We are excited to announce that Ithaka S+R will launch a national survey of community college library directors and those in equivalent leadership positions this February. This study is part of a three-year IMLS-funded initiative—the Community College Academic and Student Service Ecosystem (CCASSE) project—to examine the current landscape of student service provision at community colleges and the role of the library in best contributing toward student success within this ecosystem.

Over the course of the project, we have already surveyed hundreds of academic and student affairs leaders to understand how student services are organized, funded, and staffed nationally and their immediate and anticipated strategic priorities. More recently, we have conducted dozens of interviews with academic and student affairs leaders, library leaders, faculty, and students, to delve deeper into the role and value of the library as well as the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on college operations.

Our research confirms that academic libraries contribute to a variety of key strategic objectives that align with the work of academic and student affairs colleagues. They advance not only student learning, but more holistic aspects of the student experience like a sense of connection, belonging, and safety as well. Yet, there is still more work to be done to communicate the mission of the library and make connections across institutional silos to bolster impact.

Based on the findings from our previous survey and interviews, as well as feedback from our team of project advisors, the community college library leaders survey will focus on four key thematic areas:

  • Role of the library and organizational structure: How do academic libraries contribute to the objectives of their colleges? What are their most important service offerings for students? How is the importance of particular service provision expected to change in the years to come, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Library program collaboration and impact: How closely and in what capacity are libraries collaborating with other academic and student support services? Do leaders feel that they have sufficiently measured and communicated the impact of the library?
  • Budget and resource allocation: What are the budget priorities of academic libraries? What potential and actual changes were recently made to resource allocations in response to the financial impact of the pandemic?
  • Constraints to change: What are the biggest challenges facing community college library leaders? If given the opportunity, where might they allocate additional investment?

This national survey is the first that Ithaka S+R will conduct with library leaders from community colleges, and it will have some areas of overlap to our longstanding national survey of library directors at four-year colleges and universities. Thus, this study will not only advance the ultimate objectives of the CCASSE project—to provide students with the most effective supports for success across institutional silos—but will provide a unique opportunity for us to compare and contrast perspectives, priorities, and initiatives across the two sectors.

We are deeply appreciative of all of the individuals who have taken the time over the time over the last few years to engage with this work, and are particularly grateful for the contributions of our project advisors who have provided guidance on the project at key junctures:

  • Braddlee, Former Dean of Learning and Technology Resources and Professor, Northern Virginia Community College
  • Rosemary A. Costigan, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Community College of Rhode Island
  • Mark McBride, Senior Library Strategist, State University of New York
  • Karen Reilly, Dean for the School of Business and Advanced Technology, Southwestern Michigan College
  • Karen A. Stout, President and CEO, Achieving the Dream

Library directors at community colleges: please be on the lookout for an invite to our national survey next month and be in touch if you have any questions about the study. We look forward to sharing results from this important study with the broader higher education community later this year.