Even before I came to work in one, I loved libraries. And it’s always been something of a mystery to me that libraries seem to be one of the first in line when it comes to budget cuts. Libraries provide the sort of support that is crucial in keeping democracies functioning. They provide free access to information. They provide instruction on how to analyze and critically evaluate that information. For many of our poorest citizens, libraries may be their only access to the internet and the information highway.
At Nashville State, we too instruct students on how to find and use resources. We try to ensure we have the appropriate materials for student, staff, and faculty. Many of our students do their homework assignments in the library because they don’t have reliable internet access at home.
But we also do a number of smaller things that rarely get press but give students a sense of belonging:
- We provide forks for the students who find themselves with a microwaved lunch but no eating utensils.
- One of our librarians met with a student each week as she prepared for her citizenship test.
- During allergy season (which, in Nashville, seems to be 11.5 months of the year), if students have runny noses, there are tissues at the front desk.
- We have comforted students who have just failed their first test.
- We provide candy during finals week to provide a little energy kick and happiness.
- We are confidants, supporters, and cheerleaders.
- When spring arrives and those new sandals are rubbing blisters on students’ feet, we have bandages.
- We look up their advisors’ phone numbers.
- We show them how to use the computers.
Studies show that one of the major factors in student retention is the relationship between faculty and student. And as a former faculty member, I know this is true. And as a former college student, I remember faculty whose kindness helped this first-generation college student feel that she could succeed.
But those of us who provide support also have a role to play in retention. We are often the first people students see when they decide to come to college. We work in the offices which are open after faculty have gone home. They may not remember our faces, but they will remember how welcome they were made to feel.
P.S. The only taxpayer dollars used in providing forks, tissues, and candy are our own.