Transforming the Library


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Presentation at the American Council on Education to Chief Academic Officers on transformation and opportunities in college and research libraries.

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  • Good afternoon, and thanks for having me today. The topic of Transforming the Library has been a popular one in our profession for quite a long time. And even though transformation can imply a blossoming into something beautiful like this epiphyllum, for us in libraries, we sometimes get the feeling that our faculty view it more like Jeff Goldblum’s metamorphosis into The Fly.
  • But thinking about it logically, if you started a library today, from scratch, it wouldn’t look much like this image.
  • …given that our print subscriptions have dropped precipitously in the recent past...
  • Meanwhile, our online presence expands and expands
  • So, the print & collections based economy of academic research libraries is definitely now an archetype of the past. It was a model that was necessary as we engaged in the information arms race of the 70s and 80s, in an effort to acquire as much information as possible, which is what distinguished us from our peers. If we had more journal subscriptions and more total books than that rival across town or downstate, then we had a ‘better’ library. But that was when information was difficult to identify, hard to acquire, and challenging to organize. Our information landscape is much different now. Information is all around us and easy to acquire. A library must operate different now.
  • So, what does a library do now? How do we distinguish ourselves? Since, by and large, the majority of our academic libraries are no longer able to engage in a collections – based economy any longer?
  • If it’s not ‘stuff’ any longer for us, then it must be about people. We really need to focus our resources on our librarians and staff and put them in a position to provide an extensive array of services that will prove our value as information specialists and experts.And although this concept is not new, it’s important to understand a shift in focus away from a majority of staff who are devoted to acquiring and organizing information to a staff that is largely focused outward from the library to the faculty and students that we serve, providing outreach, instruction, and be proactive in connecting users to collections that are now much broader and distributed than ever before.What does this look like in practice?
  • I just want to give you an example from our own recent experience. A group of our instruction librarians have developed a unique program over the past year and redefines their connection to faculty and students and provides a great example of how we can leverage our librarians to make those connections, and make them lasting and permanent.Char Booth, Natalie Tagge, and Sean Stone have developed a three part program to develop a new support structure for information instruction. Briefly, this includes Curriculum Mapping, Portfolio Development, and Rubrics.
  • This program starts with curriculum mapping, and they’ve leveraged a software package called Mindomo to do this. Every inistitution likes to think they are unique, but in many ways, at Claremont, we are unique or at least we present unique symptoms that make a diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Take, for instance the Environmental Analysis program. This is an intercollegiate effort with faculty and classes being taught at all 5 undergraduate colleges and it is rather loosely organized. Our staff went through the information we had and outlined the degree requirements, the courses, the field study, and study abroad options.
  • This allowed them to build a rubric for research literacy that included:ScopeEvaluationAnalysisInterpretationAnd Ethics
  • Once they had that rubric, they were able to design a set of courses that addressed components of that rubric in a systematic way, either in course-based instruction or individual research consultations with individual or groups of students.What impressed me the most with this program development was the logical way they could complete the cycle for us in the Administration with an assessment component that could be used by librarians as instructors, or faculty as evaluators of student or librarian performance.
  • The end result, for the student, was that they ended up with a great experience using the library and developing skills and techniques in a more customized and logical fashion. This positive user experience means that we have successfully moved past the rote, one shot instruction session where a librarian opens up a firehose and sprays all the students at the beginning of a course with everything that they ever might need or be interested in using in the future. Rather, this program builds a relationship between librarian-student-faculty that can grow and develop over time. And for the faculty member, they’ve seen such improved results in the research ability of their students over a few semesters, that the program administrator told us that grades are going down. That’s right, since they are expecting so much better performance knowing that the program is robust and providing students with a arsenal of techniques to leverage information, faculty have raised their expectations and demanding more of the students.
  • So this example is just one of many where we hope to develop “Cylinders of Excellence”, which is my more palatable name for a ‘Silo’.
  • Just to get you thinking about what your libraries are doing or can be doing, the things that are largely services-based and not collections-based, include continuing to build and leverage the Faculty-Librarian and Student-Librarian relationships in every way possible. We need to continue to increase discovery of information. Again, this is largely a services-based function – discovery is not dependent on the local acquisition and organization of information, rather it is now information discovery at the network level – information that is owned, unowned, licensed, shared, or accessible.We should bridge the gap between those resources and the tools to use them, including information management techniques and effective usage of non-text based information.We should focus local efforts on the local stuff that is unique to our libraries. Special Collections have always been about a good mix of physical items and services built around those items.And, from an administrator’s point of view, we no longer can expect that the rest of the academy sees the library as a central core function of the educational experience but instead we need to prove our value and provide positive indicators that we have outcomes that give us reasonable return on the resources we allocate to the library.
  • Transforming the Library

    1. 1. Claremont Colleges LibraryTransforming the Library March 11, 2012
    2. 2. Claremont Colleges LibraryIf you started a library today… March 11, 2012
    3. 3. Claremont Colleges LibraryDecline of Print Subscriptions4200370032002700220017001200 700 Claremont Colleges 200 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 March 11, 2012
    4. 4. Claremont Colleges Library Growth of Online Access 50000 Claremont Colleges 45000 40000 35000 30000 25000 20000 15000 10000 5000 0 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 March 11, 2012The Claremont Colleges Pomona College 1887 Claremont Graduate University 1925 Claremont University Consortium 1925Scripps College 1926 Claremont McKenna College 1946 Harvey Mudd College 1955 Pitzer College 1963 Keck Graduate Institute 1997
    5. 5. Claremont Colleges Library March 11, 2012
    6. 6. Claremont Colleges LibraryWhat does a library do then? March 11, 2012
    7. 7. Claremont Colleges Library
    8. 8. Claremont Colleges Library March 11, 2012
    9. 9. Claremont Colleges Library March 11, 2012
    10. 10. Claremont Colleges Library March 11, 2012
    11. 11. Claremont Colleges Library March 11, 2012
    12. 12. Claremont Colleges Library March 11, 2012
    13. 13. Claremont Colleges LibraryCylinders of Excellence March 11, 2012
    14. 14. Claremont Colleges LibraryOther (potential) Cylinders of Excellence • Faculty-Librarian & Student-librarian collaboration • Increase discovery • Improve findability, filtering, precision • Bridge chasm between resources and info tools • Promote usage, ease information management • Allocate resources to the unique collections • Special collections, archives, digitization • Focus on assessment, quality indicators, outcome measures • Prove our value! March 11, 2012