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Wednesday, February 7 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Session 3.2A - Juried Papers: Academic Libraries: Serving Hidden Communities Within the Academy.

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Academic libraries are adept in outreach and collaborative initiatives serving multiple communities within the academy and their local communities. University and community outreach, when done well, establishes partnerships, creates awareness, and garners goodwill for the library.  Understandably, outreach is a common mission of academic libraries (Edwards & Thorton, 2013) and vital to promoting the resources and services available to the community at large.  Outreach services are often targeted to traditional library users ie. students, faculty, and various campus constituencies.  One overlooked segment of the campus community are staff employees in need of basic digital and literacy skills.  Non-teaching staff are not the usual focus of outreach and are often unaware of the services and resources that the library offers.  In a preliminary review of the literature pertaining to academic library outreach, very little addresses staff employees or project-based collaborations with outside organizations.  The purpose of this paper is to raise awareness and explore the implications that a collaborative partnership between academic libraries, human resources, and non-profit adult literacy organizations can have on the professional development of staff employees in service-sector occupations.
Service-sector occupations include jobs such as housekeeping, food preparation, buildings and grounds keeping, and other related service type work.  These are often jobs that do not require a high school diploma or equivalent (Bureau of labor statistics, 2017a, 2017b) .  This sector of employment is the lowest paid occupational group, with a median annual wage of $20,810 as of May 2016 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017a, 2017b).  In an era of massive income inequality and stagnant economic mobility, academic libraries can support collaborative outreach efforts that help service-sector employees close the opportunity gap with continuing education and professional development.
Access to higher education is often a benefit extended to employees who work at universities.  However, these benefits, for the most part, do not transfer to employees that lack the requisite education or basic skill sets to attend university level courses
Furthermore, wage employees are often precluded from attending professional development courses due to work schedules that do not offer the flexibility to take classes during the workday.  Libraries that provide specialized outreach to employees especially when delivered at times that best accommodate the adult learner, are better positioned to help these valued employees take advantage of such benefits.
A Virginia Tech librarian, who is also a literacy volunteer for a local non-profit organization, had the opportunity to pilot a small-scale program working with three university dining services employees in a weekly English conversation group.  All three women were native Mandarin speakers who left prominent careers before immigrating to the United States and aspired to improve their English language skills.  At the end of a year of weekly sessions the former engineer, who was a line cook, became a lead cook and successfully had one of her recipes included on a dining hall menu.  The former neurologist moved to upstate New York and became a nurse’s aide providing homecare services. And the former biologist, whose goal was to speak English more clearly, gained confidence in speaking with her children’s teachers. 
Due to an overwhelming need to extend these services to even more service-sector employees a partnership was formed to improve the literacy needs with a larger scale program.  According to Meyer (2014), these types of partnerships are beneficial in raising awareness of local non-profit organizations, highlighting the value of libraries, building a network of higher education professionals, and takes advantage of shared resources.  Two Virginia Tech departments, University Libraries and the Office of Employee Relations, along with Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley (LVNRV), are actively creating a collaborative partnership to support the literacy needs of Virginia Tech service-sector employees.  LVNRV provides free one-to-one or small group tutoring in basic literacy, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL), digital literacy, and basic math (Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley, 2017).  This organization fosters support, advocates, and instructs adults who seek opportunities to achieve greater independence through literacy.
Project-based collaborations that include student organizations, various institutional offices, and external non-profit organizations can provide libraries with flexibility, personal relationships, and increase openness to work outside of academic units (Mehra, 2007; Meyer, 2014).  Leveraging these types of collaborations can enable the library to extend its reach far more than acting alone ( Meyer, 2014 ).  Academic libraries can act as liaisons between the literacy organization and other university departments to help increase student and campus volunteerism, improve employee skills, and expand awareness of local non-profits and library outreach.  When individuals improve their basic literacy skills and computer skills, they have the power to improve career opportunities, increase their earning potential and ultimately change their lives. 
Adeyemon, E. (2009). Integrating digital literacies into outreach services for underserved youth populations. The Reference Librarian , 50 (1), 85-98. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02763870802546423
Adult literacy facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.proliteracy.org/Resources/Adult-Literacy-Facts
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017a) Building and ground cleaning workers in Occupational outlook handbook . Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/about/ooh-faqs.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017b) Food preparation and serving occupations in Occupational outlook handbook. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/food-preparation-and-serving/home.htm
Edwards, M. M., & Thornton, E. (2013). Library outreach: Introducing campus childcare providers to the academic library. Education Libraries , 36 (2), 4-16.
Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley (LVNRV). (2017). Mission . Retrieved from http://www.lvnrv.org 
Mehra, B., & Srinivasan, R. (2007). A framework for proactive community action: The new role of the library as a catalyst of social change. Libri , 57 (3), 123-139.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/LIBR.2007.123
Meyer, E. E. (2014). Low-hanging fruit: leveraging short-term partnerships to advance academic library outreach goals. Collaborative Librarianship , 6 (3), 112-120.

Wednesday February 7, 2018 4:00pm - 5:30pm MST
Meadowbrook II