Childcare in the Library: Assisting Student Success

Students can bring their children with them to the OLV Library and have an opportunity to study while the children have a safe and fun place in the library to play and learn.

Through focus groups, Oregon State University’s Childcare & Family Resource office discovered that students with children were inadvertently excluded from using the library during peak times because they had no place to take their children. The majority of undergraduate study and work group sessions occur during evenings or on weekends. Traditional childcare centers are not open at these times, and when they are open they are often cost-prohibitive. As a result, students with children are often unable to study with other students or work on group projects.

To ensure that all students could access library services, Our Little Village (OLV) Library was created to provide quality childcare to students with children at Oregon State University (OSU). Students can bring their children with them to the OLV Library and have an opportunity to study while the children have a safe and fun place in the library to play and learn.

In October 2007, OLV Library partnered with the OSU library and the Benton County childcare licenser to create an exempt childcare program. OSU Libraries converted a conference room into a child-friendly space which included adding wall-to-wall soundproofing. Without calling ahead student parents can drop off their children for up to three hours per day on Tuesday and Wednesday from 2:30 to 10:00 pm, Saturdays from noon to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. The center is staffed by one full time child care professional and six paid student employees, all pursuing a degree related to education or child development. During their daily maximum of three hours of childcare, parents must remain in the library building. The service is paid for by student fees which equates to $1 per student per term, and student parents use the service with no additional charge.

OSU Libraries converted a conference room into a child-friendly space which included adding wall-to-wall soundproofing.


The vision of OLV Library is to have every student parent engaged and supported by the University at the same level as traditional students. OLV Library aims to remove barriers to student success by providing options that enhance academic excellence. Having a childcare center in the library indicates to all parents that their children are welcome on campus, especially in the library.

OLV Library provides a service that is crucial to raising retention rates of students with children. Students with children are able to have up to 12 hours of study time per week at no cost to them. At OLV Library, 70 percent of the students that use the service are female and 37 percent are students of color. These are disproportionate numbers compared to OSU’s student population. At OSU 48 percent of students are female and 22 percent are students of color. Female students and students of color tend to be underrepresented populations across campuses and they often struggle to get to the university.  They are also often the first to drop out if they cannot find or create support systems. OLV Library supports these at-risk students and keeps them on the path towards graduation.

Here are some statements from students who have used OLV Library:

  • I have been able to focus more on my studies and participate in group discussions with other traditional students. I feel less left out when I can make it to the library for an evening study group session. And yes, my grades went up, and I am less worried about making it through this phase of life and career change.
  • Last term, the library was the only place where I could leave my 2 daughters and read for my final exam in Coastal Law. Thanks to you guys, I got an A- for the class!
  • Since I’ve been using Our Little Village, I’ve had much less stress. It’s great to be able to come, bring my kids, leave them with people who are putting 100% of their attention on them, be able to take them out to walk, eat or play, and be able to bring them back. Thank you so much for making this available. Every university should have this. It makes fulfilling our goals and dreams of successful families and careers possible.
  • I love the program. I’m a single mom and a PhD student in Forest Science. The weekend hours are essential. And my son likes it too. Thank you for having this program!
  • OLV in the library has helped me study better and achieve good grades, because I know my child is well cared for, and I can FOCUS on my homework and not be interrupted.
  • It really helped me a lot last quarter. I had tons of readings last quarter and wasn’t really able to focus on what am reading at home then when I heard about this service I was so happy to be able to focus on what am reading rather than running behind my 3 kids at home!

OLV Library provides children a safe and engaging environment rich in social interaction, physical exercise and developmentally-appropriate activities. They are not left to watch TV or play video games while their parents are trying to study at home. For added benefit to the parents using OLV Library, staff collect books from the children’s section of the library and have them available for parents to take with them and check out with the rest of their research items. Additionally, OLV Library participates in the book exchange organized by our county library; in this exchange, children’s books are rotated through the childcare centers in the community to increase the variety of materials available to each child.

Oregon State University wants to provide a diverse, engaging learning environment. OLV Library is one way the university encourages and supports its students by providing them the opportunity to engage fellow students in the library. Offering the service at no cost breaks down barriers by allowing students to use the service whether they can afford it or not. OLV Library eliminates one major obstacle so student parents are able to meet with other students in the library while benefiting from quality childcare.

Metric 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011
# of Families Using

49

65

68

106

“heads” of children through the doors

547

801

745

704

Total Hours of Care

813

1,283

1,234

1,379

Average Length of Visit (hours)

2.21

2.31

2.19

2.3

% of children between 1-4 years old

57%

66%

58%

60%

Jennifer E. Nutefall is an Associate University Librarian for Innovative User Services at Oregon State University Libraries. Stephanie Duckett is Oregon State University’s Director of Childcare and Family Resources.