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What We Learned From The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “The Future of the Student Focused Library” Webinar

6/30/21 - 

Occuspace partnered with The Chronicle to present “The Future of the Student Focused Library” webinar on June 29, exploring how university leaders can reimagine their libraries to improve student learning and success.

Chronicle of Higher Education Webinar Cover Image

Hosted by Scott Carlson, Senior Writer at The Chronicle, with panelists:

  • Curtiss Stevens, Executive Director, ACCelerators at Austin Community College
  • Mark Dahl, Library Director at Lewis and Clark College
  • Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Here are our three main takeaways from the session:

#1 Student Success Starts with the Library

Although libraries often struggle to illustrate their value with actual data and metrics, panelist Lisa Hinchliffe from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke of a report done by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) that shows the direct correlation between the library and student learning and success. Embedding library and librarian resources into initial coursework proves to be crucial in terms of the retention and the success of students, especially when going into the second year.

Mark Dahl of Lewis & Clark College seconded this point of early engagement noting that general requirements have changed so librarians have to get more creative in order to reach students. It requires more collaboration with faculty outside the library - something that will be touched on more later. In addition, Hinchliffe highlighted that library engagement doesn’t stop after freshman year, but that information literacy learning improves all other learning and is crucial to student success all throughout college.

Occuspace CEO Nic Halverson discussed during the webinar intermission the importance of allowing students to make educated decisions about when to go to the library to improve their overall experience. The Occuspace people counting sensor technology and mobile app allow students to know before they go to the library at a potentially busy time, saving them frustration in the process. Plus, the real-time and historical data can be used as a metric for library staff to measure success within the building and prove the library’s importance and need for funding.

"$1 invested in the library, is $1 invested into student learning and success"- Lisa Hinchliffe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

#2 Collaboration is Crucial

Library services and other campus resources need to work together to benefit the students. This point was emphasized multiple times during the webinar, highlighting that although different resources could all share a physical space, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are co-operating.. Having open communication and collaboration with faculty members removes the silo between instruction, student affairs, services, and community engagement.

The goal is to make students comfortable and give them options instead of limiting them, something that Curtiss Stevens of Austin Community College said his team is doing at their ACCelerator. Stevens noted how his team connected with the campus library to make sure their hours lined up so that one was always open for a student in need of help. Furthermore, they even allowed students to eat in the computer lab (something that many universities do not do) in order to encourage students to stay instead of leaving when hungry. Micro changes like these, and making the library a “one-stop-shop” when it comes to support, will keep students coming back, helping place the library at the core of student success.


#3 Positioning the Library as a Helper, Enabler and Supporter of Students & Faculty

It was just discussed how collaboration is key, but open dialogue with other university sectors and faculty isn’t always easy. Faculty have their own student learning problems they need to solve, so the library needs to articulate a compelling narrative of how the library can help others achieve their goals.

Hinchliffe pointed out one of the main hinders of student learning is financial barriers. Well, the library can help remove financial barriers by investing in supporting and creating open educational resources to have a greater impact on all student populations. This can be achieved through collaboration, using web resources, and licensing library materials, which allows for robust and easy use in the classroom, and so on. Overall, it's the notion that the library can offer support and success to everyone.




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