The Community College Library and the Prospective Student

In Jan. 27’s Inside Higher Ed, Joshua Kim wrote about his impending trip with his daughter to look at eight different college campuses, all in six days.  Kim is the Director of Digital Learning Initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning, and guess where he wants to go first when his family arrives at a prospective college?  The library.

Our profession has been examining the value of libraries for the past few years.  How does the library contribute to retention?  How does the library contribute to student success?  Personally, I’ve only heard a bit about how the library contributes to admissions.  As Lindsay Miller noted in an article in the November 2012 edition of C&RL News, “As far as the campus tour, it may include a quick stop into the library lobby, and a few mentions about numbers of books and a few services. Is that enough?”

My daughter and I took a trip across the country four years ago to look at colleges that offered a Geology major.  (Tip to parents of high school students:  If your child has an inkling of what they want to study in college, avoid the admissions department, and make an appointment to meet with the head of the department in question.  If the department head refuses to meet with you, or if, during the interview, they speak to you, and not to your child, do not send your child to that school.)  When we finished interviewing department heads, we went to … the library.  Like Kim, I wanted to check out the responsiveness of the folks at the reference desk, the overall vibe of the space, and how engaged students seemed to be.  Were they just using the computers to check Facebook?  Or were they actively engaged in their studies?

My daughter is enough of a library junkie to appreciate what I was doing.  Part of our assessment rubric for the college libraries we visited was the extent of the library collection in her field, the availability of a library liaison to her department, and the overall comfort of the space.

How many of us in the two-year world are an active part of admissions tours?  Are tours run during busy times of your day, or are they held in off hours?  Are you an integral part of an Open House?  Do tour guides at your schools even give correct information about the library?

My responses to these questions would not be positive.  What about yours?

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2 thoughts on “The Community College Library and the Prospective Student

  1. Our school’s group tours do always include the library and I am given the opportunity to speak with the students and the parents, answer questions, give our collection stats, etc. which is greatly appreciate. I do like the fact that when one of our admissions counselors is giving a private tour, they bring the student and parents into the library for a more personal conversation and occasionally a look at our digital resources (our library is 100% digital — we have 52 print materials total). Our tour guides actually do not talk about the library or the resources unless I am not available; they leave that to me and I’m 100% OK with that! I have heard some very incorrect information given out in the past, but I think now they are more aware and familiar with our resources so they do a good job when I’m not around.

    Our tours occur at all times of the day, so sometimes the library is busy and sometimes it is not. I do get the feeling that when the library is not busy, prospective students see it as a big computer lab and I’m just some person to help with email and printing, but when it is busy they do see it as a library even though it is a non-traditional space.

    To be honest, I’m not sure many of our prospective students see the value in the library until they actually become students, and this makes me sad and frustrated. I would love to figure out how to be more engaging/exciting in my minute I get with them.

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  2. What a great post Beth! We have a variety of tours of ‘potential’ students that are led by current students at our campus. Typically these student-led groups stop in the library and have me give a quick overview of the library and library resources. It seems that the groups that are led by library users, or students that I work with for projects on campus, take the most time when visiting the library.
    It seems like it always goes back to marketing the library. If our faculty, staff, and administration know what we have – they will promote it (or invite us to promote it). If they are unaware, then they don’t.

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