Reflection: Hyperlinked Communities – The Hyperlinked Academic Library

An academic Library starting a food pantry? Weird, but brilliant. This is something that people may think seems out of the ordinary and not part of the library staffs jobs, however isn’t it their jobs to help their students? To create a safe and comfortable space for students to study? To support their students and give them the ability to succeed? The staff at Carroll University really knocked this one out of the park.

The statistics are staggering, according to an article by CNBC, 36% of students across US college campuses do not get enough to eat. Food insecurity is a rising issue facing college students with the same article stating that 42 % of community college students and 14% of private four year college students are food insecure. SJSU has one of the highest homelessness rates of CSU students, at 13.2% or around 4,300 students according to a ABC 7 news article. This is a huge issue facing the academic student community. The idea that an academic library would take the time to think about this issue facing their community and create an in house solution is amazing and truly represents the ideas of a hyperlinked community.

This food exchange program, having an open food pantry where students can take but also give creates silent connects between students. It allows those who are not food insecure to help their peers and gives a safe place for those who are to find some help without the associated shame or embarrassment they may feel elsewhere.

This is just one of many ways an academic library can be hyperlinked, focusing on people, on connection, on bringing the community together as a whole even through something as small as food sharing.

There are many other examples of this that have really hit home for me and encouraged me to think about the things I can do for my current academic library community to help support them and help them to build connections. This food pantry really hit home for me. I was born and raised here in San Jose, I completed my undergraduate degree at SJSU, I attended a California Community college here in the bay area. I have seen and experienced this food insecurity issue and know what kind of a toll it can take on a student who is already so stressed out trying to balance school work, working part-time or full-time to make ends meat in a city where everything is just too expensive. I am inspired by people who look at this issue and think, we need to do something about this whether or not it is part of our job description.

While creating my own adventure, I read about so many innovative ideas being implemented in academic libraries. The Book bot, a robot that allows the Hunt library to free up space in order to allow for the new remodel to have big open spaces for students to study, gather, and collaborate, a Korean library adding a huge metal slide inside of the library to encourage excitement and engagement, the ability and drive to create virtual spaces and resources for the fast growing online student community, even setting up libraries with more space for students to spread out and use their technology. The Hunt Library literally build technology into some of their walls, allowing students to use screen sharing technologies and many other cool technologically advanced equipment in their library.

There is so much that can be done in academic libraries to support the very focused communities that they serve, some libraries (like mine) are extremely specialized, others have many different departments all relying on their knowledge and support. Either way, an academic library is a hub for students to commune, communicate, collaborate, and feel safe. This is a place that should encourage growth and learning, and finding outside the box ways to do that is what make a academic library and Hyperlinked Library.

References

Hardenbrook, J. (2019). Starting a Food Pantry in an Academic Library.

Hess, A. (2018). New Study Finds that 36 percent of college students don’t have enough to eat.

Straumsheim, C. (2017). Arizona State University Library reorganization plan moves ahead.

NCState. (2013). The Hunt Library Story.

Nguyen, C. (2018). San Jose State University has highest number of homeless students across CSU system.

Yeung, G. (2015). This Korean university library uses a two-story slide to attract students to study.

3 thoughts on “Reflection: Hyperlinked Communities – The Hyperlinked Academic Library

  1. I am so glad you explored this module. The stats you share are sobering but I too take heart in what academic libraries can do to help: food, a place to nap, access to technology, referrals, etc.

  2. Desiree, it seems that the problems facing students are the same regardless of grade level. I’m a teacher librarian, and at both high schools I worked at I had a food pantry for students, and also kept a selection of personal care items like toothbrushes and feminine care products for students who needed them. I had many students who weren’t getting enough sleep because of all of their obligations, and I’d regularly advise taking a nap in one of the comfy chairs at the back of the library during breaks or study hall. The first time I’d suggest this to a student or offer them food to eat when they were hungry, they were shocked, but I explained that I knew I couldn’t think or do homework if I was tired or hungry either, and that taking care of their body was a priority. I emphasized that I’d rather they take care of those needs first, so that they could do all the other things later. Word got out, and students learned that they could visit me, judgement free. I also had several students who would visit the library as part of their IEP or 504 plans to redirect in times of anxiety. Being able to provide the space and permission for students to tend to all of their needs was one of the most important facets of my work, and I’m glad to know that as they go on to higher education those needs will continue to be met by academic librarians like you!

    • This is amazing. It is reassuring to hear that you are doing this and I really hope more academic libraries start doing this. We aren’t just books, we are people who support other people and I think it is important to highlight that fact. Students already have so much to be anxious and worried about, if we can help them in what feels like such a little way, we should. You should take a look at my Emerging Tech Plan when it goes up, I am working on a Mental health campaign at my current college and I think you might find it interesting. I also feel that maybe I should add a food pantry such as this with some personal care items as well. That might be a good addition to my current plan. Thank you so much for sharing what you are doing with your students.

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