Academic libraries in the United States traditionally view students, faculty, and staff as their “primary clientele” – that is, the groups receiving the most attention from the library in terms of the resources and services. “Community users” is a category describing the collective status of local residents who seek the services of an academic library of an institution with which they are not affiliated. Like other user groups outside the “primary clientele,” policies for community users differ among institutional settings. Whether there is a direct correlation between adopting community service as an endeavor in institutional mission statements and providing open library services to community users remains to be fully studied in LIS literature.
This poster session will address this research question: how do libraries of institutions within the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) consortium perceive community users, and how do library policies reflect these perceptions? A triangulation approach will examine data from two sources, institutional websites and an online survey of public service librarians, to resolve this question. The poster will present the preliminary findings from this study, including a literature review, a general overview of documents from institutional websites (institutional mission statements, library mission statements, and library policy documents pertaining to community users), survey questions, and preliminary results from the online survey. This poster session aims to fill a gap in LIS literature by examining small, private liberal arts institutions, a perspective largely absent in studies on this topic. The session will additionally invite audience members to share their experiences with community users and give feedback on the methodology of this study. The feedback will ultimately assist in the creation of a paper from this study, and further the ongoing discussion of community users, their information needs, and their means of access to information in academic libraries.