E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship


Date of this Version


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Journal of Southern Academic and Special Librarianship (October 1999) 1(2). ISSN 1525-321X. Also available at http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/indexv1.html.


Copyright 1999, the author. Used by permission.


In 1932, Alexander Meiklejohn published a book that addressed the implementation of learning communities at the University of Wisconsin in 1927. The book, The Experimental College, serves as proof of the existence of such communities well over sixty years ago. It is clear that in the mid to late 1990s learning communities have piqued the curiosities of students and teaching faculty alike. Though they go by different names at various colleges and universities, and have somewhat different components, the common idea of learning communities is to have from two to four courses linked so that the courses have the same students in all classes. Such groupings not only promote greater interaction, but they also increase the coherence of what students are learning. In a 1990 book, Faith Gabelnick explains how learning communities purposefully restructure the curriculum to link together courses or course work so that students find greater coherence in what they are learning as well as increased intellectual interaction with faculty and fellow students. This article will investigate where academic libraries and academic library user instruction fits in this purposeful restructuring by focusing on the accomplishments of four distinct learning communities operating from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Southwestern University of Georgetown, Texas, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Washington at Seattle.

While the literature of the library profession certainly is not teeming with articles primarily concerning learning communities, there are indications that academic library interest may strengthen in the coming years. In both the ERIC and Library Literature indexes an interesting term becomes readily apparent, that being the Freshman Year Experience. Rightly so, the Freshmen Year Experience is based largely around Copyright 1999, the author. Used by permission. residence halls, the place where many, if not all, freshman spend a good deal of time. These areas are being utilized to reinforce and enhance classroom learning because they are places with a high concentration of students. In effect, students who take part in the Freshman Year Experience will not only enroll in the same classes but will also live on the same floor of the residence hall. The 1994 book Realizing the Educational Potential of Residence Halls, edited by Charles Schroeder and Phyllis Mable, revealed that students in residence hall environments which were structured as learning communities had significantly higher levels of involvement in educational activities and interaction with faculty and peers. They also found that this involvement led to higher levels of educational achievement and persistence.