Librarians feel effects of enrollment drop

Oscar Correa and Roberto Hodge

An atmosphere of stillness and emptiness is present in Booth Library because of a decrease in enrollment, which has fallen 9 percent.

Though the library seems to be quieter on the inside, the outside environment has not changed, said Randy McCammon, a library specialist.

McCammon, who has been an Eastern employee since 2001, said a decade ago enrollment was around 12,000.

“(It’s) not as vibrant; this is quite a drop in enrollment,” McCammon said. “It seems as if the library isn’t used as often.”

Currently, enrollment is 8,913, but a decade ago, Eastern had 11,651 students enrolled.

McCammon said the people most affected are university employees, current students and prospective students.

With the enrollment being lower, class size has also decreased, but that could become a student’s advantage, McCammon said.

However, McCammon said there is room for growth, and he sees enrollment as a possible bell-shaped curve.

He said the university should try expanding its recruitment to the neighboring states as well.

Sally Van der Graaff, a senior library specialist, shared the same notion as McCammon about student recruitment.

Van der Graaff said a larger social media approach could benefit the university more because of the amount of young people using it.

Southern Illinois University has billboards in Chicago and Western Illinois University advertises on Pandora, Van der Graaff said.

“People are not going to come here unless they know about the university,” Van der Graaff said.

Van der Graaff said she is not worried about the decrease in enrollment because the trends might be cyclical.

She said there could be a lack of students graduating from high school, and money is also an issue for attending college.

Van der Graaff said she is aware that the school is working on new ways of reaching out to students.

She said visiting Eastern is an effective way of getting students to attend, which is how she enrolled.

Van der Graaff said the decrease in enrollment can also be positive because of small class sizes in which professors get to know students on a more personal level.

However, when enrollment decreases people could lose their jobs because of the downsizing effect, Van der Graaff said.

Kathleen Kuhlig-Carter, a library specialist, said the lack of enrollment concerns her because the university is not drawing as many students as it used to.

Kuhlig-Carter said she is concerned that on a national level, four-year universities are not giving the students what they need in today’s economic situation, which could be a reason many students are enrolling in trade schools.

“People used to be everywhere all the time. Going up and down the stairs, meeting in groups,” Kuhlig-Carter said.

Less people have been in the library asking her for help, which creates a different feeling on her average day at work, Kuhlig-Carter said.

Kuhlig-Carter said less events going on around campus could create a different atmosphere.

She said some departments now have fewer faculty members, which could be because of the decrease in enrollment.  However, when staff retire or leave they are not being replaced, which means the job opportunities are dropping as well.

“It all comes back around to the student on the long run,” Kuhlig-Carter said. “If you can’t get a job, we’re not doing any good for you.”

Oscar Correa can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected], Roberto Hodge also contributed to this article and he can be reached at [email protected]