Electronic resources form an important part of a college library’s collections and services. Without those resources, it would be difficult for students to access the wealth of information available to researchers around the world.

But how (and how often) do college students engage with these resources?

In our previous post, “Top Four Reasons Students Use Their College Library,” we noted that more than half (51%) of the students who responded to our Spring 2015 Student Engagement Insights survey said that they’re at the library to use the online databases; also, 19% of the students said that they use the library to look up job and career information. This indicates that a good number of students do know about, and make use of, the library’s electronic resources.

However, we also wanted to better understand their use of resources (such as electronic databases and e-books) away from the library itself. Read below, and see if this information surprises you!

Do students use their college library’s electronic resources outside of the library?

How often do college students use their library's electronic resources from home? Cengage Learning

As we review these results, we see that a majority of students (54%) access their library’s electronic resources on an as-needed basis. This is understandable; some students don’t have as many research papers to write, and, consequently, need to use the databases less frequently. Others may simply prefer using the databases while they’re at the library, rather than from their homes (or elsewhere). Any way you look at it, these students appreciate the convenience of online access, but haven’t integrated use at home into a part of their study routines.

However, other students state that they’re more regular in their use. Eight percent use the library’s online resources from home once a month, and 12% use them weekly.

Meanwhile, some students make use of these resources quite frequently. Ten percent said that they’re using those resources at home a few times a week, whereas a small (but not unimportant) number, 3%, use them every day. We were curious about the factors that might encourage this rate of usage, so we reviewed our data to learn more. Of the students who access the library’s resources from home with this degree of frequency, we noticed that more than 60% take at least some of their classes online, which may indicate that they’re used to working on coursework from home, on their own computers. Likewise, more than half are “non-traditional” students over the age of 25; these students likely have many responsibilities and demands on their time, and would appreciate the ability to use those resources at their own convenience.

On the other hand, 12% of the responding students never access their library’s resources from home. Some may not have their own computer at home, which is a challenge in itself. However, other students may simply not know how to access them from home… or know that they can do so.

More than likely, you have a few of these students in your courses. If you’d like to promote the value of using these resources from home, talk about such benefits as:

  • The convenience of accessing the library’s resources from your own computer (especially appealing for those who keep busy schedules with work and family responsibilities on top of their school responsibilities)
  • The accuracy and authority of the information in the library’s databases (compared to what they’ll find if they rely exclusively on open-web resources)
  • The availability of online help available from the library, such as virtual reference services (such as live chats with librarians), research guides that will direct them to the databases and resources most appropriate to their projects, and information-literacy tutorials that will help them become better researchers.

eBooks at the College Library:  Do students check them out?

Of course, online databases aren’t the only electronic resources available from the library. E-books are also a popular way of accessing reading material. So, in our survey, we also asked students: “Do you check out e-books from your library?”

Of the respondents, 26% said yes and 74% said no, indicating that nearly three-quarters of college students may be missing out on a potential source of reading material for both academic and personal purposes.

What are some benefits of e-Books from the library? Here are some compelling reasons why students might want to consider checking them out:

  • Increased options. Some books are only available in e-book format. These may be “born-digital” books with no print counterpart; or, they may be books long out of print. By including e-books in their search results, students have more access to more information.
  • Ease of searching (and finding) information inside the book. Did you forget where you found that important quote? Search for the key words, and it will show up within seconds.
  • Less likelihood of losing the book. If students check out an e-book—which they might want to read around campus… or in their hometown—they can spare themselves the agony of losing that book and having to pay for its replacement. (Of course, they may still lose their electronic reader… which is another matter entirely.)
  • The weight! How many of us have walked from the library back to our dorms or apartments, laden down with the dozen or so books we need for a research project? If students check out available e-books, they’ll spare themselves possible physical pain. (This may seem like a small matter in the grand scheme of things, but it can be a consideration if you’re already recovering from shoulder or back injuries.)

Whether students are using the library’s resources for learning or leisure, they’ll surely appreciate the convenience of accessing them from their own computers or electronic readers. If your students aren’t yet taking advantage of this convenient service, talk to them about the benefits as you discuss your next research assignment.

How do your students use your college library’s electronic resources? Do they enjoy using them from home? How do you make use of them in your classes? Share your comments below.