By Guest Blogger Maria Goodspeed, Pensacola State College
Enrollment for commuter colleges will continue to trend upward for the next several years. Encouraging news is that among these enrollees will be first generation and minority students, but quite disappointingly, a large percentage of commuter students will leave college before they complete their degree requirements. This statistic compels library staff to examine the role we collectively play in helping the cause of retaining these capable students, and it IS a cause. As the hub of many campuses, the library is where all students potentially intersect with faculty, with staff and, perhaps most essentially, with each other. The library is where students may make a connection that inspires them to stay the course. We should not underestimate the power of the influence a library can have on students, for the library is a community within itself.
It is a community where the environment and the effort of staff can make a difference in the outcome for all students. Investing in our students is investing in our community at large, and we must not only comprehend the gravity of our role, but we must also act. While all library staff believes in the importance of our mission in helping all students excel, it is what we put into practice that can truly affect the results. We must ask ourselves, what are some practical ways in which we can help our students succeed?
First, we can actively work to combat costs for students. Cost is one of the leading factors in losing students, but libraries can aid in mitigating this problem in numerous ways. Enlisting faculty to have books on reserve will allow students to have free access to required materials. Actively communicating with departments in a liaison capacity will also result in obtaining relevant academic materials in the library. Traditional collection development techniques and collaboration with individual faculty members to ensure materials in circulation line up with course assignments is also beneficial.
In addition, increasing more modern efforts to acquire Ebooks will allow students to access material remotely and remove obstacles that transportation issues may cause commuter students. Influencing adoption of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and using programs such as LibGuides and Curriculum Builder would allow faculty to build their classes within a learning management system entirely utilizing free library resources. These are all viable and implementable solutions to help lessen costs for at risk students.
The need for excellence in our libraries can influence and drive the need for excellence in our students. Other ways we can work toward student success is to use best practices for research instruction, continually revising classes to maintain relevancy (fake news vs. academically sound resources) and working with colleagues to have a uniform presentation of material. Focusing on students’ needs with individualized help from reference desk, be it technical or research oriented can be a factor in helping students achieve in classes, one assignment at a time.
Yes, working to build liaison relationships with faculty, creating Research guides/LibGuides and pointedly ordering materials to support the curriculum takes a collective enthusiasm and effort amongst library staff to make it happen, but where student retention and success is our end game, when the effort is made, everybody wins.