Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ACRL & Community Colleges

I am thrilled to be attending the ACRL Conference in Philadelphia for the first time this year. I'll be there all day Thursday and Friday.

However, as I peruse the schedule and look at the affiliations of the presenters (listed in the January issue of College & Research Libraries News), I count only two community colleges. Subsequent editions of the schedule may have brought changes*, but I doubt that number has altered substantially. The bulk of the presenters are from four-year colleges and universities.

So kudos to the librarians at Cleveland State Community College and the Borough of Manhattan Community College, but where are the rest of us? Are we not as smart as the college and university librarians? Were all of our proposals rejected? Or did we not write any proposals, because our abilities to find funding to attend the conference are so bleak? Will I see us at the poster sessions? Also worrisome is the fact that I don't even see any panel sessions where a community college collaborated with a university/college. Does this imply utter disconnect?

A consequence of this under-representation is that community colleges are in the position of following rather than leading. I struggle to understand how this benefits them. 

Community colleges are unique in many ways. As teaching institutions, community college faculty are not held to the same publishing expectations as elsewhere, and this is equally true for community college librarians. Without incentive, community colleges do not typically pursue monies to fund research, so community college librarians rarely get to contribute to ground-breaking, highly-publicized projects. Also, the open door policy of most community colleges means that remediation is a constant issue, along with the shifting sands of local, state, and federal support.

At the same time, community and junior colleges are undeniably a significant part of the higher education landscape in this country, and any organization that aims to "serve the information needs of the higher education community and to improve learning, teaching, and research" has an obligation to include them.

I must be missing something, right?


* Looking at the copy of the program I received at the conference, I now count an additional 2 panel sessions, both involving collaboration with colleges & universities. I also count 5 roundtable discussions, 1 unconference event, and 3 poster sessions hosted by community colleges. This perhaps makes our numbers a bit more respectable, but they are still low.


  1. You're probably right in that it has a lot to do with the research/publishing requirements of community college faculty compared to 4-year college faculty. At my professional conferences, there's more of an even split between CC and 4-year personnel, as the research expectations are about the same for non-faculty administrators at both places.

  2. Agreed. Now that I'm officially on the tenure track I definitely feel a lot more pressure to present, write and so on. But this is a serious problem, because community colleges are hugely important, and you're right that collaboration among community colleges and four years matters... Hmm. Shall we collaborate for 2013? Plenty of time to think of something. Of course we are not in the same system, but...

  3. Nancy, I'm right there with you! Let's see if we can come up with something brilliant for 2013. Indianapolis, Indiana anyone?

    In the meantime I'm gravitating toward a regional study, of community college libraries & learning resource centers in New Jersey. I really don't know anything about us as a group, and in the absence of a state-wide organization of community college libraries maybe it's time to gather some basic facts to begin to draw a portrait. Rolling up my sleeves ...