We’re excited to announce the publication of the first case study in the College Fluency Capacity Building Project. Co-led by the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) Library and Ithaka S+R, this IMLS-funded project explores the evolving role librarians play in fostering college fluency and aims to help librarians address the changing information needs of the students they serve.

For students, navigating the higher education landscape takes more than just attending and passing classes; it also requires a set of skills known as “college fluency,” or the knowledge and corresponding set of abilities to effectively locate and use relevant college services, programs, and resources. These skills can empower students to successfully engage with and self-advocate within the culture and bureaucracy of higher education to achieve their goals.

To investigate how libraries are currently addressing college fluency, we’re conducting case studies with community colleges across the US. This initial phase of the project will identify strategies to better enable academic librarians and library workers to successfully navigate institutional resources and services. The next phase of the project will explore the challenges and opportunities associated with effectively developing college fluency initiatives. For this phase, we are conducting case studies of community college libraries that are not yet formally supporting college fluency, but are interested in supporting the non-curricular information needs of their students.

At Sinclair Community College in Ohio, the focus of the case study published today, librarians and library staff collaborate closely with academic and student affairs departments to provide students with information on resources available throughout the institution. The report reviews two library-led, college fluency initiatives, Sinclair 101 and Librarian on Location, and the challenges these initiatives faced in their path to success. Both are spearheaded by Sinclair’s Student Success Librarian, who plays a crucial role in bridging different departments and providing information to help faculty and staff enhance their own and their students’ college fluency.

There are several key takeaways from Sinclair that can inform initiatives at other institutions:

  • Dedicate a staff member, such as a student success librarian, to forge and leverage personal relationships between staff in different departments, developing and enhancing college fluency initiatives and supporting student navigation of college services and programs.
  • Establish a consistent presence in student spaces to increase staff visibility, build trust, and surface students’ non-curricular needs. Informal conversations with students in these settings play an important role in facilitating connections and providing necessary support.
  • Provide continuous training to equip faculty and staff with knowledge about available resources in order to create a campus environment that supports student success and encourages connections across departments.
  • Foster collective responsibility among college faculty and staff, guided by administrative leadership, to drive a cultural shift to support students’ college fluency.
  • Continue hybrid library programming and services, developed initially in response to COVID-19, to sustain college fluency efforts.

As this report is the first in a series of case studies, we look forward to sharing further insights as our research develops. For more information on our project activities, project team members, and advisors, please visit our project website.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (RE-252364-OLS-22). The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.