identifying library anxiety through students' learning-modality preferences

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  • Identifying Library Anxiety through Students' Learning-Modality PreferencesAuthor(s): Qun G. Jiao and Anthony J. OnwuegbuzieSource: The Library Quarterly, Vol. 69, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), pp. 202-216Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL: .Accessed: 12/06/2014 18:41

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    Qun G. Jiao' and Anthony J. Onwuegbuzie2

    Research indicates that library anxiety comprises several dimensions, includ- ing the following: barriers with staff, affective barriers, comfort with the li- brary, knowledge of the library, and mechanical barriers. Many students ex- perience difficulties adapting to the library environment, suggesting that learning-modality preference is an antecedent of library anxiety. To date, no research has investigated the relationship between the dimensions of library anxiety and learning-modality preferences. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate this relationship by using a multivariate analysis. Partici- pants were 203 students enrolled in several sections of a graduate-level re- search methodology course. A canonical correlation analysis revealed that graduate students who preferred to work in quiet surroundings, who liked structure, who preferred not to receive information via the tactile mode, who preferred to undertake difficult tasks in the morning, and who pre- ferred not to undertake difficult tasks either in the afternoon or evening tended to have higher levels of library anxiety associated with affective barri- ers, comfort with the library, and mechanical barriers. In addition, students who preferred to work while surrounded by noise and who required mobility in learning environments tended to have higher levels of library anxiety as- sociated with barriers with staff, affective barriers, knowledge of the library, and mechanical barriers. Based on these findings, it is clear that librarians need to share learning-modality information with administrators, faculty, and library users such that it will provide a powerful vehicle for communica- tion among all parties involved in the learning process.

    1. Reference librarian and assistant professor, Newman Library, Baruch College, City Univer- sity of New York, 151 East 25th Street, Box H-0520, New York, New York 10010; Telephone 212-802-2436; Fax 212-802-2393; E-mail

    2. Assistant professor, Department of Educational Leadership, Valdosta State University, Val- dosta, Georgia 31698; Telephone 912-247-8333; Fax 912-247-8326; E-mail tonwuegb@

    [Libra?y Quarterly, vol. 69, no. 2, pp. 202-216]

    i 1999 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.



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    For the overwhelming majority of American college students, using aca- demic libraries is markedly different from using public libraries. In- deed, library anxiety is rife among college students. Constance A. Mel- lon, who first coined the term "library anxiety," found that at least 75 percent of undergraduate students experience some form of anxiety while utilizing the library [1]. Thus, as many as 9,200,000 of the nearly 12,300,000 undergraduate students who enrolled in the four-year col- leges and universities in the United States [2, p. 179] may be affected by some form of library anxiety. Qun G. Jiao, AnthonyJ. Onwuegbuzie, and Art Lichtenstein found that library anxiety is a situation-specific anxiety that is characterized by worry and emotionality [3]. This form of anxiety, which typically occurs when an individual is in the library or preparing to use it, often manifests itself in negative emotions, in- cluding tension, fear, feelings of uncertainty and helplessness, negative self-defeating thoughts, and mental disorganization [3, 1, 4], all of which tend to prevail at one or more of the six stages of the library search process, namely, task initiation, topic selection, prefocus explo- ration, focus formulation, information collection, and search closure, thus preventing individuals from successfully undertaking the library search process [5-7].

    Mellon has identified several features of library-anxious students. In particular, these individuals tend to feel that not only are their own library skills inadequate relative to those of others, but that their in- eptness is a source of embarrassment that should be kept hidden [1]. Consequently, these students often refrain from asking questions of library staff or of other students, fearing that their incompetence will be revealed [4]. These avoidance behaviors can lead to underachieve- ment [8]. Thus, there is little doubt that library anxiety has emerged as a debilitative phenomenon, the construct of which has been sub- jected to empirical research only during the past six years.

    Using factor analysis, Sharon L. Bostick identified five general di- mensions of library anxiety, namely, barriers with staff, affective barri- ers, comfort with the library, knowledge of the library, and mechanical barriers [9]. "Barriers with staff" refers to the perception of students that librarians and other library staff are intimidating and unapproach- able. In addition, the librarian is perceived as being too busy to provide assistance in using the library. Mellon found that students with this perception tend to report high levels of library anxiety [1]. "Affective barriers" stems from students' feelings of inadequacy about using the library. These feelings of ineptness are heightened by the assumption

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    that they alone possess incompetent library skills [1]. "Comfort with the library" deals with how safe, welcoming, and nonthreatening stu- dents perceive the library to be. Students who are not comfortable in the library tend to have higher levels of library anxiety [3]. "Knowledge of the library" refers to how familiar with the library students feel they are. A lack of familiarity leads to frustration and anxiety and, subse- quently, further avoidance behaviors [4]. Finally, "mechanical barri- ers" refers to feelings that emerge as a result of students' reliance on mechanical library equipment, including microfilm readers, computer printers, copy machines, and change machines. Students who have dif- ficulty operating one or more pieces of the library equipment tend to experience high anxiety.

    Jiao, Onwuegbuzie, and Lichenstein found that students with the highest levels of library anxiety tend to be young, male, those who do not speak English as their native language, those who have high levels of academic achievement, and those who are engaged in either part- time or full-time employment. In addition, when library-anxious students visit the library, they tend to do so either to utilize library technology, to return a book, to conduct a library search for thesis or dissertation topics, to obtain a book or an article for an assignment, or to study for a class project [3]. Perhaps most important, these re- searchers found a significant negative relationship between level of li- brary anxiety and frequency of library visits. That is, students with high levels of library anxiety tend to utilize the library less than their low- anxious counterparts. Even more compelling is the finding of Onwueg- buzie that library anxiety can lead students to avoid using the library as regularly as needed [8].

    Although freshmen and sophomores appear to experience higher levels of library anxiety than do graduate students [3], the anxiety expe- rienced by the latter apparently can still be debilitative. Indeed, On- wuegbuzie found that certain dimensions of library anxiety make it dif- ficult for graduate students to write research proposals adequately. These dimensions of library anxiety included a "lack of perceived com- petence in using the library and the library mechanical equipment" and "lack of knowledge of the library." "Resource anxiety," stemming from the inability of libraries to subscribe to a sufficient number of periodicals and the like, also appears to impair performance by induc- ing search-avoidance behaviors. In addition, "level of interpersonal anxiety" seems to be a factor in determining students' research pro- posal writing ability. That is, students who are anxious about seeking help from a librarian tend to produce research proposals of lower qual- ity [8].