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Designing Libraries to Support Community College Students

Among the growing number of ethnographic studies of college students, only a tiny number look at students on community college campuses, and even fewer look specifically at how these students do their academic work and use the library. But community college students constitute an enormous and important group. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 7.2 million of the 20.5 million undergraduates in the US are enrolled in community colleges. And it is important to understand their work practices and information needs so that resources and services in community colleges are designed to support their success.

A three-year study across all three campuses of Montgomery College makes an important contribution to this effort, adding to the literature while generating actionable data for decision-making and effective implementations in the college’s four libraries. Montgomery College is the community college of Montgomery County, Maryland. It has campuses in Rockville, Takoma Park/Silver Spring, and Germantown and provides approximately 60,000 students with a variety of programs in general education, career preparation, workforce training, and continuing education.

In our reflection on the study, we review the purposes, processes, and methods, and talk about the study’s findings and outcomes. More detail is available in a capstone report just released on the Montgomery College Libraries’ website. One of the project’s many strengths was its inclusion of a wide cross-section of students, staff, faculty members, and administrators. This is reflected in the report itself, which includes sections written by a wide variety of stakeholders: librarians engaged in ethnographic studies; anthropology faculty and students who conducted complementary studies; architecture faculty who used study findings in studio projects; and college leaders and administrators.

We hope readers of this blog will find much to learn about community colleges and the undergraduate experience more generally in these documents.

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