Recently I received an e-mail from a fellow library director at a university somewhat similar to my own wanting to know if we could chat sometime about some issues she was confronting at her institution. She had developed some strategies, but wanted to bounce them off a colleague for some feedback. I was glad to help. She had read my Library Issues piece on the OCLC College Students Perception Report, and wanted to further pick my brain about the possibilities of using the Report strategically. When we spoke on the phone about a week later I learned more details about impending budget constraints at the institution, and concerns that it might involve staff reductions at the library. The conversation also covered challenges the librarians were confronting in their efforts to integrate information literacy into the curriculum at their university. You know the story – faculty resistance, lack of administrative support for a dedicated information literacy position in the library, too few librarians and too many classes. In other words, challenges common to many of our academic libraries.
Well, you know what they say about free advice, but I was glad to share what I could about my own library environment and any lessons learned that could help my fellow director and her staff (some of who joined in the conference call). I won’t attempt to share all the details here, but it was a stimulating conversation from which we all learned (I think) something about our libraries and how we might do a better job of achieving our outcomes – although their lack of stated outcomes for information literacy was something that needed more work, along with an implementation plan that included formal assessment methods. The library director needs to clearly communicate to the administration and faculty what can be achieved with information literacy, and how it will help the institution meet accreditation standards. Without an articulated plan that’s difficult to accomplish. We also brainstormed ways to use the information in the OCLC report to establish the need for students to make better use of the institution’s investment in library resources – and that faculty needed to collaborate with librarians in all areas of the curriculum to make that happen. I can only hope our hour-long conversation will help this dedicated director and her staff achieve their goals, and especially fend off efforts to cut the library’s resources.
The point I want to make though is about keeping up. It certainly takes some extra time each day, but the investment will be well worth it if you come up with information and resources that can be used to keep administrators and faculty aware of the value academic libraries add to the students’ education and their ability to achieve academic success – and possibly even to help them choose the institution and stay there until they graduate. But if you don’t have the ammunition you can’t do the job. As I speak at and attend different conferences I still find that too few library administrators and even fewer front-line academic librarians are reading the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed. Those two should be required reading for every academic librarian everyday. Doing so will allow you to come across an article like the recent one about initial results from the ETS ICT Assessment that indicated students at many test institutions lacked adequate information literacy skills. That’s the kind of ammunition about which I’m talking. We alerted our readers to the OCLC College Students Perception Report, yet I still find academic librarians who haven’t heard of the report. It’s chock full of good ammunition. I’m going to get off the soapbox now. There is no secret to or special skill required for developing good strategies for locating and using the best information possible when advocating on behalf of the library. It all comes back to having a sound and well-rounded keeping up regimen. Here at ACRLog we’ll continue to do our part by bringing to our readers’ attention new studies and reports that are required reading for academic librarians. The rest is up to you.