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SU Libraries' Study Buddy Playtime Packs Aid SU Student, Faculty Parents

Dorothy and Elise
Eight-year-old Dorothy Burton, left, uses one of SU Libraries’ Study Buddy Playtime Packs while her mother, Dr. Elsie Walker, professor of English and SU’s Women’s Forum board member, interacts with a colleague.

SALISBURY, MD---Salisbury University students love the Patricia R. Guerrieri Academic Commons — The Princeton Review twice has named it among the nation’s top collegiate libraries — but for students with children, finding time to study there can be a challenge.

This semester, SU Libraries is making the task a little easier with Study Buddy Playtime Packs to help occupy the time of the younger study partners while their parents focus on academics.

Age appropriate materials (0-4, 4-8 and 8-12) include books, art supplies and small games, all of which children can interact with quietly within the GAC.

“I think it speaks to this societal shift that college students are no longer just that 18-to-22 age range,” said Jillian Amodio, parent of two and student in the Masters of social work online program, who earned her undergraduate degree in social work in the May 2022. “College students are within this large range of ages and life experiences and life situations. … The fact that we’re now being inclusive of those who need to balance family and children and work, it really does make it seem like college is meant for everyone.”

The idea emerged from an email sent from the SU Women’s Forum in 2021, with a statement faculty could use in their syllabi for students who were caregivers, explaining how faculty would support them in their academic efforts.

“That made me think, ‘What are we doing for students who are parents here in the library?’” said Dr. Beatriz Hardy, Dean of SU Libraries. “We had installed changing stations in the restrooms, but other than that, we hadn’t done anything.”

Hardy researched other higher education libraries for ideas, but found surprisingly little in the way of support programs for students with children. She knew she could — and should — be doing more to help SU’s student-parents.

At a strategic planning meeting last summer, her team agreed. A volunteer task force of SU Libraries staff began formulating a plan that could be enacted beginning this semester and developed further in future years.

With financing from SU Libraries and donations from its faculty and staff, the packs are the inaugural step in providing solutions for SU’s student-parents, many of whom do not fit the profile of what many would consider the average college student.

“I think it’s a group that’s not particularly served on campus, so I think it’s important to say, ‘Yes, you’re welcome; even if you’re not the traditional 18-to-21-year-old single person, you are still welcome here, and we will support your learning,’” said Hardy. “And we know that using the library and using the information resources, or even having a place to go, is important. I think it’s an important addition to our services.”

Though the plan originated with the idea of helping those students, faculty with children who frequent the Guerrieri Academic Commons for their own research also are excited about the program.

“By taking these steps that acknowledges someone’s identity, you are saying to that person ‘I see you, and I make a space for you because your welfare is important to me,’” said Dr. Elsie Walker, professor of English and board member on SU’s Women’s Forum. “When Bea told me that she was working on this and that she had a committee looking into other possibilities, I was absolutely thrilled, not only because I knew it would speak to the student population that needs it, but I also knew it would resonate for all faculty and staff.”

For its next step, the task force is reviewing how SU Libraries’ policies, including the code of conduct, are phrased to ensure an open and inclusive environment.

Members also are investigating the possibility of a group study room that would be outfitted and reserved for family use, both to make those users more comfortable and to limit potential concerns about noise interrupting other library patrons. A survey this spring will take a closer look at the need for such a space and solicit additional ideas.

Amodio sees these steps not only as a benefit to the parent, but the entire family.

“It’s encouraging this next generation of learners,” Amodio said. “It allows them to watch their mom or dad sit here and do their work and get their school work done and they’re a part of it. In a way, we’re not only serving the parents, but we’re serving the children, because it becomes this multi-generational aspect that education is possible at any stage in life.”

To request a buddy pack, visit the Guerrieri Academic Commons Circulation Desk. (Packs must be returned at the end of each visit.) Those wishing to donate new or gently used materials for additional packs also may be donated at the Circulation Desk.

Learn more about SU and opportunities to Make Tomorrow Yours at the SU website.