By Terra Jacobson, Moraine Valley Community College and Spencer Brayton, Waubonsee Community College
We’ve recently released a call for proposals (communitycollegelibraries.com) for our new edited book “Valuing the Community College Library: Powerful Impact for Institutional Success” to address a gap in the community college literature. The plan for this book is to provide a historical background to community colleges and community college libraries, while also trying to push away from commonly held negative narratives to prevent further siloing ourselves from other areas of librarianship. This publication is not targeted at specific areas of practice but is a more holistic approach to showing library value through the historical context of these institutions, as well as practical applications and future thinking.
There is a gap in this area of publication for community college librarians and we aim to support them in proving their value and thriving with the assistance of this publication. In our research, we have not found a title that does the work to fill this gap. No other titles target community colleges and their librarians in this way and we want to work with community college librarians across the country in urban, suburban and rural settings of all sizes to share our stories of student success and opportunities we see for the future.
We’ve got the tools to become the student success center of campus. We already are, really. We just need to work on demonstrating that value to administration and others. This book formalizes the work we all do to make it concrete, citable, and shareable. A way to reference the impact and value of community college libraries and push forward the new narratives of the future of community college libraries.
Support to authors will include opportunities for networking teams to discuss / share research and help one another through their writing process. There will also be opportunity to continue to work together and support each other with additional professional development through panels and podcasts.
I was unable to attend the 2022 SRRT Afternoon of Social Justice live when it aired on August 3. However, I was able to view the recordings after their release. I encourage you to watch the presentations yourself, but here’s a little of what to expect from the sessions.
Paying Better Attention to Indigenous Communities
First, Karleen Delaurier-Lyle at Xwi7xwa Library reminded us that Indigenous knowledge is relational rather than compartmentalized and isn’t always best served by library classification systems. She used the example of Indigenous languages, which are classified under X in the modified version of the Brian Deer Classification System the library uses. Many other resources in the library have valuable information on language, but they’re not housed in that section of the stacks. She described an activity she does with students that reveals these materials scattered throughout the library and emphasizes how important it is to look beyond standard classification.
Next, Kael Moffat defined settler colonialism using Patrick Wolfe’s emphasis on the logic of elimination, which strives to erase Indigenous people via destruction or assimilation. Moffat then outlined settlers’ responsibilities in combatting this system. While Indigenous people decolonize, settlers are responsible for desettling. Some elements of desettling: learning the stories of Indigenous communities local to your area, listening to them, amplifying their voices, and acting in support. He also shared a longer list of desettling questions libraries can ask themselves and steps they can take to move forward in this work.
Neurodiversity in the Library
Rachel Bussan and Kate Thompson from West Des Moines Public Library both presented on neurodiversity, with an emphasis on autism, with Bussan drawing from personal and Thompson drawing from familial experience. Bussan was diagnosed with autism and bipolar disorder at 26, while Thompson was inspired to go into librarianship after her son struggled at a storytime not designed for his needs.
Both offered a wealth of tips on how to communicate with neurodivergent people, how to run accessible job interviews, and how to support neurodivergent employees once they have been hired. For example, during conversations, it’s a good idea to minimize distractions and other stimuli. A point they returned to was that everyone’s needs are different, and these guidelines should be adjusted for each person. A key takeaway: hire neurodivergent people in your libraries. They’ll know what they need better than you can.
Thompson also touched on some broader disability topics, such as the curb cut effect making accommodations beneficial to everyone, and the medical versus social models of disability and how those can change how we view the world. Both presenters ended with a wealth of resources, including, of course, book recommendations.
This is just a taste of the presentations – if anything sounds interesting, be sure to watch for yourself!
One of my favorite parts of my job is doing virtual reference. My library participates in a collaborative of Michigan libraries called Research Help Now. When I first started doing chat, fifteen years ago, I found every chat I picked up very stressful because I thought I had to quickly find an answer and was intimidated to try to help students on unfamiliar websites. Now, when I pick up a chat, I see it as a fun challenge and view myself as a partner with students as we work through their research questions together. I often get ideas for improving my library’s website by helping students do research on unfamiliar websites. Sometimes I find problems with my own library’s website by browsing chat transcripts.
Here are some virtual reference training ideas:
Librarians can choose one of their own transcripts to review and think about what went well and what could have gone better. Or all librarians can review the same transcript and share observations. This can work for an online meeting using a shared Google Doc. If you’d like, use virtual reference best practices to guide the discussion.
In our Michigan collaborative, we have a yearly best transcript competition. We use a rubric to evaluate transcripts and choose winners to recognize for their excellent work. I learned a lot about doing chat well by volunteering for the committee to review transcripts.
Organize a panel of experienced chat librarians for a local or regional workshop. A colleague and I invited best transcript winners to speak on a panel at our Michigan Academic Library (MiALA) Conference, Celebrating Our Successes, Improving for Our Future: Best Chat Transcript Awards. It was a great opportunity for librarians to share virtual reference strategies. The session was recorded and I share the recording with new chat librarians at my institution.
Summer is winding down. My college hasn’t started classes yet. My college holds fast to the after Labor Day start. While public schools and other colleges around us may have returned to campuses this week, we are enjoying a rare moment of peace before a busy fall semester begins. At least, I hope it will be a busy semester with students in the library and all over campus. The past two years have been too quiet while we’ve persevered through the pandemic.
Personally, I’m using these last few days to prepare for upcoming committee work, both at my college and for the profession. As I drove up to Mackinaw City for my first visit to the Mackinac Island, I had time to think about why I volunteer. Of course, some work committees are required because of my position as a Library Director. But others are purely voluntary and what you might call passion work.
For example, I’ve been a member of our Civility Committee for a few years now. I’m happily anticipating the next year on this committee as we return to in person events and projects, even though our meetings will likely still remain virtual. We work on things that bring people around the campus together to discuss topics related to civility, such as the aptly named CiviliTeas.
On ACRL side, I am beginning my term with the ACRL Membership Committee this year. As the vice-chair for the committee, I’ll be learning as I prepare to take over as chair next year. I’ve avoided chair positions for many years because of the workload. If I do something, I prefer to be able to commit fully and until the pandemic forced me to slow down some, my life had lost balance. The past two years have allowed the opportunity to reevaluate things and set some new priorities. I’m very excited to take on a new challenge and I have a great chair to work with this year.
This post isn’t meant to encourage people one way or another to volunteer for committees, although there are many opportunities within CJCLS, ACRL, ALA, and your state organizations. I realize we all have different priorities and our lives may not allow for committee work. Some of us may be required to serve on professional committees to meet tenure requirements. (I’m grateful I have no such requirements.) It can be thankless and time-consuming at times.
But there are also benefits. I have met some very intelligent, creative, and kind people across libraries of all types. They have often inspired me to try new things and see different perspectives. We share our challenges and our triumphs. By being a committee member, I’ve found a community. It’s also given me a chance to feel that I’m doing something valuable beyond my day-to-day work. The benefits and rewards generally outweigh any downsides; at least for me.
I’d be interested to hear what you get out of volunteering for committees, either at work or in the profession at large.
An Examination into the Library’s Influence on Community College Success, by Kate McGivern
About Dissertation Summation: In Dissertation Summation, we read a dissertation related to community colleges and their libraries and note the key takeaways for you. This summary is more than an abstract but not the entire dissertation... because you don't have the time to read dissertations; you work in a community college! This segment provides an opportunity to highlight the doctoral work in the LIS field in community colleges and share the great research our colleagues are conducting. If we are lucky, you also hear from the author as they reflect later on their process.Do you have a dissertation you've completed that meets this criterion? Please comment below so we can share your research work with the population most interested. Please include full citations of your work.
McGivern’s Dissertation An Examination into the Library’s Influence on Community College Success considers the links between “award-winning community colleges using the framework created by the ACRL Standards” (pp. 4-5) and if there are links between libraries and high-achieving community colleges. The researcher looks at winners of the Aspen Prize and those that have also been awarded the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award to determine if there are “commonalities in practices, procedures, and policies” (p. 7) at these libraries “that make them a valuable asset to the institutions” (p. 7). This study had a sample size of three institutions, but due to issues with IRB offices, only two of the three eligible institutions participated in the in-person interview visits for this study. The research questions for this study were (p. 8):
What are the characteristics of excellent community college libraries?
What are the commonalities between the award-winning libraries which influenced their colleges’ recognition?
How did the libraries at these community colleges contribute toward the college’s success?
The methodology used in this study was a multiple- or collective- case study design utilizing qualitative data (p. 34). The author utilized interviews, documents, observations, and artifacts as evidence to inform this study (p. 8). They also utilized data from NCES and documents and reports that the institution provided. Site visits were conducted with two of the three selected institutions, and interviews were conducted with the head of the library and the Chief Academic Officer (p. 9) at each of these institutions. The researcher did not interview the third library since “the institution’s review board did not respond to a request for research approval” (p. 9).
The researcher makes assumptions about the awards provided to the institution in the “assumptions” portion of the study. They state that ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries “are examples of the best community college libraries. This designation sets them apart from other community college libraries and defines them as excellent” (p. 10). I struggle with this assumption as libraries are nominated (by themselves or others) for this award as the library must be aware of the award’s existence and have been able to put forth the time and effort to complete this application. This award has only existed since 2000. The Aspen Prize has only been in place since 2011. This study assumes that the Aspen Prize and the ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries award are actually signs of quality and equate to successful libraries and community colleges. A limited history provides very few institutions for this sample.
Using the multiple-case study design, the researcher conducted in-person interviews with two of the three institutions. These interviews were recorded and transcribed by the researcher themselves and were conducted within the same month. The researcher coded the data, utilized software to assist with this process, and created codes aligned with the ACRL Standards.
Regarding the findings and the anticipated outcome, the author states that they “anticipated that the study results would show a correlation between the Aspen Award-winning institutions and their libraries” and that the results would “indicate similar characteristics of excellence for all the college libraries of the study” (p. 38). The researcher found similarities between the institutions that included the following characteristics: “librarians are members of the faculty, with tenure, professional rank and representation in the college governance” (p. 60) and that librarians are considered partners in the “educational journey of their students and… a commitment to service to the college community” (p. 60). The researcher organized findings with each research question. Findings for each question are as follows:
What are the characteristics of excellent community college libraries?
The researcher found the following consistent characteristics (p. 69):
Intentional engagement in the greater college community
Collaboration with faculty and staff
Librarians that are active in college-wide activities and governance
Openness to change and willingness to adapt
Creativity and innovation with resources
Belief in the educational role of the library
What are the commonalities between the award-winning libraries which influenced their colleges’ recognition?
The researcher found the following commonalities (pp. 86-88):
Knowledge of their value to the institution
Contribution to institutional leadership and participation
Partnership in teaching and learning
How did the libraries at these community colleges contribute toward the college’s success?
The researcher found that they contributed to success in the following ways (pp 89-91):
Responsiveness to student needs
Using data to assess and demonstrated value
Engage in the college community
Actively engage students
Participate in professional development
Limitations & Study Recommendations
The researcher noted the following limitations to their study (pp. 101-102):
The need for a larger sample of community colleges.
Not all documents were available from all the institutions, and only two data sources were available for all institutions.
Data coding was limited to the nine ACRL Standards, and it only addressed the first research question.
A second researcher from outside of the field of librarianship would be beneficial.
The researcher provided five recommendations from this study and suggestions for further research. The researcher suggests that more “research should be conducted into library perception and value of other institutional stakeholders, especially community college administrator and Board of Trustee members” (p. 111). They also suggest in their second recommendation for further research that the value of faculty status for community college librarians is examined (p. 114).
The significance of this study is that it fills a major gap in the LIS literature for community college libraries. There is a gap in the amount of literature published on the whole about community college libraries and specifically a large gap related to community college library assessment, the value of community college libraries, and the perception of community college library value by campus administrators. This adds to a baseline of knowledge about the value assessment of community college libraries and compares two relatively new awards in librarianship and community colleges, which could be indicators of success. This study is limited as it only examines three institutions but provides a starting point and a direction for assessing the perceived value of community college libraries by library directors/deans and college administrators.
Commentary & Author’s Notes:
I asked Kate McGivern to share her insights and feedback about her dissertation, doctoral pursuits, and research work. Kate shared with me that she enjoyed the entire process of pursuing her Ed.D in Community College Leadership. At first, she did not plan to pursue her doctorate, but when an on-campus cohort program was offered, she decided to go for it and thoroughly enjoyed the coursework and entire research process.
Kate selected this research topic because she was passionate about student success outcomes related to libraries and wanted to know if there was a correlation between “great libraries and their institutions being recognized for excellence” through awards like the Aspen Prize. She advises that picking a research topic that you are passionate about makes the process seem like a breeze, but noted that the best motivating factor for conducting this research and pursuing her degree is that she was “doing it for me” and that even if it takes longer than expected, that is okay and to still count that “as a success.” The most difficult part of the research process was the repetition of some of the writing in the dissertation process. Kate notes that “some chapters started to feel like they were stating the same thing, over and over,” which made it difficult for her to recall what was addressed already and what was not, but “that is part of the dissertation process.”
When asked if Kate would change her research in any way, she stated that she “would not change it at all.” She loves the work that came from her study. Kate added that in addition to this research, a few more recent positives have come from this work. Kate has recently received full professor status at her institution, Bergen Community College, and has been asked to serve as Vice Chair of the American Association of Community Colleges’ National Council for Learning Resources committee https://nclr-aacc.org/ due to her research work.
Hello Community and Junior College Libraries Section!
Our CJCLS Mentoring Pilot Program was a success and we are now accepting applicants for the 2022-2023 (8-month) mentoring program. Pilot program participants shared many positive experiences. Comments included:
A positive experience and plan to participate again in fall.
This was very helpful for me to be able to talk with another director about the challenges we are facing.
Found it very beneficial to talk to someone further along in their career who is specific to the college setting.
Are you new to community college libraries and want to expand your professional knowledge and skills? Or are you an experienced librarian willing to share your knowledge to help others? The CJCLS Mentoring Program Committee invites you to participate in the CJCLS Mentoring Program!
We’re accepting participants until September 15, 2022. After the deadline, participants will be paired and there will be a Mentoring Program Kick-Off Meeting to review expectations. The program will run from October 15, 2022 until June 30, 2023.
Open to all who are currently employed at a community college library as a librarian, staff, administrator, or students enrolled in or recent graduates from graduate-level Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs.
Currently employed at a community college library as a librarian or administrator with a minimum of 4 years of library experience.
A first-year experience is a best practice for student success and retention, but it has to be an experience that works. My institution’s previous FYE – a one-credit required college success course – had an unacceptable DFW rate. (I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t be able to fail a college success course, but I don’t know how the grading worked.) The library wasn’t involved in planning or teaching the course, but we had relationships with many of the instructors, who brought their classes in for a fifteen-minute library introduction and tour.
That course was retired a few semesters ago, and our replacement FYE is finally launching thanks to the work of our new student engagement manager. The new program consists of a series of workshops covering key college topics and skills. The library was invited to participate, so we’ll be offering several workshops: a standard library orientation, a revival of our popular spotting misinformation session (just in time for election season), and a new offering called Fun Stuff in the Library to highlight recreational reading students may not know they have access to. We’ll offer each session at multiple times and in different delivery methods to maximize attendance.
These workshops aren’t mandatory, so I don’t know how well they will create a consistent, impactful first-year experience. However, we’re willing to try, and the library definitely doesn’t want to be left out of an opportunity to make sure new students know what we have to offer.
Does your college offer a FYE? How is your library involved?
I am the lead for our library’s web improvement team. We meet once a month and at every meeting, we set aside about 10 minutes for a team member to share something they have learned about technology related to libraries. Sometimes people share an article they read or information from a webinar or workshop they attended. By calling it “show and tell,” I try to emphasize that it isn’t a formal presentation, but an informal chance to share.
Here are some of the sources I encourage team members to use in looking for content to share:
Highlights of recent research articles written by community college librarians and articles written about the issues that pertain to our libraries.
Tools, trainings and a spotlight on ways to grow your own research capacity.
A place for conversation in the comments section.
Thoughtful and salient opinions (we hope!).
Conducting research can be difficult in a community/vocational/technical/junior college. We often do not have staff tasked with research explicitly or tied to our promotion or tenure process directly. And it is critical that this research is conducted on us and with us. Our institutions frequently have higher numbers of first gen students, diverse and historically underrepresented students as well as PELL grant recipients, veterans and more. Our students are our strengths and while there are similarities to the demographic makeup of students in R1s, our populations are not identical. How do those differences impact the applicability of student success research done at R1s to our institutions?
How can we provide service to our students and our institutions through research? How can we help each other grow our research capacities? One thing we can do is collaborate with each other across institutions on topics we are most curious about. Our committee recently hosted a network and brainstorming session around ways to collaborate around potential research interests. A few people attended and the conversation generated turned out to be very valuable for future work opportunities. Would these informal conversations and community building sessions be something that could be useful if held more frequently such as several times a year? Alternately, is LibParlor a growing channel for this discovery of collaborative opportunities? How can we tap into the work of other existing ALA committees that focus on growing research capacity? All the questions.
Please let us know if there are any topics/papers/tools that you would like to see featured in this column. Did you publish something recently? Drop us a note below!
How often have you mentioned your profession to someone and heard in response, “I wish I was a librarian. I love to read!” Librarians know that the bulk of our responsibilities isn’t curling up somewhere with a book, however much we might enjoy doing so. But you can make reading books (and having opinions on them) part of your job.
Numerous publications include or are entirely devoted to book reviews intended to help librarians select titles for their collections. At my library, we regularly read Booklist, Library Journal, Choice, and the New York Times Book Review. Many of these reviews are written by librarians. After all, who better to recommend books than someone else making the same collection development decisions?
I recently saw a notice in Library Journal seeking reviewers for science fiction and fantasy titles. I have a soft spot for SFF (my holds list at the public library is always full of new releases) so I applied, a process that involved sharing some personal and professional information along with two sample reviews. I was accepted and am looking forward to reviewing my first title for an upcoming issue!
Interested in reviewing? Visit the Review for Library Journal page to learn more about their expectations and fill out the online application. I signed up to review genre fiction, but I noticed the most recent LJ issue solicited reviewers in several non-fiction subject areas. A few tips, if you’re interested:
Needless to say, consulting some existing reviews in the publication you’re applying to will help ensure your sample reviews are on target.
In the case of Library Journal, I’ve been told to expect to write one review per month. I imagine other magazines have a similar workload.
Worried about your bookshelf getting cluttered with ARCs? Don’t be – many reviewers now work from digital copies or DRCs. If you don’t already have a NetGalley or Edelweiss account, you may want to set one up to streamline the requesting process.
I’m looking forward to this new way of contributing to the profession (and getting to officially make reading part of my job!) Now if only the publisher for my first assignment would approve my DRC request…