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As statewide enrollment grows, Utah State works to connect distant students to the library

By Lauren Bennett | Feb. 8, 2016

Utah State University officials are working to make sure students enrolled at regional centers or in online classes aren't missing out on the benefits of a vital part of campus life — the university library. 

The effort comes as enrollment away from the school’s flagship campus in Logan is swelling. About half of the university’s 28,000 students are enrolled at regional campuses or through distance education options.

But most of those students don’t realize how much the school’s library can do for them, according to Erin Davis, the university's regional campus library service coordinator.

There are now more than 600,000 electronic books that can be accessed from the library website, Davis said. Physical books can also be mailed to students free of charge through library services. This service comes with a pre-paid return label so students can mail the book back.

The system works well for Tiffany Burnhope, the USU Student Association president of regional campuses.

“I access articles there all the time for my classes,” said Burnhope, who lives in Tremonton. “It’s a great tool to help students.” 

Hoping to help students have similar experiences, Utah State’s librarians are holding a series of meetings across the state. The first library open house was held last semester at the USU-Tooele campus.

Another was held Jan. 26 at the USU-Brigham City campus. About 90 students attended that open house.

Library services are included in regional campus student fees and it is vital that students are aware of this, Davis said.

“Because they don’t see the library there physically, they think they don’t have access to anything other than Google or Wikipedia,” Davis said. “We’ve heard stories of students going online and paying $30 for an article off of Google somewhere.”

Even if a student needs a publication to which the university does not subscribe, Davis said, “we can get it for a student from another library for free.”

The next regional campus library open house will be held on Feb. 15 at the USU-Salt Lake City Center campus. There will also be more open houses in the next few months at the USU-Kaysville and USU-Uintah Basin campuses, Davis said.

Finding the time to sit down and learn the virtual library can be tough for non-traditional students who are also balancing work, family and school, Burnhope said. Non-traditional students make up the large majority of regional campus students.

“I really appreciate the time and effort the librarians have put into raising student awareness of the resources the library offers,” Burnhope said. “They’ve really gone out of their way.”