Columbus State Community College (CSCC) and the Columbus Metropolitan Library have joined forces in a partnership that will benefit students at all grade levels and the community at large.
“For us it’s been in the planning with them since 2013,” said Bruce Massis, the director of libraries at CSCC. According to Massis, discussions began between the president of the college, David T. Harrison, and Patrick Losinski, CEO of the public library, “because the library issued a facilities notes sale in 2012, where they raised enough money to fund a five-year, ten-branch building initiative.”
Ben Zenitsky, marketing and communications specialist and spokesperson for the library, explained that the library is “building seven new branches, renovating and expanding two others, doing a major renovation to our main library.”
At each renovated or newly built branch, the college plans to have a physical presence. “They wanted us to be the Starbucks in their Barnes and Noble,” Massis said. “The physical room is strategic because it’s positioned in between the teen area and the homework help center. We’re strategically positioning these rooms so that it gets visibility near the audience we’re looking at. There’s also the adult learner and we’re looking to attract them as well.”
The size of the space will vary, but in the branch open so far, it is 430 square feet and includes eight computer stations. In that space, the college plans to offer test preparation for the GED, as well as workshops in financial aid, admissions processes, and library bibliographic instruction; placement testing, and registration. In reciprocity, students will be able to pick up a public library card on the college’s campus. When the area is not in use by Columbus State students, the computers are available for branch customers. The cost to both partners is minimal, as neither is hiring new staff for the project.
CSCC will be present virtually as well, thanks to a desktop icon on every one of the library’s computers which will help already-enrolled students work from the library. “It’s basically a VPN [virtual private network],” Zenitsky explained, “so students can log onto the server, access their coursework, and interface with their professors.” Massis summed up the value this provides to students: “Anything they can do on campus they can do at a branch library. It’s great for students if there are weather issues, travel issues, or childcare issues.”
Based on data from surveys, Massis estimates that over 10,000 of the college’s students live in the neighborhoods served by the new and renovated libraries. “[The students] live throughout the city rather than on campus,” Zenitsky explained. “The Hilliard branch on the city’s west side has a lot of students. We want to be educational access points.”
In addition to expanding access for current students, “It helps with recruitment,” Massis explained. “[People] come to know the brand and if there thinking about college, we can be their first choice. We hope to increase enrollment of new students as the years go by.”
While there’s no data yet available on how many students have used the public library system to access the college and its services, Massis says the college is preparing to share some numbers soon. “We’ll be presenting campus and library with statistics once the first month is over,” he said.
The library is looking to the collaboration as something that could serve as a model for partnerships with other organizations, for the Columbus library and others. “We want this to serve as a model not just central Ohio but throughout the country,” said Zenitsky.
To that end, Massis is, again, partnering with library staff. “We’re putting together a presentation to see if we can get into next year’s ALA conference [in San Francisco, California],” he said.
As a sneak peek at some of the possible content of that presentation, Massis advises libraries who want to replicate or adapt the program that “the potential success of such a partnership needs to be demonstrated to a college and a public library’s user community at the outset of planning including its funding base, legislators, and the many stakeholders, whose support is critical.” The benefits, he said, should be evident through both data collection and anecdotal reporting.