What is Library Anxiety: How do We Address it in the Online Environment

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

Library anxiety impacts students. Anxious students avoid using library materials, they rely on web-based content, and withdraw from school due to feeling like an “imposter”. Participants will learn characteristics exhibited by highly-anxious students, student intervention strategies and identify services that will aid in retention and reduction in online library anxiety.


Dr. Holly Rick is currently Core Faculty in the PhD Management program at Walden University. In her role she focuses on teaching, program development, and research. Her research focus has been on career studies, information literacy and assessment. Her doctorate is in Organization and Management minoring in Leadership studies from Capella University. Holly Rick was the Research and Assessment librarian for the University of Phoenix. She managed the document delivery service and interlibrary loan process, manages the process for electronic reading reserves, and supports the faculty research for the School of Advanced Studies. Prior to this role, she was the Campus College Chair for the School of Advanced Studies in Business. She has taught in higher education for the past 10 years, has mentored students through their graduate and doctoral research, and is the owner of an Arizona based company. She sits on the professional development committee for the Mountain Plains Library Association and publishes within library and business conferences around how libraries can partner with others to promote professional development, building portfolios around professional development, and around the use of anxiety for persistence for online education.
Educational thought leader with extensive experience in instructional and curriculum design. My background includes delivery and design of effective curriculum and training methods for faculty development and to improve student outcomes performance in higher education, vocational, and K-12 environments. I am looking forward to meeting you at OLC!

Extended Abstract

The term library anxiety was first identified back in 1986 by Constance Mellon. The term library anxiety was coined in a qualitative research study where students were feeling that they did not have adequate skills or experience in using the library in an efficient or effective manner. The overall results of this study identified that universities need to have a clear understanding of the students that they serve and provide services and support around information literacy to assist students in being information literate.

Since 1986, much of the literature around library anxiety has identified that students may be embarrassed to approach a librarian or are unable to ask the right question to the librarian to get the information that they need. Students become frustrated with their lack of information literacy skills or underestimate the skills needed to use a library.

Creating additional complexity, online programs in many situations have students who have not attended school or in an online environment, students may not realize that they do not know the required information literacy skills, and students may lack the evaluative skills needed to identify the appropriate materials needed for their coursework. With this added fear, technology can compound the anxiety online student’s face when accessing online content.

While some traditional library services can meet the needs of online students, there are areas where different types of services are needed to support the online students. Librarians in a brick and mortar school can easily go to class, establish relationships and be available to students when they attend class. This may not feel the same for students who are attending online programs. Students may not be aware of all of the services and support that is offered to them in the way of information literacy support.

Research Question:

The research question was identified as what are characteristics of high risk students and intervention strategies to overcome library anxiety?

Methods: The current method of content analysis was used for this presentation. Written papers, online presentations, photos or visuals, audio-visual text and hypertexts were all analyzed to identify themes that were found within the content identified.  


At risk students can be identified in many ways. They can be identified by gender, age, native language, technology exposure, employment status, access to academic library, how often student visited the library, and course load.

There are many strategies that are used in a brick and mortar environment that can be useful for online students. Librarians can attend and present at orientation, they can be a part of the instruction in the course, and they can create easy how to materials to support the students.

One area that was noted was building relationships between the librarian, program deans (for the updated curriculum) and the teaching faculty. These relationships can have a great impact on student success as the student will be supported in a skill that they will need throughout the program.


Online institutions need to have access to data about the students that they support. Knowing some information about student’s technology background or previous information literacy skills will help faculty, librarians and program deans to create clear materials that support the learning environment. The materials need to be scaffolded within the curriculum to support all students during their academic journey.

Collaboration between librarians, faculty and deans are imperative to create a consistent environment, delivering the same message of how important information literacy will be for their academic career but for their actual career. The collaboration in an online environment can be more challenging however the benefits including student retention are warranted.  


With the changing demographics of the students, it will be important for librarians, deans and faculty to learn more about their students. Educational informatics and collective search strategies of the students would help librarians to target areas where they could build services around the students.

Other services such as embedded or faculty librarians that are designated to an area of content or the use of just in time services would allow the students to feel more supported throughout the program.      

Continued website development making the library embedded instruction appear like other searches that they may complete could be helpful. In addition, the librarians can start to measure learning outcomes as it relates to information literacy and update their services and programs as the data identifies.

For research presentations please including a brief, concise description of context, questions, methods, results, conclusions, and a discussion/interpretation