Communication of community college library promotion to distance learners: Librarians' practices and perceptions as determined via e-surveys and telephone interviews
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Distance learners' lack of knowledge about available library resources and services is the research problem addressed in this study. It is significant to Library and Information Studies because library professionals are called upon to consider and examine their methods and practices of how they create a presence among their distance learners. This signals librarians to make adjustments to bridge the gap between what is available and students' actual use of the library. This research sought to find out how community college libraries might establish a presence among new distance education students that would result in their greater use of library resources and services. How librarians feel they achieve library promotion to distance education students and the extent to which promotion is carried out for the purpose of reaching those students are the focus of this study. Information is provided concerning how community college libraries can promote themselves among new distance learners via means that may positively impact use of library resources and services. The Association of College and Research Libraries' (ACRL) 2005 Academic Library Trends & Statistics (Associate's Colleges) was used to acquire the population of academic institutions used in this study. A pretest of the research instrument, a questionnaire, concerning the promotion practices of community college libraries in regard to distance learners, was conducted. Every fifth institution listed among those in the population was selected for participation in the pretest, with a total of fifty-four being selected. As a result of the pretest findings, the questionnaire was revised for the actual research study. The research sample of 204 libraries was sent an initial email message, which was the cover letter, and an attachment to the cover letter that contained the questionnaire. A follow-up message was sent to libraries that did not respond initially. Overall, thirty percent of the sample responded to the electronic questionnaire The data were tabulated, Once tabulated, the data were placed onto charts that describe the activity of the libraries' promotion activities, as related to distance learners. These statistics were examined to show the relationships among library promotions, distance learners, and the promoted benefits of the library services and materials. Pearson Correlation two-tailed tests were used to show relationships among particular variables and the overall growth of distance education library usage resulting from promotion efforts. Telephone interviews with librarians of the community colleges followed administration of the questionnaire. Of the fifty-nine questionnaire respondents, a sample of twenty librarians was interviewed concerning their library promotion practices. This sample was selected based upon the systematic sampling method. Sixteen of the twenty librarians were successfully contacted and interviewed. The data from the telephone interviews were tabulated and analyzed to show the commonality among responses and to show the differences that illuminate what some of the forces are behind library promotion to distance learners: what is practiced, what is not practiced and why not, and how promotion is accomplished. As a result of the findings, it may be concluded that the majority of libraries in the study use more than one means of creating initial communications between the library and distance learners and that growth has also occurred in the use of library resources and services among distance education students. Data indicate that promoted benefits that correspond with the promoted product also positively impact consumption of the product, in that the benefit is of a utilitarian or a hedonic nature in regard to consumer needs. Those libraries that used only one means of promotion or none at all, experienced usage losses, no growth, or very little growth. The telephone interviews revealed that while libraries are incorporating innovatively proactive means of reaching and serving distance learners, more planning, initiatives, and library awareness assessments are needed for furthering the presence of the library among distance learners. Such efforts could prove to increase library usage and student productivity.