Report: Libraries Make a Significant Contribution to Student Success in Community Colleges

Libraries carry more leverage than one would expect when it comes to student success in community colleges, recent report finds report by Ithaca S + R.

The report, titled “Student Focused: Fostering Cross-Unit Collaboration to Meet the Changing Needs of Community College Students,” included interviews with 37 Academic Directors (CAO), Directors of Student Affairs (CSAO), Library Directors, Faculty and Students. of American community colleges. Interviews took place between February and November 2020.

Danielle Cooper

The report illustrates how community colleges are adapting and supporting the needs of students and what obstacles they may encounter along the way.

This is the second report from the Community College Academic and Student Support Ecosystems Project (CCASSE), a project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The first was released in December 2019.

Among the report’s multiple findings, one particularly notable is the role community college libraries play in supporting student success, said report co-author and librarian Danielle Cooper. Cooper is the Collaborations and Research Manager at Ithaka S + R.

“In fact, a lot of libraries perform what I would call a triage function,” Cooper said. “They direct students to the services and resources they need that go way beyond what you typically think of the library, if you have a very narrow definition of that. And that’s a really important function that needs to be further recognized and probably further developed. This is where the University Library can really be a valuable partner across the campus.

The report found that faculty members also played similar roles, connecting students to campus resources.

“Some have academic advisory responsibilities, but even beyond that, it was fairly consistent that there was already quite a lot of field work going on by faculty in this area,” Cooper said. “They really are such a strong partner to have in this job. ”

Melissa BlanksteinMelissa Blankstein

“Library staff, including students, provide students with advice on which desk can best help them, direct them to online resources or even physically accompany them to the appropriate building,” the report said.

Despite feeling overwhelmed by the small size of the staff, library managers embraced the library’s role as a “friendly face,” according to the report.

“Although librarians are generally not included in the systems for tracking interventions on campus. . . they also direct students to financial resources or intervene if they observe a student in difficulty, ”notes the report.

And when the COVID-19 pandemic spread, libraries were instrumental in technology lending programs, the report added.

“Several senior executives described the ‘technology gap’ as a barrier to student success that existed before the pandemic and finally received the attention it deserved when COVID-19 hit,” the report added. “Most colleges loaned laptops to students who needed them. Many also loaned hotspots and provided Wi-Fi in parking lots. Some provided webcams and other equipment for teachers.

The next report from the CCASSE project is underway, said Melissa Blankstein, survey analyst at Ithaka S + R. It will focus on how libraries connect – and could collaborate better – with other community college departments.

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