Assessment Brief #98 - How Well do Personal Librarians Work?

Assessment Logo: assessment-revision-outcomes

February 2018


The Miami University Libraries (Oxford campus) provide "Personal Librarians" for undergraduate students in the first year. In addition to offering additional student support, this program focuses on fostering librarian-to-student communication and relationships beyond the immediate point of need. A key part of this program is communication via regular e-mails designed and sent using the Emma e-mail marketing platform. E-mails highlight library services and resources, plus give helpful hints tailored to first-year students. View an example e-mail.

Program outcomes are to: increase library engagement, reduce library anxiety, and foster relationships. Assessment in the past year has focused on questions relating to the program's outcomes and structure.

1.  Is e-mail a viable means of communication? This question is crucial to the success of the program, given that some studies show college students prefer other modes of communication. At the end of the 2016/2017 academic year, Miami students were asked via survey to rate their preferences for the following communication media: e-mail, social media, text message, chat, and in-person. A total of 197 students completed the survey, and 79.8% of students listed e-mail as their first preference for communication, while 14.9% listed it as their second preference.

The open rates for personal librarian e-mails were also examined. Open rate refers to the amount of students who view any given e-mail that is sent out. In e-mail marketing, traditional open rates average in the lower 20% range, and in education, rates trend slightly lower.1 Over the course of the 2016/2017 academic year, the average open rate for personal librarian e-mails was 58.65% for a total of 21 e-mails sent, with no individual e-mail having an open rate of less than 49.8%. Open rates were fairly consistent throughout the year, with the expected maximum occurring at the beginning of the year (open rates around 70%), and then falling between 50% and 60% for the rest of the academic year.

2.  What is the relationship between the program and library engagement? To answer this question, library engagement was examined for a sample (15%) of students who had a personal librarian, and a sample of students who did not have a personal librarian. For each student, we examined library engagement via the following data: library checkouts, study room reservations, library event attendance, and library consultations.

The table below shows the results.

Population Zero Library Engagement
AY 2016/2017
Average # Library Engagements
AY 2016-2017
Students with PL 90 of 424 (21.2%) 10.00
Students Without PL 27 of 108 (25%) 4.67

Next Steps

As a result of this assessment, the personal librarian program was expanded to all incoming students beginning with the 2017/2018 academic year. Future analysis will occur to determine the program's impact on library engagement in the long term.

1The Hidden Metrics of E-mail Deliverability. (2017). Retrieved January 3, 2018, from