I came away from ALA with many great ideas, a renewed enthusiasm for the profession, and a general sense of excitement about all the possibilities. However, I left with one negative. There are many conversations and projects taking place regarding higher education. Information literacy standards are being revised. People are looking at skills librarians need now and in the future. These are all great things and there are intelligent, forward-thinking people involved; except for community college librarians. This desperately needs to change. Nearly half of the students enrolled in United States colleges are at community colleges.
Community colleges are no longer (if we were ever) the sole domain of students who would not survive a four-year school or those just looking for education in a specific trade. In the current economy, community colleges are becoming an economical choice for students who will eventually go to a four-year school. Why spend money on room and board or a much higher tuition, when you can take a year or two close to home and get those general education requirements out of the way? Sure, we still have a lot of students who are here for a certificate or an Associate’s Degree. But that doesn’t make those students less worthy of skilled librarians, high standards of library services, and useful print and virtual library resources. Additionally, our students are not primarily “non-traditional” students. In 2011, 71% of full-time students enrolled in 2-year colleges were below the age of 25. In four-year colleges, the percentage is 88%.
“Without community colleges, millions of students and adult learners would not be able to access the education they need to be prepared for further education or the workplace. Community colleges often are the access point for education in a town and a real catalyst for economic development.” (http://www.aacc.nche.edu/AboutCC/Trends/Pages/default.aspx)
It’s time ALA, ACRL, and others involved in higher education stop looking at community college libraries and librarians as lesser. We are as dedicated to the ideas put forth in ACRL’s 2008 Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. If you look at mission statements for community colleges, you will see something like “developing lifelong learners is central to the mission of higher education institutions.” My college’s mission statement reads like this – “[the college] mission is to provide the environment and resources for individuals to become lifelong learners.”
It is time for community college librarians to have a place at the table. It is time for community college libraries to be recognized by everyone in higher education for the outstanding work we do in our colleges and communities.