Automated library networking in American public community college Learning Resources Centers

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent of community college Learning Resources Centers' participation in automated library networking (ALN), to identify the factors which influenced or inhibited participation, to identify the benefits gained and the problems encountered due to participation, to identify the sources of funding for participation, to identify the involvement of LRCs in network related organizations and activities, to illuminate the influence of college staff in the decision making process for participation, and to assess the relationships, if any, which existed among the selected ALN activities and the institutional variables.

A survey and interview approach was chosen to conduct the study which consisted of two phases. During the first phase, a survey questionnaire was developed, validated and mailed to 253 LRC directors of American public community colleges located in the southeastern United States. A total of 193 (76.3 percent) usables responses were received. Statistical procedures employed for this study were chi-square, MannWhitney U Test, and Kruskall-Wallis One Way ANOVA to test the appropriate samples at .05 level of significance. The second phase involved a site visit to three LRCs selected out of the 193 responses to further examine any significant trends or practices common or unique to networking which were not adequately addressed in the first phase. The results of the interviews from the site visits were recorded descriptively.

The principal findings of the study indicated that community college . The majority of the LRCs had not yet automated the other functions. There were a few integrated or turnkey automated systems available in the LRCs. ln general, LRCs used regional and national networks for all functional activities. But, all four networks - local, state, regional and national - were used for interlibrary loan, resource sharing and union catalog database. Among the most important benefits gained by participation in ALN were sharing bibliographic databases, immediate access to network files, faster and improved services to users, and sharing of resources among network members. Participating LRCs mostly used their regular operating budget and received little or no external fundings. Incentive to participate primarily came from professional colleagues and involvement in network related organizations. Those LRCs which had no ALN reported that lack of financial support and limited institutional commitment were the main reasons for non-participation.

The extent of automation and ALN could be predicted from the size of the institutions. Size of the institution played a major role in the participation in ALN. In most cases, there were significant relationships between institutional variables - location, enrollment, collection size, volume of circulation, number of LRC staff, size of annual budget and the extent of automation and ALN.