I will preface this post by saying that I went to a traditional, four-year college for my undergraduate degree. I didn’t consider going to my local community college and with the exception of a six-week course on photography that took place at a community college, I haven’t spent much time in this type of academic institution.
With all that being said, I know many people that have benefited from what community colleges provide. Which is why I’ve found myself intrigued by the idea of maybe working in one. Plus, there are many reasons why librarians can find far more satisfaction at a community college library than they might at traditional academic library.
Here’s the deal: Wherever you live, you are likely to live near a community college. That means that they need to be included in your job search, especially if you are looking to gain the sort of experiences only community college libraries can provide. Here’s what these two-year institutions bring to the table:
Community college libraries are a wonderful opportunity to teach in an academic setting, but to do so with students that want to be there. Let’s face it: Students at 4-year colleges these days go there because that’s what’s expected of them. Of course, the same can be said of community colleges, but there are likely more students there that are there because they want to be there, because they fought tooth and nail to be there. Who wouldn’t want to aid them in their battle to gain an education?
For Kim Leeder, the students top the list of reasons to work at a community college library. Here’s what she says about them:
The students are different: they’re talkative and engaged. They ask questions. They challenge me to explain why they shouldn’t just use Wikipedia when it has cited references and doesn’t that make it reliable? They debate and they argue. It’s delightful.
Engaging students in a 4-year college can be a lot more difficult.
In a 2005 article, Jennifer Arnold, then a community college librarian, shares what she says is the main reason she took her job there:
At the community college library in which I now work, I do both reference and circulation. My other responsibilities include (here comes that soup-to-nuts thing I was talking about) collection development, instruction, virtual reference, serials, and electronic resources. The boundaries between departments within community college libraries are far more fluid than at a four-year institution.
The chance to explore all the roles one might fill in the library field is incredibly useful, especially for new graduates who might not yet know what they want to do in the field. The bottom line for job searching in the library field is to leave no stone unturned. Taking a job where you didn’t expect to work can turn into an opportunity to grow and learn that you never expected. Community college libraries are a great place to learn things about yourself and the library field.
Resources for exploring what you can get from a career in community college libraries:
- The Other Academic Library
- Stop the Snobbery! Why You’re Wrong About Community Colleges and Don’t Even Know It
- Defining the Community College Librarian Project
- The Role of the Community College Library in the Academy
Library jobs at community colleges:
- Chronicle of Higher Education Job List
- INALJ.com (not a community college specific link, but this site is always a great site for job searching)