Students at our public, urban community college were experiencing difficulties finding correct, consistent answers to their questions about navigating college processes, information students needed to succeed in school. These difficulties were fueled not only by our students’ backgrounds—they are often the first generation in their family to attend college, may require additional academic preparation, or lack support for their higher education dreams—but also by the siloed information environment prevalent in academia. When our college president realized the extent of student challenges in this area, she looked to the college’s librarians, campus experts in knowledge organization and provision, for direction with a knowledge management initiative to support our students.
Knowledge management can be broadly thought of as the ways institutional knowledge is gathered, organized, and made available in coordinated ways that are useful to the organization. Along with Student Affairs, the Library co-led the development of a collegewide knowledge base, the goal of which was to provide students and other users, including college faculty and staff, with the correct answer to common questions. The Library hired a part-time metadata librarian originally just for this project, but that librarian was later appointed full-time faculty while continuing to manage daily operation of the knowledge base.
Now in its fifth year, the collaborative Ask LaGuardia knowledge base has become an institution at the college. Usage has grown. Librarians involved in knowledge management have forged new connections with Student Affairs colleagues, and the Library’s already strong reputation has grown. However, challenges remain such as finding time to keep knowledge base content updated in this fast-paced college environment and trying to meet students where they are in what they know about the community college experience.