In the summer of 2002 Virginia Union University's L. Douglas Wilder Library and Learning Resource Center played a key role in the university's residential college preparation program - the Academic Empowerment Summer Institute (AESI). Monday through Thursday, 31 incoming freshmen filled Wilder Library's bibliographic instruction classroom to receive instructorled, interactive lessons on library resources and their applicability to all college courses. Students were expected to successfully complete graded assignments focused on the mastery of specific library and research skills - both basic and more advanced, from accessing the online catalog and learning the different searches that one can execute to constructing a proper citation and the use of Boolean Operators. The interconnectivity between strong, library-research skills and success across all academic disciplines was stressed. This relationship was further reinforced as portions of class time were used to work on other academic assignments.

The students were given identical pre- and post-tests. Beginning with a description of the student population, the program, and its goals, this article is a discussion of the pre- and post-tests, their respective scores, and the conclusions to be drawn. Finally, consideration is given to ways significant increases can be made to grow in subsequent years, with perhaps even greater gains.

The Program

Offered by the university's Academic Empowerment Center and designed to prepare students for the challenges of higher education, AESI was a five-week program for those who were incoming and provisional. Along with the fiftyminute, four-day-a-week library course, students took developmental English and mathematics, as well as general, college-orientation classes. Admission for the fall semester was dependent upon successful completion of the program.

Student Population

Of the 31 students involved, 16 were female and 15 male. Twentynine lived on campus, while two commuted. Sixteen, by far the largest representation, were from Virginia. The 31 constituted one class, that is to say there were not multiple sections of any of the courses. Good grades on library assignments were essential to being successful in the program.

Thirty of the 31 students had a GPA attached to their record. The average GPA was 1.8 on a 4-point scale; 1.9 appeared most often (8 times). The low was 1.3, high 2.6, each appearing once. Nineteen of these students reported SAT scores. The average of these was 911 (combined Math and Verbal). The high score was 1030, low 450. Five students submitted ACT scores. The average of these was 16, high 20 (once), low 14 (also once). One student had both SAT and ACT scores - 740/16. Eight students had neither SAT nor ACT scores.

The Test

As has been mentioned, the students were given identical pre- and post-tests. The pre-test was given on the first day of class prior to any instruction, the post-test on the last day. Neither test had any effect on student grades, and the students were made aware of this. The test consisted of 10 questions worth 10 points each. Nine of these were multiple-choice, the tenth required putting certain components of an MLA citation in the correct order, 1 to 6. Five sets of tests were discarded, making the statistical population 26 test sets.

The average score on the pre-test was 48%. This rose by 16 percentage points to an average of 64% on the post-test. Both the mode and median also showed similar climbs. The mode went from 50% (represented seven times) to 80% (represented eight times). The median score rose 18 percentage points from 50% to 68%. These increases were well distributed among the population. Nineteen (73%) of the pairings raised their score. The average increase of these scores was 25.5 percentage points. Only 4 sets of scores decreased. The average decrease of these four was 20 percentage points. Three sets remained the same.

These numbers show that the overwhelming majority of students demonstrated significant gains as a result of the four-week library class. Although it may be difficult to draw complete satisfaction from post-course test scores in the mid- 60s, with the pre-course scores hovering in the 40s, there is some solace in these results. The challenge is to find ways to build on these increases, no matter what incoming, student-performance measures may indicate.

This challenge will certainly be confronted next summer when a new AESI class will arrive on campus. A re-working, or more aptly a "re-wording," of several of the test questions is being undertaken. Several of the questions simply did not test well. Furthermore, it would most likely prove positive to have a definite section of class time devoted to subjects specifically covered on the pre- and post-tests. The danger here is that no educator wants to "teach to the test," but if the test questions are representative of the major themes of the course, this danger can be easily avoided. Heading into the second year of the AESI program, these will be the major avenues explored in the hopes of bettering results. A topic for future research may be tracking whether or not participation in such a residential, college-preparation program leads to an increase in library usage throughout the student's undergraduate career.

Course Pre/Post-Test

(please print)

Directions: Please answer the following questions as best you can.
1. You need to find books about Langston Hughes but not written by him. Which type of searches would be the best way to search an online catalog to find these materials?
A. Title
B. Subject
C. Keyword
D. Author

2. Which of the following type of searches would be best to find all books by and about Alice Walker?
A. Title
B. Subject
C. Keyword/Search Everything
D. Author

3. Which of the following is an example of a scholarly journal?
A. US News and World Report,
B. Black Enterprise
C. Education Digest
D. Jet

4. The process by which one can obtain books or articles from another library is called:
B interlibrary loan
C. cash and carry
D. circulation express

5. is:
A. an e-mail address
B. an address to a gopher site
C. a Web site address
D. database locator

6 Put the following in order (first to last, 1-6) as they would appear in an MLA citation:
1. ___ edition, if it is not the first (i.e., 2nd ed., rev. ed.);
2. ___title
3. ___editor, translator, com- piler, if any;
4. ___ the name of the author or authors
5. ___place and date of the book's publication
6. ___the name of the book's publisher.

7. Which of the following is an electronic database?
A. History Universe
B. Yahoo
D. Alta Vista

8. For concise and brief biographical information (example - birth date, business address, educational background) which area of the library would be best to search in
A. Archives
B. Stacks
C. Wilder Room
D. Reference

9. Is it A. possible to put e-books on reserve? B. Is it possible to print from e-books? A.____ B.____ (yes or no) 10. A Wilder Library Subject Guide is a good place to:
A. Conclude your research
B. Find the most current infor- mation on a variety of subjects
C. Begin your library research
D. Wilder Library doesn't have subject guides

James A. Damron is Assistant Professor and Public Services Librarian for the L. Douglas Wilder Library and L.R.C., Virginia Union University.