Libraries can play a significant role in improving the lives of community college students, who view them as a key space for connecting with needed services, according to a new study. Ithaka S+R, a research and consulting service, surveyed 10,844 students across seven community colleges about how they view success in college and what services help them reach those goals.
Around 60 percent of surveyed students reported that gaining knowledge or mastering the subject matter of their major was highly important to them. Making more money and succeeding in their careers followed at 37 percent. Students noted a plethora of challenges that make it difficult to succeed, such as food insecurity and the difficulty of balancing work and class.
In its survey, Ithaka S+R detailed a list of “service concepts” that could help address student needs and asked students where they would like to access those resources on campus. Some of the services mentioned included a single point of contact to help students navigate available resources, childcare, community advocacy, loan technology, and social workers. Students most frequently picked the library as their preferred location for using those services. “This project is really, in essence, about re-envisioning the role of the library,” Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, co-author of the report, told Inside Higher Ed.
Rethinking the college library
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that one of the colleges chosen for the survey project, Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, is in the process of unveiling a “family-friendly study-room program” for its students, 2,676 of whom are parents. “We already see students who are parents or guardians bringing children into the library, and studying or using our other resources while they’re also attempting to watch and entertain their children,” Katie Ghidiu, Monroe Community College’s director of library services, told The Chronicle. “We can see that providing a dedicated space for them with age-appropriate and educational toys, games, and activities would support those who are already coming.”
The researchers emphasize that the goal is not to overshadow libraries’ core purpose; rather, the hope is to maximize their potential to connect students with help and services. “We’re not trying to turn people who are professional librarians and information professionals into social-work professionals—far from it,” Braddlee, a co-author of the report, told The Chronicle. “We’re trying to use the role of the library as the largest informal academic space on the campus to help connect students to things that they might otherwise not be aware of that are available to them.”