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2
The academic library as an
educational system
Abstract: Teaching faculty, students, administration, and even
academic...
18
Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors
of its parent institution. Currently administrators and a...
19
The academic library as an educational system
news about a public library that disposed of its entire physical collecti...
20
Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors
to librarians who are seen, heard, and informed. A second...
21
The academic library as an educational system
responsibilities. Chapter 1 suggests that proactive marketing of the
acad...
22
Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors
Instructional practices derived from individual principle...
23
The academic library as an educational system
In the academic library, directors should keep these non-negotiable
eleme...
24
Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors
■■ Do teaching faculty seem as enthusiastic about the lib...
25
The academic library as an educational system
its most valuable departments in a precarious position. The outcomes
incl...
26
Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors
and faculty to become more successfully information liter...
27
The academic library as an educational system
References
Budd, J.M. (2008) Self-Examination: The Present and Future of
...
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Chapter 2: The academic library as an educational system

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This chapter is from Proactive Marketing for the New and Experienced Library Director: Going Beyond the Gate Count, a new book by Dr. Melissa Goldsmith, PhD, MLIS, and Tony Fonseca, PhD, MLIS, published by Elsevier's Chandos Publishing.

Read their story on Elsevier Connect here: http://www.elsevier.com/connect/the-academic-library-as-an-educational-system

Published in: Education
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Chapter 2: The academic library as an educational system

  1. 1. 17 2 The academic library as an educational system Abstract: Teaching faculty, students, administration, and even academic librarians almost always overlook the powerful role of the academic library as an educational system, or self-contained educational entity, within its parent institution – a place where a student (or a non-student) can become self-educated. As an educational system, like any educational institution, it needs to find ways to remain relevant as time passes. New library directors need to be responsible for proactive marketing that both strengthens and articulates this role, which means drafting and disseminating a library mission/message that keeps up with political and ethical situations, and developing the library into a learner-centered environment. Academic librarians remain relevant by mastery of teaching and achieving new scholarly excellence. In other words, the library must contribute to both student engagement and the parent institution’s eminence. Key words: administrators, learner-centered, library faculty, parent institution, teaching faculty. Poet and literary scholar Kenneth Rexroth, while a student at the Art Institute of Chicago and afterwards, used the University of Chicago’s library to educate himself. New academic library directors must understand that as much as they have inherited a unit with a relationship to its parent institution, the academic library itself is an educational system or self-contained educational entity within its parent institution – a place where a student (or even a non-student) can become self-educated. This identity is critical to the academic library’s ability to pull itself out of the periphery and back into the academic and scholarly foreground
  2. 2. 18 Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors of its parent institution. Currently administrators and academic library directors alike fail to recognize that the library is a unit much like other units on any campus, where teaching, learning, and life experiences occur, rather than a place where books (and their ideas) go to die. Academic libraries within parent institutions: getting on the same page Bound to a parent institution, academic libraries are ruled by political and (hopefully) ethical forces. John Budd (2008: 124; see also p. 2) focuses some attention on the situation of academic libraries and librarians within their parent institutional settings and how politics and ethics impact their development as organizations. Specifically, he mentions that no matter how big or small the parent institution (college or university), influences are derived from the parent’s ideologies, missions, objectives, and tactics (ibid.: 252). In the best situations, academic libraries and librarians can develop within these parameters, or find ways to avoid obstacles, since the parent is fair and reasonable. Unfortunately, according to Budd (ibid.: 123), the academic library and the parent institution are at times not on the same page: Overwhelmingly libraries are parts of larger parent organizations, which may reside in the public or the private sectors. It would be easy to defer responsibility for ethical action to those parent organizations, but that would entail abdicating a professional ethos that we should adhere to. In a perfect world librarians would be on the same ethical page as administrators, boards, principals, etc. We don’t live in a perfect world, though. Political expediency, injudicious appropriation and use of funds, petty power grabs, and more serious abrogations are not uncommon in schools, colleges and universities, communities, businesses, and the professions. Budd’s observations about the worst situations deserve some consideration in terms of marketing the academic library through its physical space. The authors of this book have experience working in a library at an institution where an upper-level administrator announced at a faculty meeting that she questioned the need for the university to have a library in the near future. A person who often cited blogs rather than scholarship in presentations to faculty, she based her information on
  3. 3. 19 The academic library as an educational system news about a public library that disposed of its entire physical collection and became an all-electronic entity, failing to realize critical differences in mission between academic and public libraries. The further reality was that she came from a corporate background (a family in the banking industry) and was eyeing library space as a means of creating museum- like displays for local businesses. For the new director thrown into such a situation, motivations become irrelevant, since the political reality is an administrator whose short-term thinking for the library runs antithetical to what any good academic library needs to do in its long-term planning. Political issues can exist outside the institution itself, on an even larger scale. In Louisiana recently, where academic libraries are part of a statewide consortium that quadruples their buying power for an integrated library system (ILS) and databases, the state legislature decided to cut the consortium’s funding drastically (fortunately, after one year of this, the legislature saw its error and fully funded the consortium once again). Libraries there were faced with a reality that if they could not significantly increase their own budgets to fund the consortium themselves or become stand-alone information consumers, most database access, and anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of journal titles, would disappear, and no library in the state had yet created a preservation repository like LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) to keep all the electronic resources it rightfully owned safe and accessible. It may be possible to take some solace in Budd’s remark that “perhaps the most important thing we can realize as professionals working in organizations is that we can and must accept responsibility for our actions and decisions, but that we can’t force others to make the decisions we would make” (ibid.: 123). However, proactive marketing, if effective, can go a long way towards ameliorating such situations as these. In the case of the issue with the state legislature, a group of librarians associated with the ACRL Louisiana chapter created a media blitz that eventually convinced legislators to change their minds. Keeping up with political and ethical situations The authors of this book are as cognizant as Budd that politics and ethics make for many unfair, uncontrollable situations. One proactive approach to alleviate these is for academic library directors to be engaged, alongside library faculty, in the parent institution’s governance, leading
  4. 4. 20 Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors to librarians who are seen, heard, and informed. A second proactive approach is for the library director to stay abreast of the political and ethical situations that impact the academic library’s existence and well- being. Budd (ibid.: 148) suggests that academic librarians working within public institutions (and by extension all academic librarians and directors) keep themselves informed: Libraries of all types exist within clearly delineated political environments. The political world customarily defines funding, personnel management, and many aspects of operation. The environments themselves exist within a larger political environment of regulation, taxation, human relations, and legal constraints. For example, a library in a public university must accept budgetary regulations and flows, hiring practices, status and rank within the university structure, and numerous other things. The university, in turn, operates as part of some systematic arrangement of like institutions, may be overseen by a governing board, receive appropriations from a legislature, and so on. Ignorance of the structures leads not only to some operational difficulties, but also to missed opportunities and potential liability. Furthermore, there are political decisions that guide internal policy and practice of the library. When political behavior thwarts the development of an academic library, it becomes difficult to market by promoting the library through its physical space. When the library is playing its part on campus, following the parent institution’s mission, enabling students and faculty to succeed in their teaching and research, even adding to the institution’s eminence, then any administrative decisions to cut it back, allow it to wither on the vine, or deny the expertise of academic library faculty will be perceived as both unfair and unethical – tantamount to how it would be perceived had this been done to any other department of excellence. What is fair is for administration simply to ask the question (within reason) “What have you done for us lately?” This is a good deal easier to answer when the academic library director and its faculty are engaged in the parent institution on multiple levels than when library faculty stay unseen, within the four walls of the library. It is much more difficult in recent economic times for library directors to convince administrators that day-to-day, business-as-usual in-house work of the academic library is distinctive or exemplary, especially since teaching faculty have had to take on heavier teaching loads and administrative
  5. 5. 21 The academic library as an educational system responsibilities. Chapter 1 suggests that proactive marketing of the academic library by emphasizing the uses of its physical space is one way to address this question about its relevance. Academic library directors need to investigate what kinds of activities administrators would view as significant contributions to the parent institution, and identify any obstacles to marketing that may exist because of political or even ethical issues. The academic library as a premier learner-centered environment As mentioned, one of the most powerful cards the academic library holds, no matter the situation, is that it is an educational system. This facet of the library’s identity is too often either forgotten or disregarded. With the exception of small parent institutions with small faculty-to-student ratios in outstanding units, the academic library has the greatest potential of all campus entities to become the learner-centered environment for students. Here students – whether studying resources, getting hands-on experience with materials, or working on a paper – can best control learning style, timing, quality, and quantity, as well as depth and breadth; the academic librarian as multidisciplinary scholar/expert adds yet another level. Most agree that the college experience is assessed by student learning, based on an understanding of what they need (and what they do not). The academic library is a ripe training ground for learning to prioritize. For some library users, the grade-free and user-friendly environment, as well as librarians’ and staff members’ general willingness to help, cultivates intellectual curiosity and thirst for knowledge. In the best situations, academic librarians work frequently with students and faculty, building rapport, mutual respect, and an eventual understanding of the depths and limits of knowledge and ability. These librarians are in the position to coach users for success in their research, to share enthusiasm for studies or college in general, and to contribute to lifelong learning and transformative knowledge. The academic library as an educational system can be a learner-centered environment that exercises learner-centered practices (LCPs). And, fortunately, these practices – as well as the phrase “learner centered” – are used often in institutional mission statements. According to Barbara L. McCombs and Lynda Miller (2007: 34), LCPs are all-inclusive and do not focus on a single, one-size-fits-all instructional principle. They define LCPs as:
  6. 6. 22 Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors Instructional practices derived from individual principles run the risk of leading to learners feeling personally isolated, excluded, and/ or alienated, issues which arise when learners do not feel respected and cared about as unique individuals. A central understanding emerging from the LCPs is that for educational systems to serve the needs of all learners, these systems must focus on the individual learner, reflect an understanding of the learning process, and address the essential knowledge and skills to be learned. The academic library exists at the nexus of individualized educational space and people who practice LCPs. It is no surprise to find these same concerns in Stewart’s (2010: 63) study of new academic libraries: in planning new libraries, changing expectations of students for a more comfortable, accessible, and learning-centered library is measurably more important than providing space for physical collections. According to McCombs and Miller (2007: 103–5), there are also certain non-negotiable aspects of learning that students need to have available in order for teaching practices to be learner centered. These include: ■■ being able to choose how, when, and where they learn (individually or in a group) ■■ being responsible for their own learning as well as being treated as responsible students ■■ being able to see the relevance to their lives of what is being learned ■■ being willing to face learning that is challenging, but within reason ■■ being able to exert control – for example, having a say about the learning environment, how rules work, and how disruptive behavior is handled ■■ being able to create connections that include learning experiences to help students relate to peers and instructors ■■ being able to recognize they are in an atmosphere that embraces mutual respect ■■ having the chance to demonstrate competence by showing and applying what they have learned ■■ being able to learn in an atmosphere that enables cooperation, collaboration, and relationship building.
  7. 7. 23 The academic library as an educational system In the academic library, directors should keep these non-negotiable elements of LCPs in mind, moving away from one-size-fits-all solutions like the type of information or learning commons that does nothing more than offer tools without expertise, spaces that fail to enhance mobility for supporting different kinds of learning, or spaces that rely on technology- based-only resources. Directors and academic librarians need to gauge different users’ learning requirements. Using an impersonal approach to the physical space and how patrons are to be treated leads to what one of us, Goldsmith (2012: 6), termed the “McLibrary”. Even with reference questions that seem to seek the quickest answer, academic librarians need to be prepared to be learner centered: The patron, likely a student, approaching an academic librarian does not always want the quick and dirty, economical answer; that student may also possess great intellectual curiosity, no matter the level of research. At times s/he wants to be engaged intellectually. Students want to have their research needs filled in each their own way, which cannot happen at McLibrary. Unfortunately, even when parent institutions have worded their own missions to include education “with a personal touch”, and have gone so far as to fund presentations at all-faculty meetings that focus on learner- centered teaching, they simultaneously challenge LCPs by calling them expensive and inefficient (according to their cost-saving needs). They may go as far as to confuse value and price (as well as education with business). Library directors need to be aware of this and should be ready to articulate the difference between cost and value. What kind of academic library and educational system am I inheriting? New library directors will need to examine the interplay between the academic library as a physical space and its role as an educational system by asking what kind of system they are inheriting. ■■ Did the previous administration or library director ignore the library’s role as an educational system altogether? ■■ Is the library a system which leads to creating a physical space that successfully accommodates as many, if not all, kinds of learning styles possible?
  8. 8. 24 Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors ■■ Do teaching faculty seem as enthusiastic about the library’s research potential as the students, or vice versa? ■■ What challenges may exist to effecting any necessary cultural changes in the focus of academe on that campus? Table 2.1 gives just a few examples of potential partnerships that can be formed between the academic library and others on campus in order to promote a learner-centered environment (which includes learner- centered activities). Sample reasons are also provided. Any parent institution administrator who leaves in charge a passive academic library director, one hiding behind the four walls of the library and doing as little as possible to further teaching and learning, and who is incommunicado with teaching faculty and students, places one of Table 2.1 Potential partnerships between the academic library and other academic entities to create a learner-centered environment, and reasons for the partnerships Potential partner Learner-centered activity Reason Faculty development center Scholarly communications series or using a teaching specialization to teach across disciplines To address individual publishing and teaching needs of faculty and encourage research to dovetail into teaching; to show resources (human and materials) to facilitate specific teaching needs Student engagement director Mentoring workshops To engage better in impromptu mentoring (for example, students ask academic librarians about teaching faculty, coursework, graduate school, careers) Tutoring center/ other academic support units Classes that support a target user group of one of these support units To support academic units and their students with specific teaching and learning needs Disability services Programs that stress inclusion To accommodate and recognize diverse learners and kinds of learning Multicultural center Lecture series that focus on many cultures and use library resources To disseminate information about different cultures to various kinds of students and faculty members Upward bound/high school to college transition program Group and one-on-one classes to teach students how to use library’s databases To improve access to learning and research and create a welcoming learning environment for new and potential students (recruitment)
  9. 9. 25 The academic library as an educational system its most valuable departments in a precarious position. The outcomes include a complete lack of progress at worst, and at best reactive decision- making. Nothing good can come from this situation; in fact, quite a bit can be destroyed or ruined. Faculty and students come to believe their library is out of touch with their research needs. Rather than building resources and teaching opportunities, the library creates glorified study halls (some masquerading as learning commons). Students are faced with antiquated technology and infrastructure due to lack of funds. Talented library faculty and staff get misplaced and misused (a random placement of too many here and not enough there). Driven sometimes to create a return-on-investment calculator for both the right and the wrong reasons, further questions the academic library director may ask are what is the subtext, what are the signs that prove people are aware of the library’s role as educational system? The question a new director should ask is “Are they supportive, do they choose to have an antagonistic attitude, or do they simply not know any better?” Accountability and (or versus?) education Concerning the trend to value accounting over education in recent years in the United States, Budd (2008: 53–4) asks three questions. ■■ If instrumental material outcomes (accounting) are preferred to understanding and knowledge (accountability), what is the purpose of education? ■■ Where, then, is the balance between efficiency and effectiveness? ■■ Is excellence a meaningful word if accountability is of prime importance? Theories of proactive marketing challenge the academic library director to ask questions about excellence, accounting, accountability, and purpose. The measurements here that matter to administrators are those that show the activities of a well-evolved academic library and its faculty; for example, that the library works with other academic support units to create teaching and learning opportunities that engage students and faculty, enhance learning, enrich critical thinking, and impel students
  10. 10. 26 Proactive Marketing for New and Experienced Library Directors and faculty to become more successfully information literate. Weak academic libraries fail to put themselves remotely on the map in their parent institution. Proactive marketing requires calling attention to the library to establish how indispensable it is. It also requires finding ways to convince administration and teaching faculty that students can be held to a higher research or scholarship standard: they can learn, for example, to use and want the best possible resources – rather than the first ones they locate. If this message is lost, then we can blame only ourselves as administrators and educators for allowing an academic experience that tolerates instant gratification over education. Conclusions New library directors have to consider many aspects of the academic library and its parent institution when marketing. Physical space (discussed in Chapter 1) and the library’s role as an educational system (discussed here) should be considered in tandem when directors create a formalized strategic plan. In the Preface to this book we explained how proactive marketing is related to social marketing; it requires looking beyond one-size-fits-all solutions and reactive decision-making. Lisa O’Connor and Kacy Lundstrom (2011: 353–4) define social marketing and its goals, which should not be used with students only, but also with teaching faculty and administration: Social marketing is unique in that it is solution focused and seeks to change behavior in specific and measurable ways. Essentially, it provides a mechanism for systematically understanding barriers to individual behavior change and designing interventions accordingly. According to Brent Nunn and Elizabeth Ruane (2011: 295), “There is no single method for reaching library users; one-size-fits-all marketing means significant segments of a user population will be missed.” Flexibility with space and notions of place allows more kinds of users and learners to use the physical library space; it also opens up more marketing opportunities for the academic library.
  11. 11. 27 The academic library as an educational system References Budd, J.M. (2008) Self-Examination: The Present and Future of Librarianship, Beta Phi Mu Monograph Series. Westport, CT, and London: Libraries Unlimited. Goldsmith, M.U.D. (2012) “Have it your way? No way: on Bozo sapiens, the McLibrary, and the need to re-incorporate faculty driven decision-making into the academic library”, Codex, 1(4): 3–14. McCombs, B.L. and Miller, L. (2007) Learner-Centered Classroom Practices and Assessments: Maximizing Student Motivation, Learning, and Achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Nunn, B. and Ruane, E. (2011) “Marketing gets personal: promoting reference staff to reach users”, Journal of Library Administration, 51(3): 291–300. O’Connor, L. and Lundstrom, K. (2011) “The impact of social marketing strategies on the information seeking behaviors of college students”, Reference and User Services Quarterly, 50(4): 351–65. Stewart, C. (2010) The Academic Library Building in the Digital Age: A Study of Construction, Planning, and Design of New Library Space. Chicago, IL: ACRL.

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