Word pairs networking chart from our research study asking student what they think librarians can help them with

Incoming first-year student preparedness for college research study

Collaborators: Abi Morgan, Social Sciences Librarian, Miami University and Janelle Verdream, Ohio State University at Newark.

In Ohio, public school funding models have been ruled unconstitutional four times due to the great discrepancies among districts from different economic and geographic areas. One of these discrepancies is often the availability of librarians and library services. When I heard librarian Abi Morgan was doing research that delved into this topic I jumped to join in because Pennsylvania, where I had worked as a community college librarian, also had one of the worst school funding models in the nation. Having personally worked with students coming from the richest and poorest school districts in the state, I saw this dichotomy first hand. In our research, we aimed to examine how these discrepancies may alter preparedness for college-level research for incoming first-year students from various backgrounds. I co-authoring the survey. After the survey’s completion I took the lead in analyzing the results. I co-authored our presentations.


On our first round of research, we worked with the Office of Institutional Research to compile a list of students from Appalachian-designated counties. We narrowed this list to Ohio counties that were considered at risk economically. We then sent a survey to these students and to a control group of students from other Ohio counties from our incoming first-year class. We received 117 responses in total.

In October 2021, Abi Morgan and I conducted an updated version of this research with this year’s incoming class. This time, we based our evaluation of poverty on the Ohio Department of Education’s Typology of Ohio School Districts, which divides Ohio’s 650+ public school districts by their rural-urban-suburban and poverty characteristics. We also asked questions about remote learning in this survey. Librarians from Ohio State University-Newark also participated between our surveys we have more than 200 respondents.


We hoped to learn about these students’ confidence in their ability to conduct college-level research based on their library experiences at different types of high schools and districts throughout Ohio. For example, we found that 82-88% of rural and small town students in our survey reported they never or rarely received librarian help with their research in high school. These same students reported coming into college feeling unprepared to do college-level research. Similarly, students reporting lack of library instruction due to remote learning reported feeling a similar lack of preparedness. However, students who reported even rarely receiving help from a librarian in high school registered measurably higher confidence heading into college than the majority of students who received no help at all. Librarians make a difference in students’ lives.

Related Scholarly Output

ALA 2023 Presentation Slides

Speaker notes available via the 3-dot menu


Fall 2022 Update

After our ALAO presentation, our research team received a personal email from the State Librarian of Ohio inviting us to apply for a grant to continue our research:

Good morning Abby,

I attended your session at ALAO about the research you’re doing on the impact of K12 librarians in college readiness. I’m very intrigued by what you’ve done so far. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered looking for grant funds to expand the work, but our Competitive grants this year (due Monday!), include a Data Management and Analytics category. I realized that the timing could be very inopportune this year, but I’m very interested in the results you’ve found so far in your work. I would love to continue to follow your work in this area.

Thank you,


Wendy Knapp
State Librarian
Director, State Library of Ohio

Mid-2023 Update

More than 100 attended our presentation at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June including Ohio State Librarian Wendy Knapp who spoke with Abi after the session. Knapp said she’s been talking about our research with other state libraries and that she wants to personally help us further our research including finding additional academic partners for our fall survey to further our research. Considering we just announced our intentions to re-run the survey in Fall 2023, this was very welcome and cheering news.


Above is a portion of a word-pairs networking chart from our research study based on asking student what they think librarians can help them with.