variable group compared to the control group. While correct responses increased between pre- and post-test (see figure 5), questions 3 and 5 continued to have a large number of incorrect responses. This was especially true for question 3, with only 33.3% of students in the variable group responding correctly. For question 2, regarding research assistance, the results were neutral with little difference between the number of correct responses for the control and variable groups. Between the pre-test and post-test, the number of correct responses to question 4, regarding finding full text resources, decreased, with that decrease greatest in the variable group.

The results show the library survival guide may have proven more successful at communicating simple information about library services, while more in-depth content about searching databases may require more explanation than the guide could provide. Students may not consider these activities relevant within the first month of college, which also may help to explain why they did not fully understand these concepts. Nevertheless, some students did answer the research-related question correctly, meaning that some students are knowledgeable enough to understand and benefit from more complex information about research strategies. Furthermore, the test results demonstrate that while the guide assisted in advancing student awareness of the library at a greater rate, control group participants showed improvement on the post-test in all questions except for question 4, which addresses finding full text resources. This shows that students gather information about the library from other sources such as peers, faculty, personal experiences, etc.

It is possible that test results were impacted by certain weaknesses in test question construction. On the topic of research assistance, question 2 offered multiple correct statements as options and required students to identify the most correct option; thus participants mostly selected correct statements, although not all selected the best option recognizing all correct statements. Question 3 regarding printing presented a significant amount of information about the library and contained more words than other questions; it required more careful reading and thoughtful analysis to identify the best answer. These questions presented some difficulty due to question construction rather than complexity of concept.

Question 4 was the most problematic question, because it did not test the knowledge of simple facts, but required a deeper understanding of concepts related to information organization and retrieval. Question 4 asked where students can find full text articles, with the options of the library databases, the periodical collection, or the library catalog. The intent of question 4 was to test students’ awareness that articles cannot be found in the library catalog, but usually must be retrieved through databases. Yet the wording of this question may have generated confusion, because print journal titles can be found in the library catalog, and articles can be found in these journals. Poor results for this test question provide supporting evidence of students’ inability to differentiate between the library catalog and an article database, and between the bibliographic details of online information sources. New college students often have difficulty recognizing the difference between an article, a book chapter, and an internet source when all are accessible online. While it is evident that all assessment tools have limitations, this tool was still successful in recording the impact of the survival guide on student awareness of library services.


All libraries struggle to reach patrons who do not ask for help, do not know they need help, and are unaware of the services available to them. While librarians devise and provide innumerable instruction classes and helpful websites, a print guide can reach those too anxious to approach with questions, or those who drift just outside the awareness of the library’s extensive services. Instead of waiting for students to come to us with questions, we sought to reach out to students in the comfort zone of their native academic environment. The Library Survival Guide’s goal was to market the library to new students and equip them with the introductory information literacy skills required to alleviate library anxiety and to take advantage of library resources and services. In order to reach students, the committee opted to create a concise print library guide and disseminate copies via the class setting.

The project’s effectiveness was demonstrated in several ways. The assessment results showed an increase in student awareness of library services after distribution of the survival guides, particularly evidenced through test questions 1, 3, and 5. Beyond the quantitative results of the study, the overwhelmingly positive reactions from students and faculty demonstrated the value of the guide as a promotional tool. Both faculty and students informally expressed appreciation for the clear and concise information about library services and research strategies presented in the guide. Several faculty members for both entry level and upper level classes incorporated the survival guide into course assignments. After receiving the survival guide, one student participant shared that, while she did not know everything about the library, she now knew where to look for information. This response perfectly answers the librarians’ original intent to use the survival guide as both a marketing tool and an introduction to information literacy. Knowing where to access information and where to get research assistance helps to mitigate library anxiety and research anxiety among students.

The entire process of creating the survival guide and visiting classes for assessment provided an avenue for the librarians to introduce themselves to new students as friendly, approachable, and helpful sources of assistance. Faculty and students had very positive reactions to the friendly, humorous tone of the guide. The tone and humor of the guide demonstrated that librarians can connect with students, can empathize with the challenges of the research process, and can ease students’ anxiety about the library.

Other academic libraries may explore many avenues for extending the research we have started with this project. Characteristics such as page size, total page count, binding style, and ratio of text to images can impact the appeal and usability of a library guide, and varying student preferences for these features is an avenue for further investigation. Librarians could also survey students to track changes in anxiety levels before and after receiving a library guide. Comparing the comprehension level of students receiving a print guide and those receiving an instruction session covering the same content may reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each method. Researchers exploring the impact of a library guide could collect qualitative data by soliciting feedback through open-ended questions. Testing the preferences of different student populations for a print versus a digital version of a library guide may shed light on how differences in medium may influence the reach of educational tools.

The committee plans to present the Library Survival Guide 2.0 in the fall 2015 semester to clarify and slightly expand information on research strategies. The revised guide includes an explanation of Boolean operators and wildcard characters. As changes to library policies and services must be integrated into all marketing, the survival guide must remain fluid, undergoing review and revision on at least an annual basis. The committee hopes to print sufficient survival guides to accommodate all incoming freshmen students for future fall semesters. While most first year students may require face-to-face bibliographic instruction to fully grasp library research strategies, all students can benefit from having a concise reminder to reinforce library instruction concepts. The Library Survival Guide serves to communicate accurate and relevant information about library services to benefit all students, and has the power to reach students who may not receive information literacy instruction elsewhere.


  1. Constance A. Mellon, “Library Anxiety: A Grounded Theory and Its Development,” College & Research Libraries 47, no. 2 (1986): 163.
  2. Sharon Lee Bostick, “The Development and Validation of the Library Anxiety Scale” (PhD diss., Wayne State University, 1992).
  3. Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie, Qun G. Jiao, and Sharon Bostick, Library Anxiety: Theory, Research, and Applications (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2004), 32.
  4. Gillian S. Gremmels, “Constance Mellon’s ‘Library Anxiety’: An Appreciation and a Critique,” College & Research Libraries 76, no. 3 (2015): 273.
  5. Ellen Metter and Elizabeth Willis, “Creating a Handbook for an Academic Library: Rationale and Process,” Research Strategies 11, no. 4 (1993): 220.
  6. Bradley Brazzeal, “Research Guides as Library Instruction Tools,” Reference Services Review, 34, no. 3 (2006): 366.
  7. Jeanne Galvin, “Alternative Strategies for Promoting Information Literacy,” Journal of Academic Librarianship 31, no. 4 (2005): 353.
  8. Metter and Willis, “Creating a Handbook,” 220.
  9. Ibid., 229.
  10. Lisa O’Connor and Kacy Lundstrom, “The Impact of Social Marketing Strategies on the Information Seeking Behaviors of College Students,” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50, no. 4 (2011): 351–65.
  11. R. K. Bhatt, “Relevance of Ranganathan’s Laws of Library Science in Library Marketing,” Library Philosophy and Practice (2011): Paper 551.
  12. Metter and Willis, “Creating a Handbook,” 220.
  13. Mignon Adams, “Individualized Approach to Learning Library Skills,” Library Trends 29, no. 1 (1980): 83–94.
  14. Katy Kelly, “Catholic Academic Libraries and Print Promotional Materials,” Catholic Library World 84, no. 2 (2013): 98.
  15. Jane A. Keefer, “The Hungry Rats Syndrome: Library Anxiety, information Literacy, and the Academic Reference Process,” RQ 32, no. 3 (1993): 336.
  16. Metter and Willis, “Creating a Handbook,” 221.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Galvin, “Promoting Information Literacy,” 352.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Adams, “Learning Library Skills,” 83.
  21. Jackie Murtagh and Caroline Williams, “‘Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want!’ Developing Students’ Information Skills at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) Library, by Asking the Right Questions, and Giving the Right Answers,” New Review of Academic Librarianship 9, no. 1 (2003): 106.
  22. Martina Malvasi, Catherine Rudowsky, and Jesus M. Valencia, Library Rx: Measuring and Treating Library Anxiety (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2009), 50.
  23. Metter and Willis, “Creating a Handbook,” 221.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Adams, “Learning Library Skills,” 83.
  26. Galvin, “Promoting Information Literacy,” 356.
  27. Adams, “Learning Library Skills,” 85–86.
  28. Ibid., 87.
  29. Arne J. Almquist, “The Innovative Academic Library: Implementing a Marketing Orientation to Better Address User Needs and Improve Communication,” Journal of Library Innovation 5, no. 1 (2014): 46.
  30. Onwuegbuzie, Jiao, and Bostick, Library Anxiety, 249.
  31. Marie Kennedy, “What are We Really Doing to Market Electronic Resources?” Library Management 32, no. 3 (2011): 146; Kelly, “Catholic Academic Libraries,” 96.
  32. Heather Empey and Nancy E. Black, “Marketing the Academic Library: Building on the @ your library Framework,” College & Undergraduate Libraries 12, no. 1–2 (2015): 19–33.
  33. Kennedy, “Market Electronic Resources,” 146.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Jason Briddon, Jackie Chelin, Greg Ince, Jane Redman, Alastair Sleat, and Elspeth Williams, “‘E-books Are Good If There Are No Copies Left’: A Survey of E-book Usage at UWE Library Services,” Library and Information Research 3, no. 104 (2009): 51, 54.
  36. Ibid., 54.
  37. Andy Revelle et al., “Book Lovers, Technophiles, Pragmatists, and Printers: The Social and Demographic Structure of User Attitudes toward E-books,” College and Research Libraries 73, no. 5 (2012): 420–21.
  38. Ibid., 425.
  39. Barry Cull, “Reading Revolutions: Online Digital Text and Implications for Reading in Academe,” First Monday 16, no. 6 (2011),
  40. Nancy M. Foasberg, “Student Reading Practices in Print and Electronic Media,” College & Research Libraries 75, no. 5 (2014): 711.
  41. Ibid., 715–16, 719.
  42. Jennifer Gerke and Jack M. Maness, “The Physical and the Virtual: The Relationship between Library as Place and Electronic Collections,” College & Research Libraries 71, no. 1 (2010): 27.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Briddon et al., “E-books Are Good,” 54; Revelle et al., “Book Lovers, Technophiles, Pragmatists, and Printers,” 425; Foasberg, “Student Reading Practices,” 714–17.
  45. Kennedy, “Market Electronic Resources,” 152.

Appendix. Test Questions

  1. What do you need your UCA BearCard for in the Library?
    1. To get into the library after midnight
    2. To use the library printers
    3. To check-out library items
    4. All of the above
    5. None of the above
  2. How can you get help with researching a topic?
    1. Call the UCA Library Reference Desk
    2. Email questions through the Ask a Librarian page
    3. Use the research guides on the UCA Library website
    4. All of the above
    5. Only A and C
  3. Which of the following statements is false?
    1. Students get 100 pages of printing pre-loaded on the BearCard each semester.
    2. Black and white prints cost 10¢ per page at the library.
    3. You cannot print from your personal laptop in the library.
    4. BearBucks can be used to pay for printing.
    5. Color prints cost 50¢ per page at the library.
  4. Where can you find full-text, scholarly articles for your research assignments?
    1. UCA Library databases
    2. UCA Library periodical collection
    3. UCA Library catalog
    4. All of the above
    5. Only A and B
  5. Which statement about the Library study rooms is false?
    1. You can write on study room walls with dry erase markers.
    2. Study rooms must be reserved ahead of time.
    3. The Library has small study rooms for individual use.
    4. Some study rooms are equipped with projectors.
    5. Study rooms are available for student use on both 1st and 2nd floors.
Front cover of Survival Guide

Figure 1. Front cover of Survival Guide

Introductory page

Figure 2. Introductory page

Sample page from the How To section

Figure 3. Sample page from the How To section

Final page of A to Z section

Figure 4. Final page of A to Z section

Percentage of Change from Pre-Test to Post-Test Responses

Figure 5. Percentage of Change from Pre-Test to Post-Test Responses

Table 1. Percentage of Correct Answers


Control Group

Variable Group































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