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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of library resources and services by degree-seeking older adult students (aged 50 years and over) and it is driven by the role of libraries in serving this often overlooked student population. Older adult students bring many benefits to the life of college campuses; nevertheless, many of these students also face challenges in meeting their information needs in academic libraries.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors surveyed degree-seeking older adult students at a comprehensive metropolitan university in the western USA. Surveys were distributed to 579 students enrolled in the spring semester 2013, 134 students completed the 15-question online survey about the use of the library, information-seeking behaviors and use of other university services.

Findings – The self-reported findings confirmed that the library meets most of the information needs of this student population. Students commented on satisfaction with the library services, barriers to using the library, areas in need of improvement and use of other university services.

Research limitations/implications – Survey participants were gathered from one university and a corresponding sample size of 18-24-year-old students were not surveyed. More research is needed to demonstrate how this particular group varies from their traditional aged counterparts.

Practical implications – This paper can be used as a starting point for future research into the information-seeking behaviors and needs of degree-seeking older adult students to develop greater understanding of this diverse population and their unique strengths and challenges. There is an absence in the literature on this demographic group in academic libraries.

Originality/value – The article includes recommendations for further study and suggests outreach opportunities directed to older adult students that can also benefit the growing diversity of college students.

Copyright Statement

This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at Reference Services Review, published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1108/RSR-06-2014-0017