The Community College Library Series – Assessment/Reference and Instruction

ACRL announces the publication of the first two books in its new The Community College Library series, Assessment and Reference and Instruction, edited by Janet Pinkley and Kaela Casey. These books demonstrate the innovative and replicable ways community college librarians are meeting the information and research needs of their college population and highlights their creativity, tenacity, and commitment to students.

Learn more about The Community College Library in this excerpt from the Introductions by the editors.


Introduction

Community colleges are a cornerstone of higher education and have long aimed to serve the unique needs of the communities in which they reside. While each community college has its own programs and culture, they share a common set of values and goals:

•   serving all segments of society through an open-access admissions policy that offers equal and fair treatment to all students

•   providing a comprehensive educational program

•   serving the community as a community-based institution of higher education

•   teaching and learning

•   fostering lifelong learning [1]

Community college libraries and librarians are integral to achieving these goals as they aim to provide equitable access to information and resources for all students while promoting information literacy. Additionally, and most importantly, community college libraries and librarians support student success by meeting the information and research needs of their college population both in person and remotely, all while providing a safe, inclusive space for students to explore and learn.

In 2019, community colleges accounted for 41 percent of all undergraduate students in the United States.[2] Despite their significant contributions to in higher education, community college libraries and librarians are not equitably represented in professional literature. This series aims to change that.

Goals of the Series

As information professionals, librarians often look to literature to inform their practice. Following this approach, the editors of this series found the conversations on assessment were primarily from the perspective of a four-year institution. However, we knew that our colleagues in community college libraries across the nation were engaging in meaningful work across all aspects of library programs and services to serve the needs of their diverse populations and to support student learning. We wanted to find a way to lift the voices of community college librarians and highlight their innovation, creativity, tenacity, and commitment to students; thus, The Community College Library series was born.

We believe that the titles within this series will inspire community college librarians to reflect on their own practices, develop new programs or enhance existing ones, and serve students with renewed dedication and passion. Additionally, we hope that they will encourage community college librarians to share their own experiences and endeavors to serve students through publications in order to allow the dynamic, passionate, innovative work taking place at community college libraries to become more abundant in professional library literature.

Assessment

Each community college library provides a unique set of services, programs, and resources to meet the needs of its campus community. Assessment allows us to measure, evaluate, and reflect upon the services we provide and is a way for libraries to document the challenges encountered and improvements made and to demonstrate the value and impact of library services and resources. While assessment is sometimes viewed as a mandatory activity that must be included as part of program review or statistics reporting, going beyond that to build intentional assessment projects and programs can give community college libraries and librarians a comprehensive view of the performance and quality of their services. Additionally, it allows for proactive and anticipatory means for requesting funding and additional resources to support the unique needs of a library and the population it serves. Assessment is critical in order to ensure that library services are truly serving campus needs, meeting the mission and goals of the library, and keeping the library’s focus on improvement and innovation.

The chapters in this book highlight the research, comprehensive plans, and new approaches to assessment done by community college librarians around the country. We hope that it informs and inspires our readers to reflect on their own libraries and professional practice and perhaps embark on a new assessment project.

Reference and Instruction

While community college librarians play many roles, providing reference and instruction are core components of our work. As experts in information literacy, we design and deliver reference and instruction programs that are aimed at improving our students’ information competency and aiding in their success. Community college librarians recognize the needs of their campus community and provide a core of traditional library services while also working to develop creative, nontraditional opportunities to engage and teach students through reference and library instruction. As technology advances, the student population evolves, and the information landscape changes, community college librarians have been adaptable, collaborative, and open to exploring new methods and modalities for providing reference and instruction. Additionally, community college librarians must “be at the table” sharing their research, projects, and knowledge in order to ensure they and their students are represented and supported within our professional conversations.

The chapters in this book highlight the research, innovative programs, and new approaches to reference and instruction implemented by community college librarians around the country. We hope that it informs and inspires our readers to reflect on their own libraries and professional practice and perhaps embark on a new reference or instruction project.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States early in this project. We would be remiss if we did not take a moment to highlight the commitment that all of the contributors had to this project. They all faced unique challenges and circumstances, shifting all of their professional responsibilities online, while also juggling the demands that COVID-19 made on their personal lives, such as assisting elderly parents, helping their children shift to virtual schooling, and much more. We were humbled by the perseverance and dedication of our community college colleagues as they continued to draft and edit their chapters during the global pandemic, which was fraught with so many unknowns and challenges on a daily basis.

Notes

 [1] George B. Vaughan, The Community College Story, 2nd ed. (Washington DC: Community College Press, 2000), 3.

 [2]. “Fast Facts 2021,” American Association of Community Colleges, accessed June 1, 2021, https://www.aacc.nche.edu/research-trends/fast-facts/.