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Students are valuable at JMU Libraries:  Student Advisory Committee and more!
Reba Leiding
, Assistant to the Dean 

With the JMU Libraries’ primary mission being the  support of academic programs, we see students as one of our most important groups of users.  But the libraries don’t just exist for the students—students also play a vital role in keeping the libraries open, provide input on policies, and even help add to collections and services.

The Student Advisory Committee offers a way for students to provide direct input on library policies and services.   This committee was formed early in 1999 to open communication between students and library administration.  The committee is composed of student volunteers and meets several times during the school year.  The fifteen or more students on the committee serve as a kind of self-selected focus group providing input to library administration on what issues are important to them.  Some actions in the library that are a result of SAC suggestions include the plan to extend library hours, and the change in procedure to send out overdue notices earlier in the grace period so students are less likely to incur fines.  At the most recent SAC meeting in November, the Dean informed students about plans for the new East Campus library in the College Center.   The students, in turn, provided input on what they would like to see for that facility, including availability of copy machines, journal collections and reserves.  They also suggested comfortable lounge seating, a recreational reading collection, and extended hours for the nearby coffee shop.  

Senior Class Challenges:  One high-profile way that students can make a long-term difference in collections and services is by dedicating gifts to the JMU Libraries through the Senior Class Challenges.  Seniors make financial pledges to their class challenge with the funds being collected over subsequent years and managed by the JMU Foundation.  When the funds in the Class Challenge account reach a designated threshold set by the JMU Foundation, income generated by the account is released to the Libraries.  In recent years, Senior Class challenges have dedicated gifts to various projects within the JMU Libraries :

1989 -- student workstations and periodical subscriptions

1991 -- reference and video collections

1992 – document delivery, printing/copying; general, reference and periodical collections

The JMU Libraries already benefit from these relatively recent gifts.  As one example, funds were used to purchase Ariel machines for Interlibrary Loan.  Ariel technology allows high quality copies of articles to be sent electronically between libraries, speeding up the Interlibrary Loan process. 

Recently the Class of 2001 voted to designate its Class Challenge funds to renovating the space currently occupied by the Law Library on Carrier Library’s first floor for a student study area.  The Class of 2001 has set a goal of raising $25,000 by graduation so renovations can begin next year. 

Student workers:  We left the most important for last.  The Libraries couldn’t maintain its day-to-day operations or take on special project without its student workers.  Each semester over 100 students are employed at the JMU Libraries.  Students work about ten hours per week, or the equivalent of about 26 full-time staff.  This amounts to almost a third of the library workforce during the school year.  Students are employed in each branch and in all areas of the library:  shelving books, assisting at the circulation, reference, and Current Periodicals desks.  Students also work behind the scenes in Technical Services processing new books, doing book repair and preservation, even assisting in managing databases of statistics on the periodical use studies and journal price histories.  Several library student workers also serve on the Student Advisory Committee. 

Students aren’t only a big part of our libraries’ mission, they also make fulfilling our mission possible.


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