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To Library, or Not to Library

Posted by Editor on March 17, 2011

January 13, 2011, by David Moltz in IHE

Community colleges are growing by leaps and bounds these days. And much of that growth has been in branch or satellite campuses.

This kind of expansion, however, has created a vexing question: When is the right time to add a library? Accreditors require community colleges to provide library services to all of their students, no matter their location. Still, there is some leeway as to whether a physical space is needed on all branch campuses. Given this gray area, some community college officials wonder when simply providing library services to branch campus students is insufficient and a physical library is necessary.

Mt. Hood Community College, in Oregon, reached just such a tipping point at its Maywood Park Campus last fall, when it was decided that existing virtual resources were not enough and the 10-year old branch finally needed a physical library of its own.

“The main reason why we decided to put a library here is that we’ve grown quite a bit in student demand [for courses], physical space on the premises and classes offered,” said Sergio Lopez, branch coordinator of the new library, which opened last September. “We have 10 classes going on at any particular point in time now. But mainly, given the distance of this branch from our main campus, there’s just been a need for people to access information to support their coursework.”

A couple of credit courses are taught at the branch, but mostly it houses the college’s adult basic education program, whose offerings include GED, ESL and Head Start courses. Initially, the branch had a small bookstore, which Lopez said met most students’ needs.

With enrollment and program growth at the branch, Lopez said the college recognized that even so-called nontraditional students, typically adults with jobs and families, wanted the research materials and technology offered by a library. He added that not only did they want to check out reference books and laptops for academic use, but also they wanted to have a quiet place to study, something that might not be an obvious demand for on-the-go working adults with families and other obligations.

“When you’re talking about people taking GED and ESL classes, even though they’re nontraditional students, we assume that a lot of these students are going to continue to go into college for an associate degree, a certificate or to learn some sort of trade skill,” Lopez said. “So again, even though they’re nontraditional students, we want to give them a feeling of what a traditional college experience feels like. ‘This is what college looks like. You’ll be expected to do work outside of class.’”

For a campus that serves about 5,500 students, the new library is small. Located in an old classroom, it is 500 square feet and has four tables, about 400 books and 20 laptops to check out. It has significant ties to the college’s main library; students can access digital offerings online and books via a sharing program….read entire article here.

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