Exploring the guidelines for library services to distance education programs
Distance education, coursework taken outside the traditional campus classroom setting, has become increasingly popular over the years as students seek to improve their marketability while currently employed or otherwise prevented from attending colleges as resident students. Universities which offer distance education programs continually seek to enhance their appeal to students by providing programs that are convenient and as equivalent to their resident programs as possible. Services provided to distance learning students must be equivalent, even if provided in a different manner, to that provided for on-campus students. The research project undertaken seeks to explore the various elements of providing library services to distance education programs. The elements of these services are analyzed relative to the Association of College and Research Libraries' Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services. The question of useful standards is thoroughly analyzed in order to clarify the role of library service in the overall provision of distance education programs. The ACRL Guidelines, the most complete guidelines available for ·measuring library services for distance education programs, are a standard set of guidelines recognized by all levels of higher education as created by a well respected, authoritative agency. By rating these guidelines, operational definitions are set in order to analyze services provided by various libraries in different settings and sizes. The major categories of the guidelines: management, finances, personnel, facilities, resources, services, documentation and library education, are converted into measurable, operational activities. A questionnaire is sent to library services representatives (either distance education librarians or directors) in universities across the United States who agreed to participate, asking that the guidelines be rated for usefulness and practicality, from essential to useless. Analyzing the questionnaire responses reveal several concepts. A partnership between the distance education library staff and the computing center is one of the most essential concepts. Adequate funding for the distance education component of library services is considered essential by the respondents, as is easy to access virtual services. Another essential concept revealed in the study is timeliness of delivery of materials. A complete summary of the results and recommendations for further study in this area comprise the remainder of the research presentation.