Use of JSR’s libraries rising even faster than enrollments

From this month’s DOT newsletter:

The dramatic increases in enrollments at the college during the past year have also led to some amazing increases in use of the college’s library resources. In the first half of the academic year (August-December 2009), visits to the college’s three campus libraries increased by 24% compared to the same period in 2008. Total college enrollments during that period increased only 6%, so the increased use of the library came at a pace four times that of enrollment increases.

Drilling down into the data reveals some interesting trends. At the Parham Road Campus, the increases in Fall 2009 were a modest 15%. At the Downtown Campus, the number of visits increased a whopping 40% and at the Western Campus there was a 28% increase in visits.
Why the difference? The Parham Road Campus library saw major increases in the previous academic year (2008-2009) primarily due to the new library in the Massey Library Technology Center, which opened in late August 2008. Visits to the Parham Road Campus library increased 82% from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009. So perhaps the Downtown Campus is just now catching up with the Parham Road Campus library, and there is a certain spill-over effect: students who take classes on the Parham Road Campus and are attracted by the new library facilities, discover the wealth of resources available there and then when on the Downtown Campus use its library, even though it has older, more cramped space.

Another possibility is the trend toward students taking larger loads of classes (the Fall 2009 headcount actually dropped 2% from Fall 2008’s number, while FTE’s rose 6%). With larger loads of classes, students are on campus more and are visiting the library during their breaks between classes.
In Fall 2009 both the Western and Downtown campuses saw enrollment increases larger than those at the Parham Road Campus: Western increased 12.1% FTE’s over Fall 2008 and Downtown increased 10.8%, while Parham increased just 9.7%.

Are students just coming to the library to use computers? Well hardly. Total circulation of books and other materials has increased even faster than visits. For all three campus libraries, the total circulation has increased 28% in the first half of the 2009-2010 academic year compared to the same period in 2008-2009. Visits went up 24%. The circulation increases were higher at the Western and Downtown campuses than at Parham: up 33% at Western, 31% at Downtown, and 24% at Parham.

Both students and faculty have discovered the group study rooms and their usefulness for collaborative learning. On the Parham Road Campus, the uses of the eight group study rooms (six in the library’s lower level and two on the second floor of the LTC) have nearly doubled since last year. There were 2,380 people who used the group study rooms 856 different times in Fall 2009, compared to 1,204 people and 429 times in Fall 2008.
The increases in visits, circulation and group study room use are also likely due to increased focus by the faculty on students using the library for classroom assignments.

With even higher enrollment growth during the current semester at all campuses (Western is up 10% FTE’s, Parham Road is up 11.4%, and Downtown is up 20.4%), we are seeing even heavier use of the library this spring. The increase on the Downtown Campus is causing a strain on the small number of computers in the library. We are in the process of adding up to 13 new computers, bringing the total to 31, a 72% increase but still short of the 54 computers available in the Learning Commons in the Parham Road Campus library.
The renovations of the Downtown Campus, slated to begin this fall, include plans for bringing the Downtown Campus library closer to parity with the Parham Road Campus, as we create a full Learning Commons with more than 50 computers and three group study rooms on the second floor. The new Downtown Campus library will also have a dedicated library instruction classroom with 25 computers, similar to that found in the Massey Library Technology Center library.

Published by

Amanda

Digital Services and Reference Librarian at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

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