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Participatory Service Planning: Comprehensive Online Instruction for Library Services

Image of the north entrance of the library
North entrance to the Grace Van Dyke Bird Library on the campus of Bakersfield College

I developed my participatory service following an article by Melody Diehl Detar’s study “Mind the Gap! Making the Leap to Reach Distance Students Through On-Campus Events.” I knew wanted to do something in line with research support and instruction but wasn’t sure what. Anne-Marie Deitering and Hannah Gascho Rempel’s article “Sparking Curiosity – Librarians’ Role in Encouraging Exploration” inspired me to research into this subject. Looking at the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Standards for Distance Learning Library Services solidified the concept in my head—to provide nearly identical services for distance learners as those for face-to-face students. This is the main benefit to the implementation of these services. The library I chose is the Grace Van Dyke Bird Library on the campus of Bakersfield College (BC), a community college in Bakersfield, California.

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service

Distance students are a growing demographic in colleges and universities. Because of this, academic librarians must inform these students of library services and develop services to meet the needs of students who may never step foot on the campus. I decided to investigate how librarians reach these students and how it could be improved or changed. The primary source material was Detar’s (2018) article “Mind the Gap! Making the Leap to Reach Distance Students Through On-Campus Events.” With this in mind, I developed a plan to implement a more comprehensive outreach program for distance learners at BC. The key main points of the article are that the librarians tried their best to model online services with face-to-face library instruction events and services. Technology plays an important role in this service. They created a digital space to stream the events, created a badge system for those that have proof of attendance, and created digital spaces for destressing via Spotify playlists centered around music for studying and links to puzzles and games. Online office hours were also set up for librarians. They even physically mailed non-perishable snacks, hot tea bags, and handwritten notes of encouragement to distance students who provided an address and pre-registered. At the end of the sessions distance students were asked to fill out an assessment of the program and things it can do better (and make a recommendation for the Spotify study playlist).

The goal of the program I wish to implement at BC is to provide better instruction to distance learners by building stronger relationships with faculty, attempting to provide the same services to distance learners as face-to-face students, and using technology to close the gap. This will be a participatory service with a dash of new technology for this library. Dr. Stephens (2016) states “cultivating thriving virtual learning communities with broad, beyond-the-walls outreach managed by future-thinking professionals seems like the way forward to reaching as many users possible” (p. 43). He asks, “What little things can we do? And how about some big ideas and big thinking?” The primary goal remains providing flexible services for all students regardless of their distance from campus and utilizing their feedback to make services better and more comprehensive, even the little things.

Community Descriptions

Distance learning may be done via the internet, ITV, or a hybrid of distance and face-to-face. These students may be adult learners, those with full or part time jobs that don’t allow them to take courses during the day or night, students with children, students who merely want to convenience of online courses, or a combination of any of these. A new demographic that has risen in numbers in recent years at BC is dual enrollment students, high school students who take college credit courses within their respective high schools. In terms of numbers, the Kern Community College District (2019) had a retention number of 32,042 students enrolled in online courses in 2018-19 (p. 4). The number of full-time equivalent students enrolled in internet-based instruction was 1,830 for Spring of 2018 (California Community College Chancellor’s Office, 2019). These students may or may not be able to travel to the campus.

Action Brief Statements

For students:

Convince distance learners at Bakersfield College that by participating the improved library distance education services and instruction that they will develop and hone their research skills and gain information about library resources, which will provide them with both academic and lifelong benefits in their academic and future careers.

For staff:

Convince library staff that adopting these expansive services and incorporating technology will help them reach all enrolled students which will demonstrate the library’s resources to these students and increase the value of the library to students, faculty, and administrators.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service


Association of College & Research Libraries. (2016). Standards for distance learning library services. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/guidelinesdistancelearning

Basgen, B. & Tersotori, P. (2016) Socially engaged learning. Educase Review. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/3/socially-engaged-learning

Educase. (2016). The 2016 key issues in teaching and learning. Educase. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2016/2/eli7129pdf.pdf

Young, S. W. H. (2017). Participatory design in action: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=participatory-design-action-user-experience#_


University of Louisiana at Lafayette. (2019, May 28). Distance learning policy. Retrieved from https://library.louisiana.edu/services/distance-learning/distance-learning-policy

Technical Instructions for Librarians or Library Staff:

Graves, H. [Online Network of Educators]. (2017, October 3). Using the Canvas Scheduler Q&A [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH5oD7nYB6Y

jivedocs. (2019, June 3). Conferences Overview (Instructors). Retrieved from https://community.canvaslms.com/videos/1101-conferences-overview-instructors

QR Code Generator. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/

Guides and Design:

Detar, M. D. (2019). Mind the gap! Making the leap to reach distance students through on-campus events. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 12(3-4), pp. 189-197. doi: 10.1080/1533290x.2018.1498632

Rimland, E. & Raish, V. (2019, May 1). Digital badges: How schools and libraries use them today. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/05/01/digital-badges/

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service

The Grace Van Dyke Bird Library at BC currently has a general policy for providing direct instruction and instructional support and resources for all college students. There currently isn’t a library policy or guideline targeting distance learners. We would need to implement one.

Picture showing the two levels of the Grace Van Dyke Bird Library. The bottom level is the computer lab, the top level is where materials are held.
Two levels of the library: computer lab (below) and reference desk and materials (above)

Participatory service breaks down barriers and invites all to participate in the creation and evolution of programs and services. Technology can play a role in this, but it shouldn’t be the end of the change. Dr. Stephens (2016) states: “Technology doesn’t solve our problems, but it can be a conduit to making change and promoting progress.” With this service, we want to make change and promote progress. Doing so starts with developing a distance policy that includes all stakeholders (and, later, further implementing change based on the feedback we receive from these stakeholders). Administration, faculty, staff, librarians, and students (face-to-face and distance) need to participate in suggesting the direction the policies should take and aid in revision. Creating representative groups for input would be important in developing these policies, as well as having admin, faculty, staff, librarian, and student feedback following the changes.

The larger set of guidelines for policy making at BC is the ACRL’s Standards for Distance Learning Library Services. These include library requirements such as availability to all users, equivalent academic instruction, direct human access, providing and maintaining a strategic plan for distance learners, and performing needs and outcomes assessments. These would general guidelines would be essential to planning specific ones for BC. One set of policies that I found was the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Dupre Library. These policies seek to guide providing distance resources equivalent to physical resources including access to electronic holdings, document and book delivery systems, and creating partnerships with other Louisiana institutions via a consortium.

Another policy that will need to be in place is for online etiquette. Hopefully this isn’t a problem, but it would be best to establish policies which promote a safe learning environment. These could be modeled after existing online netiquette guidelines and policies.

Creation of these polices would help the library meet its mission statement, to reach all students.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service

This service will primarily require the time of staff. Learning how to integrate streaming technology may take some time as well. Since BC already uses Canvas, it can incorporate the Conferences feature for live streaming and setting up online office hours. It may also require developing a badge system for students who require proof of attendance. During the actual instruction portions, it may require the time of an additional staff member or librarian to read live questions sent in from distance students.

For physical care packages, this would require some funding which could be designated out of the event or planning portion. Detar (2019) suggests placing a disclaimer in promotion materials that states that care packages would be based on a first-come, first-serve basis and while supplies last, which could control costs. It will be necessary to also provide some promotional materials for students interested in the online aspect but not currently enrolled in a class utilizing this partnership.

Action Steps & Timeline
Photo of the stacks at Bakersfield College
Stacks at BC

The ideal planning situation would take place during the summer when library usage is lower. For the initial start, I see it happening in phases: developing a distance learner policy, approval and revision, training and coordination, creation of care packages, the actual instruction, feedback, and revision. Yearly updates will need to be implemented as well. These changes will ideally be done in the summer and hopefully take no more than 1-3 weeks, dependent on the level of changes necessary. As an example, we can set this timeline for Spring 2020 to Fall 2020. Ideally this would take one distance education librarian and one to two library staff members.

  1. Creation of distance learning policies to meet mission statement [Beginning of Spring, 1-2 weeks]
  2. Feedback from faculty, staff, librarians, administrators, and student groups [Spring, 2 weeks].
  3. Library director approval and implementing revisions (if necessary): [Spring, 1-3 weeks].
  4. Examination of current instruction, distance faculty outreach, feedback and revision (if necessary), and coordination [Spring, 3 weeks]
  5. Training library staff and librarians with tools and rehearsal of instruction; updating office hours to include online office hours [Spring, 1-2 weeks].
  6. Care package assemble and digital distressing space development [Summer, 1-2 weeks].
  7. Promotional materials development [Summer, 1 week].
  8. Release of general population materials (emails, posters, etc.) [Beginning of Fall 2020]
  9. Dependent on courses’ schedule, begin instruction [during Fall 2020].
  10. Mailing out care packages to distance students for those that have signed up for separate instruction classes, and for students enrolled in courses with library support [during Fall 2020]
  11. Release of digital destressing spaces for students [during Fall 2020]
  12. Collection of feedback from distance students who had pre-registered [2 weeks before end of semester to end of semester].
  13. Review of feedback and implementation of possible changes. [1 week after end of Fall semester].
  14. Brief to library director on successes and areas of improvement. [2 weeks after end of Fall semester].

During the period between Fall and Spring semesters revisions will be made and retraining, if necessary.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service

This program will augment an existing service. A distance librarian position will need to be created or an existing librarian position will need to be modified for this program. An additional staff member or two may be needed to help with the development of promotional materials, care package assembly, and maintaining lists of pre-registered students. During instruction, a staff member will be needed to aid the librarian in fielding questions from distance students and moderating the online space. For the first semester, additional hours may be needed from the distance librarian and staff member(s) and may necessitate a redistribution of job duties. Following this, hours could be included in the event planning portion of the budget. Another consideration is that there may need to be online-only instructional sessions during off-hours to reach those students who may work part or full-time during the day. Staff may also need to be available for online office hours a couple times a week. These hours can be scheduled like existing face-to-face office hours.

Training for this Technology or Service

Ideally, the distance librarian will already be familiar with the tools needed for streaming in Canvas, creation of QR codes using a generator, and setting up a digital badge system for this program. The librarian may need more training time for setting up this infrastructure. Training for the instruction class may only be centered around incorporating streaming into it and being aware of distance students asking questions. As stated, during summer would be the ideal time to train and establish infrastructure. Librarians with online office hours may need to be trained in how to use Conferences in Canvas as well, which would take minimal time.

How to set up Conferences in Canvas
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service
Photo of a QR code on a cell phone.

Marketing will need to be done on a couple different levels. First, we’ll have to establish connections with faculty teaching online courses to incorporate instruction. This will make up the majority of students. Following this, we’ll need to create marketing for online students who may be interested, but not currently enrolled in those courses where partnerships have been established. This will be done via campus newsletters or mass emails to promote the instructional sessions. Another level of marketing will be added to existing physical marketing to inform students of online sessions as well as face-to-face classes. Promoting online office hours for librarians will need to be added to the library website as well as these promotional materials. Adding QR codes to all levels of marketing can make enrollment into library instruction classes more streamlined.


We’ll evaluate the instructional sessions based on the goals of the program and student feedback. A survey will be e-mailed out to students after they have completed the course. They will be encouraged to complete the survey. During the instructional course, librarians will remind students to fill out the survey to provide feedback. All students who have registered will receive a survey. Some criteria we could evaluate could be: if distance students felt acknowledged during the session, in what areas the session helped them, and how it could be improved.

I hope this program will generate as much enthusiasm and encouragement to instructional librarians and distance students as it did in Detar’s article. I’m hoping distance students feel as important as face-to-face students and are encouraged to participate in future online events and services. I think librarians will feel exhilarated by reaching a demographic that is often seen as hard to reach. My worst fear (and I’m sure this is a fear of online instructors!) is that no one can attend the online sessions!

Hopefully, successes and revisions in mind, the program will expand to more sessions and create a better, stronger bridge to distance students.


California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office, Management Information Systems Data Mart. (2018-2019). Distance education (DE) FTES summary. Retrieved from https://datamart.cccco.edu/Students/FTES_Summary_DE.aspx

Kern Community College District. (2019, January). 2018-19 fast facts. Retrieved from https://do-prod-webteam-drupalfiles.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/kccdedu/s3fs-public/ir_reports/KCCD%20Fast%20Facts%202018-19_0.pdf

Stephens, M. T. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook?sid=b2ece6cb-f4ce-404f-9142-21a2bceea1a4%40pdc-v-sessmgr06&ppid=pp_A&vid=0&format=EB

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