Academic journal article Education Libraries (Online)

Marketing the Library in an On-Line University to Help Achieve Information Literacy

Academic journal article Education Libraries (Online)

Marketing the Library in an On-Line University to Help Achieve Information Literacy

Article excerpt

Introduction

An on-line library has no point of purchase, a counter where the customer buys the product, to entice the buyer. Unlike a brick and mortar school, where the reference counter serves as the point of purchase and is " intended to make approaching the desk for help less intimidating", an online library needs to find a comparable point of purchase to encourage its customers to approach the imaginary desk (Duke, MacDonald and Trimble, 2009, p. 111). As stated by Gandhi (2002), when speaking of marketing to distance students, "academic librarians have to proactively promote their services to distance learners" as well as, to faculty and administrators (p. 151). Marketing is defined as "the activities that are involved in making people aware of a company's products, making sure that the products are available to be bought, etc." (Merriam-Webster, 2013) and is a universal term whether your product is a car or an online library.

The University set a lofty goal of increasing retention of its students by ten percent in a year and the librarian was convinced that increasing information literacy by insinuating the library and its services into the classroom would contribute to the achievement of this goal. However, when she attempted to find the university's information literacy standards she found that, although the student handbook's "Learning outcomes" referenced life-long learning skills, leveraging information and technology to achieve goals, and the ability to solve real world problems, there was no formal policy. The Standards for distance learning library services adamantly stress that students are entitled to become information literate by the time they graduate, and that it is the library's mandate to ensure this happens (ACRL, 2008, p. 565). Being an on-line student should not be a detriment as emphasized by the ACRL standards "principle of access entitlement" which states every distance learner has the right to access the same information and learn the same information literacy skills that a student in a brick and mortar college would learn (ACRL, 2008, p. 558). It was clear to the librarian that in order to achieve an increase in library sales, so to speak, she must first convince the administration that [the University] needed to embrace the importance of information literacy by developing written standards. The bones of information literacy were there, but needed some flesh on the skeleton. It was not sufficient to simply increase the number of library customers by increasing database usage, it was necessary to increase information literacy in general.

Background

"In 1999 [the University] became the first accredited private virtual university without a physical campus" (Gandhi, 2003, p. 139). Founder, Glenn Jones, believed passionately that education should be available to everyone, everywhere; a belief echoed by the American Library Association as stated by Saunders (2008) "the free flow of information, and the knowledge to access and interpret that information, is essential to American society (p. 305). However, in June 2011 [the University] was placed on notice by its accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). One of the concerns cited was improvement of retention rates in all programs, but especially the undergraduate. [The University] made incredible strides in complying with concerns of the HLC and were taken off notice in July 2013. However, retention remained a high priority for [the University] and the librarian felt the library could implement effective and measurable programs to assist in this goal. The HLC does not stress information literacy as heavily as other accreditation commissions, such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education which states information literacy is a "necessary requirement of undergraduate education", and information literacy was not cited as a concern in the HLC report to [the University] ("Standards for Accreditation and Requirements of Affiliation," 2006, p. …

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