To understand what a "nontraditional student" is, we should first define "traditional student." A traditional college student is between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, attends school full time, is single, and does not work full time. In contrast to this, a nontraditional student is over the age of twenty-two, usually attends school less then full time, often has a family, and may work full time. Cross defines the nontraditional student as "an adult who returns to school full or part time while maintaining responsibilities such as employment, family, and other responsibilities of adult life. These students also may be referred to as adult students, re-entry students, returning students and adult learners." The major difference between the two student groups is the number of responsibilities outside of the classroom.
A majority of the literature on nontraditional students explains the differences between traditional and nontraditional students. The following information deals with the nontraditional student. In a study of nontraditional students' adjustment to college, Chartrand found "institutional commitment and the absence of psychological distress were important predictors of intentions to continue in college." In an article on college satisfaction, Donahue and Wong state, "it is necessary to develop a greater understanding of their (nontraditional students) unique goals and needs in a educational system that was originally established to facilitate the growth, training, and education of young adults." In a study of nontraditional students' perceptions of their library research skills, Leverence found they "did admit to having some anxiety and deficiencies in using the computerized academic library." Hammond found similar results in a study of nontraditional students and the library. She noted, "differences were identified in areas relating to technology, perceived value of information literacy and library skills, the willingness to pay for services, and the use of the library as a study space." The definitions and literature point out that there are distinct differences between traditional and nontraditional students.
Garcha and Gatten proposed that "formal library instruction designed for nontraditional students needs to account for an individual's lack of academic routine, lack of full-time commitment to academic objectives, and lack of experience of interacting with library staff and library research tools." Lintner states, "the homogenous campus of nineteen-to-twenty-four year-olds is slowly becoming a thing of the past. A new group of educational contenders has arrived, poised to influence, impact, and reconfigure the way we look at higher education." College libraries must be prepared to serve the nontraditional student population along with the traditional students. Heery and Morgan suggest the following: "librarians interested in developing services to nontraditional students must be able to work with others and be committed to learning from others." Wyman adds to this by stating, "getting involved with networks for the nontraditional student is valuable because they offer opportunities for reaching students through orientations, meetings, and informal gatherings not always publicized."
Data for this study was gathered using a survey. The survey research took place on a public university located in the Southeast. One hundred and three surveys were passed out to students on campus in different locations. One location was the library itself. Surveys were passed out at different times and on different days to try to get a broad sample of students. The survey was designed to gauge students' satisfaction levels of the library's hours, reference assistance, and library resources. Five questions on the survey determined if the students would fall into the traditional or nontraditional student category. These questions dealt with academic course load, work hours, age, marital status, and children. …