Welcome to the Grinnell College Libraries, winner of the 2011 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries and the American Library Association. The eight faculty librarians and 18 staff of the Grinnell College Libraries—Burling Library, the Kistle Science Library, and the Curriculum Library—are dedicated to helping Grinnell students, faculty, and staff succeed in learning, teaching, and research. Our services emphasize working closely with students to develop fluency in the use and evaluation of information sources as they conduct research and other intellectual investigations, through individualized research appointments, classroom instruction, and drop-in research assistance. Each academic department and concentration has a professional librarian assigned as its liaison, and we work closely with our campus colleagues through the Academic Resource Centers to integrate writing, reading, data analysis, academic advising, and other services. The Libraries' book, journal, data, and media collections -- in analog and digital formats -- are wide-ranging and intellectually challenging, representing multiple viewpoints, languages, and cultures, and we are part of a world-wide network of libraries that can bring you information from all parts of the globe. We offer a variety of spaces for quiet and collaborative study, practicing presentations, and relaxing, and we sponsor readings, lectures, and musical performances throughout the year. We're also part of the Grinnell town community; residents are welcome to borrow from our collection, use our facilities, and enjoy our events. As the world of information grows more complex -- available in more formats, from more sources, with confusing questions about copyright and reliability -- libraries are more central to learning than ever before. We look forward to working with you!

Richard Fyffe, Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Librarian of the College: fyffe[at]grinnell[dot]edu

Mission Statement

The Grinnell College Libraries--Burling Library, the Curriculum Library, and the Kistle Science Library--serve the instructional, research, and general information needs of the campus community. The libraries fulfill their mission through (1) on-site provision of books, periodicals, microforms, sound recordings, electronic resources, and other library materials; (2) mediated access to off-campus information sources; and (3) active programs of information literacy: teaching the concepts needed to navigate the profusion of available sources and to evaluate critically the information, texts, and images discovered therein. As depositories for federal and state government publications, the libraries make such documents available to residents of Iowa and promote the use of these resources. The libraries serve as the archives for the official and unofficial records of Grinnell College; through the Department of Special Collections and Archives they seek to collect, preserve, and make available for research, sources that document the history of Grinnell College and its cultural and natural surroundings in Iowa, including the prairie setting of which it is a part.

Contact us

Burling circulation desk (641) 269-3350

Burling research desk (641) 269-3353

Kistle circulation desk (641) 269-4606 



Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

In 2011, the Grinnell College Libraries received the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. “Receiving an Excellence in Academic Libraries Award is a national tribute to a library and its staff for the outstanding services, programs and leadership they provide to their students, administrators, faculty and community,” said ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen K. Davis. We were cited in particular for the strength of our mentoring and information literacy programs. “The Burling Library customized the ACRL information literacy standards to create a focused, coherent and successful information literacy instruction program,” said Erika Linke, chair of the 2011 Excellence in Academic Libraries Selection Committee and associate dean of university libraries at Carnegie Mellon University. Linke noted, “The selection committee was impressed with the student mentors program – one example of many connecting the library with students and faculty. The activities of the library demonstrate a continuous effort to improve, adapt, reshape and respond to new expectations.”

This award was testimony to the hard work, creativity, and dedication of all the library staff over many years, and to the ongoing support of the campus community. We work hard to be sure that we, our programs, and our services remain deeply integrated with campus learning, teaching, and research. As libraries continue to evolve, our commitment to the College’s liberal-arts mission and program helps to ensure our effectiveness. The Libraries' winning application essay describes many of the excellent programs and services that happen in the Libraries, including:

  • Library Labs that provide individualized assistance to students working on research projects.
  • The Libraries' Doing Research site, which helps guide students through the research process.
  • Experiential learning opportunities such as student-curated exhibits.
Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success

In 2013, the Grinnell College Libraries were selected to participate in the new program "Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success," to examine the impact of the library on student success and help academic libraries contribute to assessment activities on their campuses. The program is sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries/American Library Association and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Grinnell is one of 75 institutional teams selected from a pool of 98 applicants.

As part of its application process, each participating institution identified a team consisting of a librarian and at least two additional team members. The librarian team leaders will participate in a 14-month professional development program that includes team-based activities carried out on their campuses. Librarians who participate in the AiA program, supported by a blended learning environment and a peer-to-peer network, will lead their campus teams in the development and implementation of an action learning project.

Grinnell's team includes Phil Jones, Humanities Librarian/Coordinator of Research Services; Carlie VanWilligen, Associate Director of Analytic Support and Institutional Research; and Henry Rietz, Associate Professor of Religious Studies. The Grinnell team will work with a selected group of Grinnell's academic departments to explore the impact of information literacy instruction within student majors on students' academic success. It will investigate how measures we might create (information literacy quizzes and surveys) and ones that already exist (such as ILL and circulation statistics, or a dataset of student writing samples) correlate with available student data such as GPA and retention rates. This two-pronged approach will allow us to learn about the effectiveness of library instruction and services and to connect library metrics with topics of campus-wide interest such as improving student learning and persistence.

ACRL is a division of the American Library Association, representing more than 12,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals.

ILEAD USA: Library Technology and Leadership Skills Institute

In 2013, a team made up of Drake Community Library and Grinnell College Library staff was selected to take part in ILEAD USA (Innovative Librarians Explore, Apply and Discover). This prestigious year-long program is designed to help library staff understand and respond to user needs through the use of technologies that encourage interactive collaboration by a wide range of people. The end goal is a program or project that could serve as a model for others with similar goals. The team, dubbed "The G-Team," is made up of Monique Shore and Sharon Johnson of Drake Community Library and Catherine Rod, Julia Bauder and Chris Jones of Grinnell College Libraries.

The G-Team is one of five teams chosen from ILEAD applicants statewide. Each team had to develop a project that would use technology and include a chance for participation from outside individuals. The G-Team application focused on development of a project to enhance access to digital resources related to the history of Grinnell and Poweshiek County. The project will also provide tools that will enable members of the public to contribute to the digital archives. Some of the potential outcomes are: creation of a website or portal that will serve as a unified access point to digitized historical content about Grinnell and Poweshiek County; technology to digitize and organize new materials; a portable public scanning station that will allow documents and photographs from area residents to be scanned for possible inclusion; use of "crowd sourcing" software to add information to photographs and documents in the project; and possible solicitation and recording of oral histories from area residents.

Learn more about the project here http://grinnell.lib.ia.us/poweshiekhistory/

"We are thrilled to be collaborating with the college library staff on this project," says Monique Shore, systems administrator at Drake Community Library. "When I heard about the ILEAD project at the annual Iowa Library Association conference last year, I immediately thought it might be the perfect opportunity to formalize our collaboration with the college on our local archive initiatives. Both libraries maintain local archives with slightly different focuses. We currently share resources on an informal basis, but this project will provide us with the tools and focus to create easier access for the public and also solicit new materials for our digital collections."

Iowa ILEAD articipants will take part in three four-day sessions over the course of nine months, beginning March 25-28. Teams use the skills and training acquired throughout the sessions to develop, implement, manage and evaluate the project. They are assisted by instructors and mentors who provide instruction and guidance during the course of the sessions.

Iowa Library Services is partnering with the state libraries of Illinois, Colorado, Ohio and Utah to implement ILEAD USA through a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Illinois State Library has hosted two extremely successful continuing education initiatives titled ILEAD U (Illinois Libraries Explore, Apply and Discover), and ILEAD USA is an expansion of the program.

Other ILEAD USA sessions will be held June 17-20 and October 21-24. Sessions will be held simultaneously in each of the five states, with plenary sessions on streaming video. In-person sessions, virtual meetings and activities will allow participants to hone their skills, experiment with participatory technology tools and continue communications with other ILEAD USA participants.

Annual Reports

Grinnell College Libraries' Annual Reports [PDF documents]

2006-2007 Annual Report

2007-2008 Annual Report

2008-2009 Annual Report

2009-2010 Annual Report

2010-2011 Annual Report

2011-2012 Annual Report

2012-2013 Annual Report

2013-2014 Annual Report

Emergency Plan

Disaster Plan

This plan outlines the steps and procedures to be used in response to a disaster. Its primary goal is to minimize or eliminate damage to the collections after first ensuring personal safety. 

Locations Planned For: Burling Library, Kistle Science Library, Curriculum Library

Events Planned For: Biological, Bomb, Fire, Power Failure, Structural, Vandalism, Water

The plan outlines the discovery notification responsibilities, assessment procedures and responsibilities, and recovery procedures and responsibilities. The basic structure of the plan is the same for all types of disaster, although some types of events require specialized action: Discovery, Notification, and Assessment and Recovery

Grinnell College Libraries Disaster Plan

Contact numbers are on file at the Campus Safety & Security Office

LibQUAL Survey

Survey Overview

In February and March 2007, the Libraries surveyed the Grinnell College community to find out how well we are serving campus needs. We used a national survey instrument called LibQUAL (http://libqual.org/) which measures the gaps between your minimum expectations for library service at Grinnell College, your desired level of service, and what you perceive the Grinnell College Libraries to offer in three areas:

  1. Affect of Service: how courteously and responsively library staff serve you
  2. Collections and Access: how well our collections of books, journals, and databases – and such services as the catalog, the website, and interlibrary services – give you access to the information you need
  3. Library as Place: how well our physical facilities serve your needs for space and technology

The survey also included an option for making free-text comments on any subject. Altogether, 278 students, faculty, and staff participated in the survey and 114 gave us comments.


  Students Faculty Administration and Staff Librarians and Library Staff Total
Survey 172 =12% of the students 54 =28% of the faculty 29 = 8% of administration and staff 23 = 85% of librarians and library staff 278
Comments 72 23 14 5 114
What We Heard

Overall, faculty and students perceive the Libraries to meet minimum expectations in the area of Collections and Access – and this is the area that matters most, as expressed by desired level of service. For faculty, Collections and Access are just at the level of minimum expectation. For students, Collections and Access exceed this level by a small amount.

Expectations for Affect of Service are lower, and we come close to meeting desired level of service in this area (though some of the free-text comments reveal concerns in this area, too).

Students have a similar “desired” level for Library as Place as they do for Affect of Service – and perceive our facilities to fall about midway between “minimum” and “desired” levels. More detailed information on the responses can be found in the links below.

There were several comments that questioned the validity of the survey instrument. We agree that this is not a perfect tool and we do not intend to rely on these results alone to understand student and faculty opinions. We see the results as clues to issues and problems (and strengths!) that we need to learn more about, through focus groups, quick point-of-service surveys, and – most important – ongoing conversation. Meanwhile, the survey gave every student, faculty member, and staff member an opportunity to be heard, and gave us a snapshot view of campus opinion at that time.

We have posted a more detailed summary of the survey results, the free-text comments we heard, and the report prepared by the LibQUAL organization. A note on the comments: we have done everything we can to remove information that might reveal the identity of the writer. The comments have been broken up into topics. Otherwise the wording has not been changed. See the links at the end of this page.

What We Plan to Do in Response

Faculty and students give highest priority in their survey responses to library collections and access to information. We have proposed a significant increase in funding for collections in our FY09 budget request, and we have also proposed to purchase new software to improve turnaround speed for books and articles, and the quality of the articles that you receive through our interlibrary services. We will also undertake an assessment of our collecting patterns, usage patterns, and faculty and student priorities; to be sure that we are making the best use of the resources we have been given. Ongoing conversation with faculty and students is essential for us to remain informed about those priorities, and we have reorganized our liaison program (http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/research/consultinglibs/) and our SEPC to help us do that.

Over the next year, we also plan improvements in our Web site that will make it easier for you to find what you are looking for.

We have already begun to address some of the concerns raised about Burling Library, and have made improvements in lighting, furniture, and technology (see What's New at the Grinnell College Libraries for further information)

Look for additional news on these plans over the next few months. We – the librarians and library staff – are responsible to you, the students, faculty, and staff of Grinnell College. Our job is to make the best use of the resources allocated to the Libraries in support of the learning and teaching mission of the College, and to prepare – as best as we can – for the College’s future needs for information and library services. This will sometimes require difficult choices and complex prioritization. We can serve you best if we know your needs and concerns, through your feedback and conversation. Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey.

Richard Fyffe

Rosenthal Librarian of the College



October 2007

LibQUAL Survey Results: An Analysis [PDF]]

LibQUAL Comments:

Students [PDF]

Faculty [PDF]

Staff [PDF]

LibQUAL Report [PDF]

Tell Us What You Think: http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/feedback.html

Self Study

Dreaming With Both Eyes Open

In 2008 the Libraries started a self study to identify our strengths, our weaknesses, and our key directions for the next several years. We were assisted by many faculty, students, and staff across campus. In April 2009, the Dean's Office hosted a pair of external reviewers who met with students, faculty, and staff to prepare their own report of assessment and recommendations. The Libraries submitted a formal response to the External Reviewer's report in April 2010.

We welcome responses to our original self-study. Ongoing assessment of our services in light of changes at the College and in the larger higher-education, information services, and technology communities--and continuing conversation with students, faculty and staff--are fundamental to our becoming and remaining the library that Grinnell College deserves.

The Libraries' Self Study Report (March 9, 2009)

Full report for printing [PDF]

Self Study report


Full list (excluding Appendix 18) for printing [PDF]

Individual Appendices [PDF]

Appendix 1: Membership on Self-study Teams

Appendix 2: Grinnell College Profile

Appendix 3: Official Peer Institutions

Appendix 4: Collections and Service Statistics 10-year data series, 1998-2007

Appendix 5: Total Library Budget

Appendix 6: Reference and Instruction Statistics

Appendix 7: Critical Inquiry Proposal

Appendix 8: Tutorial Information Literacy Curriculum

Appendix 9: Overview of Discovery and Access Services

Appendix 10: Interlibrary Loan Peer Comparison

Appendix 11: Collections, Collection Expenditures, and Collection Usage in Peer Context

Appendix 12: Special Collections Reference Statistics

Appendix 13: Academic Commons and Trends in On-Campus Collaboration

Appendix 14: Elected and Appointed Service on State, Regional, and National Committees, 2003-2008

Appendix 15: Outreach Survey

Appendix 16: Library Organization Chart

Appendix 17: Staffing Levels in Peer Context

Appendix 18: Librarian CV's

€Special Questions for the External Reviewers
Special Questions for the External Reviewers [PDF]