Welcoming Spaces: Supporting Parenting Students at the Academic Library

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Academic libraries serve many student constituents, but one often overlooked group is students who are parenting children. Students who, by necessity or volition, bring their children with them to the library have specific needs. Serving these students, who often have difficulty succeeding and graduating at college, should be a priority for academic libraries. Offering assistance can help this group focus on their studies, achieve their academic goals, and thus decrease universities' attrition rates. This article begins by drawing on anecdotal evidence, then reviews existing literature on parenting students. Next, it examines and analyzes policies on children in academic libraries at large American universities. Half of all academic libraries don't have clearly accessible policies, and some have policies that discourage bringing supervised children to libraries, while a few have welcoming policies and facilities. This research shows that academic libraries can still make progress to serve a key constituency. Finally, it offers solutions for how academic libraries can serve parenting students, given varying spatial and financial constraints, as well as diffusing potential concerns that might hold academic libraries back from serving this part of the academic community. This analysis could be supplemented by further inquiry and interviews with libraries on how their policies were developed and are being implemented or with parenting students on what they desire and need from the academic library.