The community college baccalaureate movement has shown strong growth across the country as a strategy to meet workforce shortages. A variety of forces are driving the movement including (a) employer demand for higher credentials; (b) geographical access to education; (c) lower cost education; (d) a trained workforce to compete in the global economy; and (e) a pathway to the baccalaureate degree for terminal, two year programs. Researchers reported that the three most expensive preparations made by community colleges implementing a baccalaureate program are hiring appropriate level faculty, upgrading labs, and upgrading the library. No research was found on how libraries changed to meet the needs of a community college baccalaureate program.
The purpose of this study was to understand how community college libraries enhance information resources and adapt services to support community college baccalaureates. It used a multiple case study with an interpretive, hermeneutic approach, in order to gather the voices and perspectives of those involved in changes in the library. The study took place in three libraries serving community colleges serving different populations in different settings: urban core, urban/suburban, and urban/rural in Washington State. To be included, the colleges had successfully implemented at least one baccalaureate program and achieved regional accreditation and, if required, achieved specialized accreditation. The subjects were librarians at community colleges with direct knowledge of the implementation process. At each site, one library administrator and at least one faculty librarian were interviewed.
The researcher interviewed each of the participants separately at the work site using a partially open question protocol. The researcher transcribed the recordings and
asked the participant to clarify or correct the transcript. The transcripts were coded using HyperRESEARCH qualitative research software. A draft of the case study from the themes that emerged during coding was sent to the participants to review and provide feedback in a telephone interview. These steps were taken to guard against researcher bias.
The library administrator served as the library advocate throughout the process. The librarians sought guidance outside the college and from discipline faculty within the college. Collaboration between librarians and discipline faculty emerged as a strong factor in planning and implementing changes to the library information resources and the design of information literacy instruction. The librarians cited underprepared students and communications between the librarians and discipline faculty as the biggest challenges they faced. The librarians were also concerned about ongoing funding and technology. The libraries conducted little assessment beyond the general user satisfaction surveys conducted by the colleges.
Based on the results of the study, it was recommended that library leaders need to facilitate communication and planning between librarians and discipline faculty to ensure that collection development and information literacy instruction meets the needs of students and the program. Librarians need to recognize that returning adult students may have a skills gap in library research and technology. Librarians can prepare to assist students in learning those skills. Library leaders need to continue to advocate for ongoing funding to support the information resource needs of the baccalaureate program. Libraries need to formalize assessment efforts.