What happens when a student asks a librarian for information related to registering for classes, signing up for financial aid, or accessing mental health counseling services? These are questions community college librarians routinely respond to, though they are not directly related to librarians’ typical functions of supporting coursework or research. How might a librarian better support such a student?

Last year, Ithaka S+R and the Borough of Manhattan Community College Library embarked on a two and a half year long IMLS-funded research initiative exploring librarians’ role in college fluency: the knowledge and corresponding set of abilities that enable students and staff to effectively locate and use relevant college services, programs, and resources, which can help students to successfully engage with and self-advocate within the culture and bureaucracy of higher education institutions in order to achieve their goals.

The College Fluency Capacity Building Project seeks to explore the new and urgent challenges of supporting students’ non-curricular needs at the library and will equip library faculty and staff with information and resources to better serve these unique needs. To do this, we will be conducting case studies of community college libraries through two different rounds. We are first seeking to study three to five community college libraries that are already doing this work, whether by providing unique library services, programs, or classes to promote college fluency, developing digital platforms that centrally house non-curricular student information, or expanding librarian roles to focus on student success.

For each case study institution, we will:

  • Conduct five to ten virtual interviews of library and non-library staff
  • Publish a synopsis of the institution’s college fluency model on the Ithaka S+R and research project websites.
  • Invite and fund two representatives (one from the library and one from student affairs) to attend an in-person workshop in New York City in the summer of 2024. During the workshop we will share findings from the project, assess the current capacity of libraries to address student information needs, and develop roadmaps for collaboration and service implementation.

Case study participants will also help shape the scope of a national survey of library and non-library professionals on college fluency needs.

If your library is currently supporting students’ college fluency in any capacity, we would be greatly interested in hearing from you. Project leads will be at the Achieving the Dream, DREAM Annual Convening 2023 in Chicago, and will be presenting on the project and how to identify possible college fluency programs at your institution on Thursday, February 16 at 4:30pm ET.

Contact us

For more information, or if you think your institution might be interested in participating, please contact Jean Amaral (jamaral@bmcc.cuny.edu) or Melissa Blankstein (melissa.blankstein@ithaka.org), or fill out the form below.



The views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent those of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.