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A survey concerning perceptions of academic librarians was conducted at a large, 4-year university with three populations: librarians, faculty, and undergraduate students. This paper presents results from the student population, with comparison to the librarian and faculty samples. The major research questions address perceptions about what librarians know (expertise and skills), what librarians do (role and duties), and what librarians are like (motivations and affective characteristics). Respondents showed a little more awareness of librarians’ professional duties than in previous studies; however, librarians’ duties related to organization, reference, and teaching remained more hidden from view. And, many students still assume librarians do clerical work, and still underestimate librarians’ salaries and required degrees. Most students still don’t consult with librarians, as they do not believe librarians’ help is needed by them—perhaps because they strongly associate librarians with books. Yet, students’ value for librarians’ expertise was high, and their value for librarians’ knowledge and skill with resources rivalled that of faculty. Gaps among the three groups related to the definition of “research” seem important to address. The study also points to an ongoing need for research into specific populations of students, how prior experience affects college library use, and the potential for disciplinary differences among students.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the journal New Review of Academic Librarianship on April 25, 2021, available online:



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