Fostering community engagement by cohorts and mentoring: The Librarians Serving the Public project


Michelle M. Kazmer*

John Carlo Bertot

Corinne Jrgensen


College of Information

Florida State University


*PO Box 3062100

Tallahassee, FL 32306-2100

[email protected]



30-word abstract for conference program:


Thirty IMLS-funded students began their MSLIS as a cohort, took courses online, met face-to-face, and established relationships with mentors. We describe and evaluate their experiences in an otherwise uncohorted program.


Final abstract (496 excluding references):


The Librarians Serving the Public (LSP) project at the Florida State University College of Information (CI-FSU) was funded by an IMLS 21st Century Librarians grant. It offered scholarships to 30 MSLIS students who intended to work in school, public, or academic libraries in north/central Florida after completing their degrees. The MSLIS at CI-FSU can be earned entirely online and does not normally include cohorts. The LSP students entered as a cohort, took courses online, attended face-to-face meetings, and established relationships with mentors. Data were captured about their experiences throughout the project.


Relationship to conference theme


This project reflects the ALISE conference theme in three ways. First, LSP students engaged with their learning community through their cohort: they attended annual on-campus sessions, took 6 courses together, and shared an online community space. Second, LSP students engaged with the professional library community: they were mentored by professional librarians and attended state library association meetings annually. Third, LSP students engaged with their local communities: the LSP program focused on demonstrated areas of need (public, school, and academic librarianship) in specific places (north/central Florida), and the students worked in their communities while earning their degrees.




This data collection was designed to describe and evaluate the experiences of the LSP students, a cohort in an otherwise uncohorted MSLIS program.




This project follows a research agenda exploring community engagement among online LIS students and ways to support learning that is embedded in local communities (Haythornthwaite & Kazmer, 2002; Kazmer, 2005a, 2005b, in press). The current project encompasses the LSP population, and while not generalizable to other populations or programs, it may have implications for evolving models of effective distance learning communities.



Research questions

The research questions include: How do cohort students' experiences differ from those of non-cohort students (Kazmer, in press)? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the cohort and mentoring? How do students' job outcomes compare with their application goals statements?




Data were collected via one questionnaire in October/November, 2005, and three focus group sessions (April 2005, 2006, and 2007). Students submitted goals statements when applying to the program; their career outcomes are being evaluated compared with their goals.


Research base

This project continues a research agenda (Haythornthwaite & Kazmer, 2002; Kazmer, 2005a, 2005b, in press) focused on methods of learning that encourage interactions between learners and their local communities (e.g., situated learning, action learning, service learning). The current project draws on two types of community-centered learning (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Swan, 2005). One type focuses on developing a "learning community" that allows "social construction of knowledge" among students (Swan, 2005, p. 21). Another type addresses how the learning environment "connects to students' larger community and culture" (Swan, 2005, p. 21).



The results of this project help us understand how best to incorporate professional mentoring into online learning. We also draw implications for creating cohorts by interest and geography, thus linking students' online educational experiences even more closely to their local communities.



Kazmer, M. M. (2005a). Community-embedded learning. Library Quarterly 75, 190-212.


Kazmer, M. M. (2005b). Cats in the classroom: Online learning in hybrid spaces. First Monday 10(9). Available at


Kazmer, M. M. (in press). Community-embedded learning. In R. Andrews & C. Haythornthwaite (Eds.), Handbook of E-learning research. London: Sage.


Haythornthwaite, C., & Kazmer, M. M. (2002). Bringing the Internet home: Adult distance learners and their Internet, home and work worlds. In B. Wellman & C. Haythornthwaite (Eds.), The Internet in everyday life. Oxford, UK: Blackwells, pp. 431-463.


Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L. & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


Swan, K. (2005). A constructivist model for thinking about learning online. In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Vol. Eds.), Elements of quality online education: Vol. 6. Engaging communities. Needham, MA: Sloan-C, pp. 13-30.