In keeping with an institutional mission to rethink community college education, the Information Commons at CUNY’s newly opened Stella and Charles Guttman Community College (formerly known as the New Community College) represents a new model for academic libraries. Designed specifically for the first college to enter the CUNY system in four decades, the Commons is “an experimental library for an experimental school,” says Chief Librarian Dr. Verlene (“Vee”) Herrington.
Situated on the first floor of the Guttman campus across from Bryant Park, the Commons provides a center for the school’s students to meet for social activities and school projects alike. The space itself has been designed to support multiple functions, shifting seamlessly from student union to lunch room to a reception area for official functions.
The Information Commons is stocked with books selected mainly by Gutman’s twenty-one faculty members and ten adjunct faculty. In addition, the Commons participates in the interlibrary loan program with the CUNY system at large, and also engages in a book sharing partnership with New York Public Library. Students have access to over one hundred select databases; this adds over a million electronic resources, including ebooks and articles from journals, newspapers, and magazines, to the Commons’ resources. WiFi is freely available.
Guttman’s first year students are immediately immersed in an environment structured around their academic success; throughout their first year, they are grouped into cohorts. Further academic support is supplied by Student Success Advocates who are trained to discuss matters related to each student’s needs. Following the completion of their first year, students are invited to select from one of six majors, selecting from a short list including Business Administration, Human Services, Urban Studies, IT, Health Information Technology, and Liberal Arts. Funding is available for students to pursue internships in their field of choice.
Guttman librarians serve on instructional teams and support the real-world projects in which students actively engage with the goings-on of New York City. The strong bond between Guttman’s students and its librarians is a result of information services that have been designed to meet the needs of individual patrons. Says Dr. Herrington, “we may have only 300 students, but all 300 use the library.”
Images courtesy of Dr. Vee Herrington.
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