Profound changes in the information environment within which learning and scholarship take place have challenged academic libraries everywhere, including ours. Teaching has become a more intensive, engaged activity for librarians, as the information environment within which students and faculty must learn to navigate has grown more complex and more politically, legally, and ethically fraught. The interplay between digital and non-digital flows of information creates new complexities for collection management and development. As digital information is dispersed beyond the physical library, opportunities have emerged for re-thinking the kinds of spaces our library buildings offer. New digital initiatives—including both digitization of primary resources within our collections and development of repositories for student, faculty, and staff scholarship and creative work—call for new commitments of time and resources, and for more intensive collaboration with our colleagues in Information Technology Services and elsewhere across campus. And the networks of cooperation that have always bound libraries together—through interlibrary lending and borrowing, consortial collection development, and sharing of expertise—have grown more important, while the relationships between libraries and publishers—especially in the debate over new, more open models of scholarly communication—have both strengthened and frayed. Today, no library and no librarian works alone.

Like academic libraries elsewhere, the Grinnell College Libraries have been energized by these extraordinary opportunities to engage more deeply with the College's programs of teaching and scholarship, but we are also challenged to identify the opportunities on which it is most important for us to focus. The possibilities seem endless, but making our vision into reality will require careful selection of goals and strategic use of financial resources and the time, talent, and attention of librarians and staff. Deciding among the potential goals will require collaboration with the entire campus community.

For this report, we have identified eight areas of library practice that we believe will be critical to charting our future path: 

Information Literacy and Reference Services

Information Discovery and Access

Collections and Collection Development

Special Collections

Digital Initiatives

Partnerships and Collaboration

Cultivating Engagement

Staffing and Organization.

Coda: Measurement and Planning: How We Get from Here to There

Each section identifies a critical challenge facing the Grinnell College Libraries, recommends steps we can taketoward meeting that challenge, and analyzes the strengths on which we can build and the weaknesses or constraints we shall have to address in doing so. In some cases we were not in full agreement with each other about the best path forward, and we have tried to reflect that disagreement in respectful recognition that, if the answers were simple, the questions would not have been worth the effort of this study.

Libraries and library operations are complex: we serve many kinds of purposes for many kinds of users. Thus no single theme unites this report, beyond our core mission to serve the teaching and learning information needs of Grinnell College students, faculty and staff. However, our self study has been deeply informed by the College's current strategic plan, and especially by our vision of how we can help advance the goals of interdisciplinarity and integrative, inquiry-based learning.

This report assumes a relatively short time horizon of three to five years. This is for two reasons. First, the pace of change in academic libraries and in the broader worlds of higher education, scholarship, and technology has seemed to accelerate for at least the last fifteen years. It seemed wisest to focus on the opportunities and choices that are already emerging and to learn how to use our time and other resources to meet them. Second, to remain a vital part of the Grinnell College learning community, "self study"— understanding the kind of library we need to be tomorrow, and taking steps today to adjust our practices, redirect our energies, or confirm that our current path will get us there— must become part of our daily operational life. We have already begun this process through semi-annual library-wide planning meetings. This self study is intended to deepen that commitment.

Some readers will note that we have not explicitly addressed space planning in the report. This was deliberate, for we believe that before we can create a program for our facilities (whether new or renovated) we first need a vision of our whole program. However, we have identified a number of opportunities and current constraints that could be addressed through new spaces.

This report incorporates many voices. I am grateful for the commitment, patience, passion, and good faith that informed the involvement of everyone who participated. The first drafts of the eight sections were researched and written by teams of librarians, library support staff, and (in most cases) non-library faculty, administrators, or staff; the teams are listed in Appendix 1. Those drafts were reviewed in open library meetings, and after revision were shared with the Instructional Support Committee, Executive Council, and the Libraries' SEPC for comment. Based on those responses, we revised again, reconsidered the implications of what we had written, and revised yet again. With each step in the process we learned more about our profession and about ourselves; we are a stronger, more confident library now, with a clearer sense of direction, than we were when we started.

The resulting report offers a vision for a library that will, we hope, continue to earn the respect and regard of the Grinnell community: a library that is responsive to the teaching and learning needs of Grinnell students and faculty, and alert to the scholarly, cultural, and technological trends that shape those needs; a contributor to the intellectual program of the College, engaged in the College’s teaching program through a conceptually sophisticated, discipline-sensitive information literacy program; a catalyst for scholarly and creative exchange of ideas; and a gateway to the data, scholarly literature, cultural texts, and other records needed for teaching, learning, and intellectual life at Grinnell.

We look forward to the conversation that this self study is meant to begin.

Richard Fyffe
Rosenthal Librarian of the College
9 March 2009

1. Information Literacy and Reference Services

Teaching is the core of the Libraries' work. Over the past decade academic librarians’ teaching has evolved from traditional orientation and database demonstration sessions to information literacy, which stresses concepts such as the critical evaluation and use of an ever-changing array of materials. Grinnell’s librarians want to reach more students, develop a curriculum to improve our students’ learning, and expand information literacy instruction beyond Tutorial into upper-division courses. Numerous Grinnell faculty, students, and administrators have expressed support for these goals; and consistent with the College’s strategic plan, each goal emphasizes integrative, inquiry-based learning.

The Key Challenge

Our challenge is to find the best balance among our teaching-related activities that will allow us to advance information literacy at Grinnell College. These activities include Tutorial instruction, course-integrated instruction, co-curricular programming, and reference and consultation services, among others.

Information literacy instruction and reference service are opportunities for Grinnell’s librarians to help students learn how to discover, use, and evaluate appropriate sources for academic work. Each of Grinnell’s librarians participates in teaching formal information literacy sessions. The majority of these information literacy sessions are provided to students during their First-Year Tutorial, the only course that all Grinnell students are required to take. The purpose of Tutorial is “to illuminate methods of inquiry rather than to master disciplinary material, to give special attention to writing and to critical analysis of texts . . . and to provide initial preparation in techniques of research” ( Tutorial topics vary. Recent topics have included “Biotechnology: Bountiful Harvest or Bitter Harvest?” “Walls, Doors, and Mirrors: Immigration Policies and Politics in the Contemporary U.S.,” and “The Language of Color: Practice and Perception in Culture and Art.”

More than thirty different sections of tutorial are offered each fall, and a librarian works with each class one or more times. The Tutor and the librarian collaborate to plan these information literacy sessions, customizing sessions to the assignments and readings in that tutorial. The result is that Grinnell’s eight librarians teach a total of approximately fifty unique information literacy sessions in tutorials each fall.

Each library faculty member also serves as a consulting librarian to academic departments and concentrations and provides information literacy sessions for courses in those liaison areas. As with Tutorial, the goal is that these sessions be developed collaboratively between the librarian and the course instructor. However, the realities of changing course offerings, teaching assignments, and faculty rosters sometimes make realizing this goal difficult. Because Tutorial takes instruction precedence each fall semester, Grinnell’s librarians have not been able to offer as many 100- through 400-level instruction sessions as they — or disciplinary faculty members — would like: on average we teach 15 of these sessions each fall and spring semester. However, the librarians have been able to accommodate every faculty request for disciplinary instructional sessions, regardless of the semester.

Each of Grinnell’s librarians also participates in providing reference services. Librarians are available to provide face-to-face, telephone, and virtual reference assistance for 63 hours per week (see Appendix 6). Virtual reference services are provided both through e-mail and, as of the fall 2007 semester, through instant messaging (IM). During the 2007-08 academic year the Libraries experimented with but did not promote the IM reference service. Beginning with the fall 2008 semester, posters around campus and ads in the Scarlet & Black, the student newspaper, have been used to raise faculty and student awareness of this option for reference service.

Students who require deeper research assistance can sign up for a Library Lab, which is “an individual research appointment initiated by a student . . . or a small group of students to pursue research on a specific topic. A librarian will prepare prior to the appointment and then meet with the student(s) . . . to discuss and walk through the steps of the research process" ( We provided 134 of these sessions in the 2007-2008 academic year. All of the librarians also participate in providing Library Lab instruction.

The Libraries also offer for-credit coursework as part of the information literacy program. Each semester for over thirty years the Grinnell College Libraries have offered Library 100 (Library Research Techniques), a semester-long, 2-credit course which enrolls an average of seven to ten students. A range of students take Library 100, including first-year students and graduating seniors from all three academic divisions. International students and Posse Scholars also frequently enroll in the course ( )

In spring 2008 and spring 2009, the Libraries offered a 4-credit special-topics course, "How Disciplines Construct Knowledge," in collaboration with the College's Writing Lab. This is a writing-intensive course intended to introduce students to the different norms that prevail in different disciplines for writing, use of evidence, and organization of scholarly communication. On the one hand, it is a practical course that helps students understand how — and why — the way they should write a philosophy paper (for example) is different from the way they should write a paper in economics or chemistry. In a liberal arts curriculum, this understanding is important for all students. On the other hand, it is a conceptual introduction to disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity that helps frame the College's Expanding Knowledge Initiative. Student response has been positive, and several members of the disciplinary faculty have participated as guest lecturers. A key question facing the Libraries is whether to seek regularization of this (or some similar) 4-credit course, or whether our time and energy are better directed to other ways of supporting student learning.

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do

A. Develop learning goals and a curriculum for information literacy instruction spanning the college’s three divisions, reaching first- to fourth-year students

The Libraries are fortunate to work with all incoming first-year students in Tutorial sessions. However, we now need to plan Tutorial information literacy sessions based on a common set of goals; doing so may help us find more instruction time with classes and students beyond the Tutorial. Appendix 8 shows a draft of a curriculum that would integrate library sessions into each Tutorial. Using this curriculum, students would progress through a research process before, during and after a library Tutorial session.

In order to explore an information literacy curriculum for introductory courses in academic majors, methods classes, seminars, and MAPs, during spring 2009 consulting librarians will meet with faculty in a small number of departments to:

  1. Consider the possibility of building informal "profiles" of critical information literacy expectations specific to students majoring in these disciplines and identify a variety of opportunities for introducing students to these concepts.
  2. identify courses or a sequence of courses in which progressive information literacy instruction could be integrated. The actual teaching of this material could be provided by departmental and/or library faculty members.

B. Establish priorities within our information literacy work

Because we need to offer a variety of learning opportunities for our students, librarians want to teach in different settings: tutorial and disciplinary instruction sessions, Library Labs, credit classes, and drop-in reference work. The reality is that we have only so much time to dedicate to teaching. To ensure that our instructional contacts are well-chosen, we need to:

  1. Articulate the goals of each instructional option (Tutorial, Library Lab, reference desk, credit classes, etc.) and clarify how each contributes to our overall information literacy program.
  2. Establish the degree to which each instructional option will be emphasized based on factors such as their effectiveness and popularity among students, and the talents and experience of librarians.

C. Develop a range of online options for information literacy instruction

Librarians can work with disciplinary faculty and Curricular Technology Specialists to develop a set of online instructional modules for individual students and classes. A module is a Web-based learning tool that provides an explanation of a topic, a research strategy, a resource list, exercises, or an online tutorial. These modules can focus on:

  • Topics from our Tutorial curriculum (e.g., forming a research question);
  • Topics that appear on our departmental information literacy profiles and curriculum; and
  • Topics that librarians identify as advanced research needs: primary sources, numeric and spatial data, legal information, government information, copyright and information ethics, and images and other media.

These modules would both update and extend the Libraries’ current set of instructional guides ( Librarians and/or course instructors could provide formal instruction for a module during a single or a short sequence of sessions, in Tutorial or thereafter. These teaching tools could also be used during reference work, by faculty, or by students using our Web site. However, we want to be mindful of the need for ongoing maintenance and technological support for these online modules, as well as the need to ensure that their design promotes student engagement and comprehension.

D. Increase our capacity to offer more Library Labs while maintaining the quality of the service

For both librarians and students, Library Labs have been a successful model of outreach, instruction, and reference service. In 2004, librarians held 110 Library Lab appointments; if current patterns hold, 250 Library Labs will be conducted during the 2008-09 academic year. Library Labs are popular with students at all levels, from first-year students wanting to learn how to search disciplinary databases to MAP and seminar students needing help finding the sorts of specialized primary sources necessary for advanced inquiry-based learning.

It is clear that individualized instruction is an effective method of teaching research processes to students, but Library Lab preparation can be very time consuming. On average, a librarian will spend 50 minutes preparing for a Library Lab and 50 minutes face-to-face with the student during the consultation. Thus, completing 250 Library Labs this academic year would represent a commitment of over 400 librarian-hours. The Libraries have considered other options for these labs—such as offering a for-credit option, as is done in the Math and Writing Labs, or providing consultations in popular campus locations during midterm and final exam periods. We need to offer services students want. But we also need to consider that expansion of this service will take up a more of the librarians’ available time.

E. Train public service supervisors and student staff to provide basic information services

During a one-week sampling period in fall 2008, Burling circulation supervisors and student staff members answered 30 reference questions; this figure extrapolates to 450 questions a semester and 900 per academic year. These statistics make it clear that our circulation supervisors and student staff should be supported in providing high-quality basic information service when a librarian is not on call or at the reference desk. Additionally, Grinnell’s librarians are receiving fewer in-person questions than ever at the reference desk. The librarian at the desk receives, on average, approximately two questions per hour during the 43 hours per week that the Burling reference desk is staffed. Moreover, many of the questions received at the reference desk are not truly “reference” questions that require the assistance of a professional librarian. For example, many questions relate to students having difficulty locating a specific book in the stacks or needing a staff member to retrieve a pay-per-view article. Well-trained circulation, Listening Room, and student staff could help with these questions.

A revised reference model could rely on trained circulation and student staff members to provide directional and basic information service whenever Burling and Kistle libraries are open, with fewer hours of librarian-staffed reference desk service in Burling. For questions that the circulation and student staff cannot answer on their own or by referring a patron to a source on the Libraries’ Web site, a librarian would be on-call during normal business hours.

If this service were offered it would need to be monitored, and the circulation and student staff would need to receive regular training and refreshers. The potential negative impacts of reducing reference-desk hours would also need to be considered. If not available at the reference desk, those librarians whose offices are located in parts of the building that are closed to the public would be much less accessible to students. We may want to consider rearranging offices to place more librarians on the more heavily-trafficked first floor, where they would more frequently come into contact with students. We might also need to maintain drop-in reference hours during busy periods of the semester.

F. Continue to explore and promote virtual reference services

The increasing importance of virtual reference (email and IM) may ameliorate some of the issues with decreasing reference desk hours. When students are e-mailing or instant messaging a librarian to ask straightforward questions, the librarian is equally accessible wherever she might be. More complex questions are still best addressed face to face, so when a student e-mails or IMs, the on-call librarian can still suggest an in-person meeting, either immediately or at a later time. Since we introduced IM reference in the fall of 2007, usage has been increasing, but we do not yet have enough experience with it to draw firm conclusions about its utility.

G. Evaluate the role of librarians staffing the reference desk

Once we better understand the effectiveness of our virtual reference and public desk basic information service, we can consider the role of librarians staffing the reference desk. We will need to evaluate, for instance, our reference statistics and the number of hours librarians are on the reference desk before changing our present service model.

Strengths To Build On

Information literacy is an explicit goal of the College's first-semester Tutorial, and a tacit goal of much of the curriculum. The focus of the Strategic Plan on deepening the College's commitment to interdisciplinarity and to inquiry-based learning are also consistent with an integrated information literacy program. (Strategy #1, Increase the emphasis on inquiry-based learning and broaden our liberal arts curriculum," Grinnell College Strategic Plan, 2005: ( Moreover, Grinnell's librarians are well-regarded on campus as collaborators in the teaching program, and our information literacy planning can draw from the experience and understanding they bring to teaching and reference work. Science librarian Kevin Engel, for example, developed an approach to teaching information strategy and sources tailored to science education; Special Collections Librarian Catherine Rod helped develop and co-taught the 4-credit course on disciplinarity and writing, "How Disciplines Construct Knowledge;" and Richard Fyffe is exploring the connection between information literacy, critical information studies, and scholarly communication.

The active role of librarians in teaching the introductory Biology course (Biology 150) represents a promising avenue for integrating critical inquiry into disciplinary courses. Kevin Engel works with each section of Biology 150, an introductory course required of all students intending to major in biology. This is a hands-on course in which students work collaboratively and begin to learn to act, think, and communicate like scientists. Students in different sections investigate different topics in biology, but practice the same sets of skills.

Such introductory courses are an important venue for teaching discipline-specific information literacy skills. Students in other disciplines would be better prepared for inquiry-based learning if their introductory courses also contained a similar, tightly-integrated information literacy component.

To initiate campus discussion of the place of information literacy in disciplinary learning, we drafted a white paper in spring 2008 that proposes “that ‘information literacy’ be understood in [an] expansive sense, as critical reflection on the methods, norms and significance of inquiry” (Richard Fyffe, Sarah Purcell and James Swartz, “’Information Literacy,’ Critical Inquiry, and the Mission of Grinnell College: A Proposal.” See Appendix 7) . The paper has been reviewed within the Dean's Office and — with this self study as broader context — will be proposed to the Instructional Support Committee for further discussion later this spring or during the fall. It introduces the critical information literacy program that Grinnell’s librarians want to create: a program that both draws on and expands our profession’s standards and that is well aligned with the tenets of liberal arts education.

In addition, we have expanded the traditional scope of library instruction to include quantitative and spatial data through recruitment of a Data Services Librarian. This librarian works with faculty and students across the curriculum to help identify datasets appropriate for student research and learning, and to help faculty manage existing datasets. In this respect, we are extending "information literacy" beyond the discovery and evaluation of textual sources to include information of many kinds that is increasingly brought together in interdisciplinary learning — often in digital formats.

The Libraries’ Information Literacy Planning Committee meets bi-weekly to discuss and plan program development. The committee is headed by the Readers Services Librarian and includes two to three other librarians as core members; for the remaining librarians, this is an optional meeting. During the first half of the fall semester when librarians are busy with tutorial instruction, this meeting includes regularly scheduled discussions of our teaching. To better understand the needs and preferences of the campus community, this committee could include student and faculty representatives, at least periodically.
As we strive to improve our teaching, librarians can observe some of our faculty colleagues teach and then discuss what we have seen. This collegial outreach could help us learn methods for structuring instruction sessions and assessing students’ learning in addition to strengthening our ties to individual faculty and departments.

Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome

The major constraint in achieving the Libraries’ goals for information literacy instruction is limited staffing. Moving beyond Tutorial to offer an active information literacy program in all twenty-six majors and twelve interdisciplinary concentrations would be a serious commitment of time. The Libraries must take this fact into consideration and be careful to expand their information literacy offerings at a sustainable rate. Creating a sustainable, expanded information literacy program will likely involve cutting back on other activities in order to devote more time to instruction.

In addition, the Libraries' lack of a formal relationship with the Curriculum Committee may limit our ability to integrate an information-literacy perspective into ongoing discussion of the curriculum.

Special Issues: Assessment

Assessment of the Libraries’ information literacy programs and reference services currently takes two main forms: collecting statistics on the usage of these services and gathering feedback from students and faculty (including the library faculty) on their impressions of the quality of these services.

The Libraries have two feedback forms: a paper form that can be given to students at the end of a formal information literacy instruction session, and a Web-based form where students can provide feedback about their Library Labs ( The librarians themselves can also provide useful impressions on the effectiveness of our reference services and information literacy program. An organized framework to gather the librarians’ impressions could be formulated and implemented in order to better capture this information.

The Research Practices Survey (RPS), which measures students’ knowledge of and attitudes towards the research process, is another potential method of assessing the information literacy program. In August of 2008 incoming first-year students took RPS for the first time. In the future, this survey will be administered to each incoming class. It will also be given as an exit survey to fourth-year students beginning in 2011, allowing us to see how much students have increased their research skills and confidence during their four years at the College.

The expectations we help academic departments articulate will identify departmental goals for information literacy. We can then work with departments to determine if these goals are being reached.

2. Information Discovery and Access

Profound changes in the tools that facilitate discovery of and access to information have changed the role of the academic library in providing resources for research, learning and teaching. Students and faculty at Grinnell College continue to make extensive use of information resources in the course of their work, but they no longer look to the library and its research tools as the sole means of discovering or acquiring access to those resources.

The Key Challenge

The Grinnell College Libraries must take information resources to our users with tools that can be readily used within their existing Web-based work flow. We provide a wealth of tools for discovering needed information—such as the library catalog and indexes to disciplinary literature—but these tools are often perceived as difficult and time-consuming to use. The complexity and features of library searches are intimidating to some users, and Google's “one box” approach to searching is often preferred. A 2006 study showed that 89 percent of college students started their research with an Internet search (Cathy De Rosa, College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources: A Report to the OCLC Membership, A companion piece to perceptions of libraries and information resources, Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., 2006. Available online at [Accessed January 15, 2009]). Most people have a preferred Web page from which they start their research, and for most people this is Google, Wikipedia, or Amazon since those sites can be reached through the search box on their Web browser.

However, there is often no clear connection between citations discovered using these general Web tools and the Libraries’ collections. A student who discovers a book using Google would assume she has to leave Google, open the library homepage, find the library catalog, and then search the catalog to determine whether or not we have it. This creates a gap between the initial discovery (the citation) and access to the content — a gap most users are increasingly impatient with, and (more importantly) one that diverts a user's attention from scholarly evaluation of the work to the mechanical processes required to find the work. With the right Web-integrated tools, however, this student could instead search for the title in our catalog from the Google results page and then browse its Google Books preview in our catalog before deciding whether or not to walk to the library to get it. The Libraries need to find ways to make that potential linkage clear and to support users in their preferred information environment whenever possible.

Google Scholar is an example of the type of freely available discovery tool with which the Libraries' catalog and databases are being compared, and one that our users are increasingly interested in using. Google Scholar searches the Web for pages that appear to be scholarly material, and it often returns some of the same citations that our subscription databases would. The results are often very extensive, and results for many different disciplines are returned together. This is not the best approach for scholarly research or for undergraduates in a specific class using unsophisticated searching techniques, but the appeal of its simplicity is clear. Google Scholar does give libraries the option of indicating which resources in the results list are also available in the library collection, so users can quickly click from the results page to a catalog page or subscription article. The Grinnell College Libraries have arranged for our resources to be identified in this way for our patrons.

An example of a Web-integrated tool created by libraries is LibX, which the Grinnell College Libraries have implemented. This browser extension ( allows users to search the library catalog, WorldCat, Journal Finder, and other catalogs right from the toolbar; drag and drop article citations onto the toolbar to locate a full-text copy automatically; or go from a book’s page on to searching the library catalog for that book with just one click. More tools like this are being created by libraries and offered by the commercial services that libraries use. The Grinnell College Libraries must make finding and adapting these tools a priority in order to meet our users’ emerging preferences.

The ability to discover a wide variety of scholarly resources using library databases or tools on the open Web also has implications for the library’s provision of access to materials. The content being accessed may be available on campus in the form of print or digital materials, or, increasingly, it may be accessed from remote locations. Users are discovering a wider range of materials more quickly, which increases their expectations of how quickly the library can then make those materials available to them. A student or faculty member who discovers a citation to an electronic version of an article from a journal to which we do not subscribe may see a “Buy Now” button on the page and question why they must make an Interlibrary Loan request and wait a week for something that could be had instantly. Improving our Interlibrary Loan services and examining our collection practices to determine whether or not expanded article-on-demand services are warranted will be crucial to providing the speed and breadth of access that our users want.

Finally, a "seamless" information environment—one in which search processes are simplified and the steps required to move from citation to document are mediated by machines—creates the risk that research processes will become superficial and that student learning will be compromised. In such an environment, "critical information literacy" becomes all the more important: students must develop a critical understanding of the methods, norms, and significance of inquiry, and the ability to evaluate an information source for its credibility and relevance to a project. We address our goals for information literacy at Grinnell College in section 1 of this self study.

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do

A. Designate a librarian or staff member as responsible for actively monitoring and implementing technological developments that will benefit our user in a systematic way.

LibX is just the beginning of what is possible in terms of Web-integrated library research tools. We also might create and make Web tools readily available that allow users to integrate all, or parts of, the library Web site into personal pages and PioneerWeb (the campus course management system). This could make it as simple for people to search via the library as it is to do a Google search. The first step in developing and enhancing Web tools is knowing what can be done. If we had a designated person who could keep track of features that are being added to services we already use and tools that are being developed by other libraries, we would be able to evaluate the usefulness of these services and tools to the Grinnell community and to adopt them as needed.

B. Promote the Libraries' Web tools more effectively to our community and educate users about the range of tools available to them.


C. Implement new Interlibrary Loan software and services that will benefit both library staff and users.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is our chief way of extending our collections beyond what we can purchase. One of the areas that both faculty and students who completed the 2007 LibQUAL survey identified as both very important to them and in need of improvement was the speed of Interlibrary Loan delivery.

Among the changes we have identified:

1. Move to a different ILL software platform (probably ILLiad). Compared to our current platform, ILLiad has software capabilities that would both offer services requested by our users (e.g., status tracking for individual ILL requests) and probably increase efficiency for library staff (e.g., automated printing of bookstraps, automated generation of statistics).

2. Introduce Web pick-up of Interlibrary Loan articles for patrons. During the spring of 2009, we plan to shift from our current practice of printing and mailing paper copies of articles to putting an electronic copy on a password-protected Web site for users to retrieve for themselves. This will speed delivery, make items available to people at remote locations, and, perhaps, reduce printing (and thereby our carbon footprint).

3. Join a RapidILL group. RAPID is a consortium of libraries, founded by Colorado State University, that uses a combination of technology and service commitment to improve interlibrary borrowing and lending within the consortium. Most participating libraries find that RAPID improves delivery speed significantly and improves local efficiency. However, participation in RAPID requires making a commitment to fast responses to requests coming from other libraries, and this will require some changes in our current work flows.

D . Keep current with developments in “next generation catalogs” and be ready to change if and when the time is right.

A “next generation” library catalog may offer a more systematic approach to simplifying the discovery of library resources. Currently, from the library Web site there are separate links to the library catalog, the list of databases, the Journal Finder, etc. “Next generation” integrated library systems are intended to unify and simplify the discovery process for library users. Typically, they integrate search results from several databases and present those results in groupings intended to help users refine their searches or identify relevant materials more readily. Next-generation catalogs also often incorporate Web 2.0 features such as user-contributed tagging and automated recommendation services à la Amazon (“people who borrowed this also borrowed that”).

The current “next generation” catalogs are works in progress. The Open Library Environment (OLE), a Mellon-funded initiative (, is an attempt to create a design for the future with input from a wide variety of libraries. There are several other open-source initiatives, as well as commercial solutions.

WorldCat Local is an alternative direction that we are exploring. WorldCat Local is a different model from the traditional library catalog: it searches the wider world of library collections and article databases together, rather than just searching just those books, journals, and databases that we own or to which we subscribe. WorldCat Local thus requires a strong resource-sharing program to facilitate retrieval by the library of materials to which it might not have ready access ( Libraries that have used WorldCat Local as their primary information discovery system include Macalester College ( and the University of Washington (

Strengths To Build On

A. We have a strong foundation of modern information tools that link the catalog, full-text databases, and ILL request forms.

A "Journal Finder" available on the Libraries' home page provides title access to all electronic and print titles held by the Libraries — a "one-stop shopping" utility for journals. We have also implemented article-linking between our electronic citation indexes and our electronic journals. When the article-linker cannot discover a print or electronic version among our holdings, it generates a link to an interlibrary borrowing form and pre-populates the form with the citation data. As we note above, we have also adopted the LibX browser extension, which we promote through our Web site. However, it is not currently distributed as part of the College's standard computer image, so it is not available on all campus computers.

In addition, the Libraries have a tab on the local instance of Blackboard (which the College calls PioneerWeb) which provides access to the Libraries' home page and many of the Libraries' services.

A fuller overview of the Libraries' discovery and access services is in Appendix 9.

B. We have recently introduced a "new-generation" federated searching tool, Research Pro.

The Grinnell College Libraries introduced a federated searching tool, Research Pro, at the beginning of the spring 2009 semester. Federated searching tools such as Research Pro make the early stages of research more efficient by allowing library users to search multiple databases and library catalogs at once. However, Research Pro is not a panacea: we still need to provide guidance to our users on how to use this tool their best advantage, and not all of our subscription databases will be searchable through Research Pro.

C. We have made improvements in Interlibrary Services. Comments from respondents to the 2007 LibQUAL survey confirmed that ILL is a popular service on which many students and faculty rely; it also revealed that our users want it to be faster.

Since receiving the results from LibQUAL the Libraries have made some changes in the way that we fulfill ILL requests. For recently published books that fall within our collecting parameters and cost less than $100 we now purchase the book and have it delivered overnight. The item is added to the collection after it is returned. Requesters generally receive the book in two to three days, which is faster than most traditional ILL transactions for books.

Moreover, the Libraries' 2007-2008 ILL statistics show an increase over the previous year in both borrowing for our users (15.4%) and lending to other libraries (8.3%). However, lending to other libraries has for many years lagged borrowing, and we are committed to improving the proportion of ILL borrowing and lending to be good citizens in the world of resource sharing.

(See Appendix 10 for a comparison of net borrowers and net lenders among our peers.)

As we note in Section 3, Collections and Collection Development, we have also recently introduced a "pay-per-view" service for articles in journals published by Elsevier. This gives requesters faster access than traditional ILL: faculty have immediate, unmediated access to the Elsevier ScienceDirect collection, and library staff retrieve articles for students within 24 hours. This service also diverts Elsevier articles from the ILL workflow, allowing ILL staff to focus on other requests.

Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome

A. Prioritizing and allocating resources for projects to improve discovery and access

When things are working “well enough,” it can be hard to gather the energy and resources to make major, expensive changes. The library catalog works for those who have the skill and motivation to use it. Interlibrary Loan also works “well enough” for people who plan ahead. Getting beyond adequacy in these areas requires understanding what additional needs are going unmet and dedicating ourselves to meeting them. Until these unmet needs are perceived as urgent, it will be hard to mobilize the technological, budgetary, and human resources necessary to do so. There are enhancements that we can make to the current systems, and each enhancement requires identification, planning, testing, and implementation. It will also likely require specialized training; our staff are library-oriented rather than technical specialists, and many improvements require some specific technical expertise.

B. Lack of understanding of our users’ work patterns and lack of data about Library operations

Much of the change we describe in this self-study revolves around a decision to meet our users where they are, but first, we must know where that is. Users are less concerned about having numerous tools at their fingertips than having a few that they know how to use and find reliably helpful. For example, most students use the same databases for everything once they come to the library Web site; they only go beyond Academic Search Premier and JSTOR when led by a librarian or a professor. Also, many students prefer to access library resources directly from PioneerWeb. One example of creating tools to fit our user’s patterns would be making subject specific research guides that populate the library resources tab in PioneerWeb based on a student’s course enrollment. This could improve academic work and decrease frustration, but it would require knowing more about our users’ work habits.

In addition, we have incomplete transaction and performance data about use of the Libraries' electronic services. We have recently started using Google Analytics to track use of our Web site and catalog, and we have one full year and one partial year of download and search statistics for licensed databases.

C. Providing access to dispersed collections

Library collections are dispersed across five facilities (Burling Library, Kistle Science Library, the AV Center, the Curriculum Libraries, and Offsite Storage). Multiple collection locations are both strengths and weaknesses for users depending on where you are standing when you want an item, your time constraints, and the weather. For the Libraries, staffing and maintaining multiple facilities, as well as paging materials from and returning materials to remote locations, are also issues.

3. Collections and Collection Development

The College's Expanding Knowledge Initiative ( and its emphases on introducing new fields of knowledge to the Grinnell curriculum, fostering interdisciplinarity, and deepening inquiry-based learning, call for access by students and faculty to an expanding set of knowledge resources: databases, journals, books, films, datasets, and other recorded forms of scholarly knowledge and cultural expression. We are challenged to identify the best means of providing access to these resources for students and faculty.

The Key Challenge

 Like most academic libraries, the Libraries serve the College's information needs through a combination of on-site collections and delivery services (or access services) such as interlibrary loan, document delivery, and—increasingly—leased electronic access to journals, music, video, and other materials. On the one hand, owned collections of tangible items give greater assurance in general that they will remain available to users in the future—both users at Grinnell and, through interlibrary sharing, users elsewhere (The contracts that govern electronic resources are complex and vary considerably from one to another. In most cases, electronic resources are leased for the period of the subscription, and when the subscription ends so does access. In some cases, continued access to past content is promised if the subscription ends, but the means by which that will be provided is in some doubt. Services such as Portico and LOCKSS are attempting to resolve this dilemma). On the other hand, delivery modes are typically able to supply a greater number of titles and (in the case of leased electronic access of journals and other databases) immediate accessibility at the user's desktop, but without the same assurances that they will be available the next time they are needed.

At the same time, the cost of information, especially subscription-based scholarly journals and databases (whether purchased or leased), is increasing between 5 and 10 percent annually. Moreover, the time and expertise required to manage both on-site print collections and leased electronic collections do not fully overlap; most libraries are, in effect, managing two libraries at once.

For at least the past ten years, academic librarians have struggled to find a balance between the following collection development strategies:

  • Focus on building locally owned and controlled collections.
  • Rely on forms of delivery service that may not guarantee future access.
  • Duplicate content both in owned collections and through leased or transient access.

The librarians at Grinnell College are divided over the role that print-based journal subscription ought to play in our overall collections program. Before laying out the points on which we diverge, however, it is important that we note our broad areas of agreement:

  • None of us consider this to be an either-or proposition: either only build local collections or only rely on delivery from other sources. The Libraries have always employed both strategies and, we expect, will do so for many years.
  • We also agree that electronic access to recorded knowledge—especially scholarly journals—is preferred by most students and many faculty, and can significantly increase our community's productivity in finding and using information for their research, learning, and teaching (See, inter alia, Roger C. Schonfeld and Kevin M. Guthrie, "The Changing Information Services Needs of Faculty," EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 42, no. 4 (July/August 2007): 8–9:; and " Collection Management Strategies in a Digital Environment: Preliminary Results from the Collection Management Initiative’s Journal Use Study and User Preference Survey," 2003, University of California Libraries:; and the references for "Economics of Scholarly Publishing" at
  • We all recognize that in many cases format decisions (print and/or online) are not made by libraries or readers, but rather that the publishers of scholarly journals, data sets, and (in fewer cases) books are choosing electronic delivery only. The current global economic downturn may accelerate this shift away from print. We recognize, as well, that we must be sure that our operations and our staffing assignments are effectively aligned with this trend.
  • We also all recognize that delivery (without ownership) of certain kinds of materials does not currently meet the needs of our community and is not likely to in the near future. Interlibrary loan, for example, cannot supply all of our community's needs for books, and for most users, even when electronic versions of books are available, the electronic books do not compete in functionality with printed ones.

Despite this broad agreement, we are not agreed on the relative weight that non-ownership forms of delivery should have for scholarly journals, newspapers, and other serial publications. Most of us do not trust publishers to guarantee access to their publications into the future, and some of us believe that the print paradigm—in which multiple copies are distributed to many libraries, which in turn share with each other through ILL—has worked well. Publishers have focused their skills on dissemination of current work, while libraries have preserved centuries of scholarship and cultural expression while providing effective access to this legacy. In an electronic environment in which access is largely governed by annual contracts and files are centralized on the publishers' servers, publishers have little long-term incentive to continue to provide access to works that may temporarily fall out of use but whose re-discovery may be vital to the next breakthrough. For journals that are core to a Grinnell education, some of us believe that maintaining print subscriptions and archives is part of our responsibility to future generations of Grinnell students and faculty.

On the other hand, in many fields—and in an age of scholarship characterized by "expanding knowledge"—faculty and students alike are using an increasingly diverse set of intellectual resources in their teaching, research, and learning. The concept of "core collection" seems accordingly elusive. The majority of the Grinnell College librarians believe that significant duplication of print and online journals is no longer the best use of our resources and that more of our staff energies and financial resources should be directed toward expansion of the number of titles available to the Grinnell community, good management of our electronic resources, and support for coordinated national efforts to preserve printed and electronic information. We agree that the challenge of digital preservation needs to be faced, but believe that it must be addressed by libraries and other information organizations working in concert through such organizations as SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)--, the Center for Research Libraries (, Portico (, and the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) Federation ( . With relatively lean staffing, the Libraries can best serve their users by directing staff time toward improving digital services while maintaining print collections for the genres in which that format works best

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do

A. Make a greater shift to online-only journal subscriptions.

When we have a choice of formats, the majority of us believe that duplicated print and online journals should be scrutinized to be sure that the continuation of the print subscription is truly contributing to the College's present and future work. In many cases, we could redirect funds and time currently spent managing the print version. We do not, however, advocate a blanket policy of exchanging print for online. The Libraries will review all subscriptions and proposed subscriptions for duplication of print and online versions, and evaluate for conversion to online only. These decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with faculty. Most things being equal, we will favor the online-only choice and use the savings for subscriptions to new titles, to cover cost increases that exceed our overall budget increases, or to support coordinated national efforts to preserve scholarly literature and cultural heritage collections.

B. Share the College's collections with others, in reciprocity for our use of theirs.

 When considering online-only subscriptions, we will scrutinize their contracts to be sure that interlibrary sharing is permitted. (If we expect other libraries to supply some of our needs, we must be sure that we can share some titles in turn.) In addition, as we note in the section on Digital Initiatives, digitization of our existing collections (when copyright permits) and the development of a repository program for the scholarly and creative work of students and faculty are additional, important components in our overall responsibility to share.

C. Extend the Elsevier "pay per view" model to selected additional publishers.

 In 2008, after consultation with faculty, we discontinued subscription to most journals published by Elsevier and applied the savings to a "pay per view" arrangement that gives faculty immediate online access to all articles in all Elsevier journals. Students also have access to all articles in all Elsevier journals, but they must ask a library staff member to download each article for them. Our policy is that articles will be retrieved within twenty-four hours, although they are typically retrieved much more quickly. We will identify one or two additional publishers for which this model might work well.

D. Base decisions on evidence of use.

 We will develop systematic records of interlibrary borrowing and lending, electronic database and journal use, and book circulation patterns to guide decisions on new subscriptions, assignment of staff, and other issues.

E. Develop a campus-wide understanding on issues of scholarly communication.

  It is vital that the Grinnell College community—in a discussion facilitated by the Libraries—become conversant with trends in scholarly publishing and librarianship, and that the Libraries develop working guidelines for print and digital collection development that suit both the College's principles and its financial resources. One component of this ongoing discussion will be facilitating faculty awareness of their options for scholarly publishing and management of their own copyrights.

F. Propose a new budget model.

As the national economy stabilizes, the College should develop a budget model in which the Libraries receive a standard increment to cover cost increases and an additional base increase for new subscriptions and other purchases in areas that have new faculty appointments (new positions or replacements) or new concentrations or other curricular programs.

G. Engage with national preservation and access initiatives.

The Libraries should participate more actively in national and international efforts to improve access to scholarly literature, educational resources, and cultural heritage materials, and should encourage the College leadership to do the same. Such participation comes through support for alternative technological and economic models of scholarly publishing; legislative advocacy; and development of openly accessible collections of scholarship and cultural heritage material at Grinnell. We will investigate the LOCKSS program as a complement to our membership in Portico, support efforts at the Center for Research Libraries and elsewhere to build archival collections of printed journals so that we do not have to, and encourage the success of open-access and not-for-profit scholarly publishing programs that offer low- or no-cost availability and liberal copyright terms.

Strengths to Build On

A. We have strong print collections that appear to meet user needs (with some qualifications) and a generous budget.

The Libraries are fortunate to have rich print collections that serve students and faculty and that can be contributed to national digitization and interlibrary-sharing programs in return for the collections shared by other libraries.

Based on 2007 data, Grinnell ranks sixth among its designated peers in total number of volumes. We rank 5th in number of volumes per user (faculty plus students), above the average and median values for our designated peer group. We have consistently acquired between 8,000 and 10,000 monographs per year. (We acquired 9998 monographs in 2007, which is above both the median and average values reported by peers that year). In total expenditures for collections, Grinnell ranks just below the median and average of our peers but above the median and average for per-capita expenditures on collections (counting students and faculty but not staff).

The Libraries' collection budget has risen ca. 44% since 2005; over a similar period (2004–2008) costs of scholarly journals have risen 37 percent ("Periodicals Price Survey 2008," Library Journal, 15 April 2008). For the 5-year period 2003-2007, Grinnell's average expenditures for collections are above the median and average expenditures of peers, as is the per-user expenditure.

Grinnell students and faculty make less use of interlibrary borrowing than their peers. Our ILL rates were below both the median and average per-user values for 2007 and for the 5-year average for 2002–2007. This low borrowing rate may suggest that our local collections well suit our community’s needs, although it could also suggest that ILL services are not viewed favorably. (When we administered the LibQUAL survey in 2007, results on this point were mixed). Conversely, circulation per user (student plus faculty) is slightly higher than the 2007 median (though slightly lower than the 2007 average). Grinnell's semester-long loans to students are longer than those of some of its peers, which should depress our circulation rate relative to peers with shorter loan periods.

See Appendix 11 for details of collections budgets and usage figures.

B. We have significantly expanded the number and availability of journals through electronic services.

Between 2003 and 2007, the Libraries maintained a stable collection of print journals (growing from 2600 to 2800 titles), while increasing the number of electronic journals available to students and faculty from 2,100 in 2003 to 19,315 in 2007. Based on 2007 data, Grinnell ranks second among its eleven peers in number of electronic titles received. However, definitions for electronic resources—what counts as a title—are notoriously slippery, and it is not clear that all the libraries in our peer group are counting the same things in the same way. As a consequence, this rank ordering may not be accurate.

We have also created good user tools for providing access to these titles: the "Journal Finder" and Article Linker, which are described in the Discovery and Access section.

C. We have had a positive—albeit brief—experience with Elsevier pay-per-view.

Based on just one semester of experience with pay-per-view access to articles in Elsevier journals, our users have reported satisfaction with the extent of access available to them. The costs, projected to the full year, are sustainable, assuming modest increases in usage and per-article fees.

D. There are strong international and local initiatives both to use the technology of digital publication to reduce costs and broaden accessibility of scholarly publications and collections of cultural heritage materials, and to preserve digital files for use by future generations.

Examples of these initiatives include open-access publishing programs like PLoS (the Public Library of Science), the NIH requirement for open access to research publications; DSpace, MDID, and other software that creates openly accessible collections of texts, images, and other materials; and the Portico digital preservation program. The Libraries already support PLoS and BioMed Central (another open-access publisher) through institutional memberships, and are charter members of Portico. The College uses PDID (our local implementation of MDID, the Madison Digital Image Database) primarily to make images available for classroom presentations and student review, and the Libraries use it as a platform for hosting digital collections such as the Historic Iowa Postcard Collection. However, PDID has not been configured to promote public access to or awareness of the openly accessible collections hosted there. The Libraries, in collaboration with other liberal arts colleges, are also developing a DSpace repository for student and faculty work. These local initiatives are described more fully in the section of this report on Digital Initiatives.

Furthermore, the College's recently revised copyright policy (2007) encourages scholarly authors to review their copyright transfer agreements carefully, and to consider amending their contracts or adopting a Creative Commons license to preserve "both their interest in seeing their work disseminated by publishers and their interest in ensuring that their work contributes maximally to the public good" ( p. 10)

Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome 

A. User dissatisfaction with our journal collections, especially our electronic collection.

 The spring 2007 administration of the LibQUAL service quality survey indicated dissatisfaction among many users (See our report to campus, at For faculty, three of the five widest gaps between desired and perceived levels of service related to collections:

  1. Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work (below minimum expectation)
  2. Making electronic resources accessible from my home or office (below minimum expectation)
  3. The electronic resources that I need (at minimum expectation)

This dissatisfaction was strongest among science faculty.

Among students, similarly, three of the five widest gaps between desired and perceived levels of service related to collections, though for students our performance was above minimum expectations:

  1. Print and/or electronic journal collections I require for my work
  2. The electronic information resources I need
  3. Making electronic resources accessible from my office

Free-text comments in the survey corroborated these concerns.

B. We appear not to have moved as decisively as our peers toward electronic resources.

2007 data suggest that Grinnell's ongoing commitments to print subscriptions are significantly greater than the median or average of its designated peer group (see Appendix 11). However, we know that the institutions vary in the kinds of expenditures they account here and that their reports are not entirely comparable; and this datum does not seem consistent with our rank order among peers in number of electronic titles available, as noted above.

C. An imbalance in our ILL lending compared to borrowing.

 Our lending rate is lower than our borrowing rate (that is, we are not contributing to the trading network as much as we are taking from it.

D. Lack of consortial partners.

As we note in our section on Partnerships, the Libraries have been somewhat constrained by the lack of a strong consortium for joint licensing of electronic resources or interlibrary delivery of books. State- and region-wide consortia, such as those in Ohio, Illinois, and Virginia, have given their users fast, convenient access to more titles—in both electronic and print formats—than has been possible in Iowa. Expectations that faculty users develop based on their experiences at other schools, including designated peer schools, cannot always be met within Grinnell's existing networks.

E. Lack of detailed usage data to support decision-making.

We have not, until recently, systematically captured and studied detailed data on the usage of print and electronic collections or related services such as ILL. In 2007, we established regular capture of usage statistics for electronic databases and journals, and in 2008 we started downloading title-level ILL statistics from OCLC. One of our articulated goals for 2008-2009 is to establish title-normalized data for ILL lending and borrowing, and subject-level circulation data for books and bound journals.

Special Issues

Although the relationship between print and online subscriptions is the most critical issue currently facing us, there are other important issues we need to address over the next three to five years. 

A. Media (audio and video)

Film, music, and related media materials are heavily used by Grinnell faculty and students. Our collections include 32,117 audio and video items (based on 2007 reports) in a variety of current and older formats. LPs are housed in offsite storage but continue to be actively (though not heavily) used and cannot all be replaced by CD formats. Over the next three to five years, we expect that acquisition and service for DVDs, CDs, and similar portable media will remain our primary service model. We do not foresee commercial or third-party streaming services ("non-ownership access" models) supplanting portable media during this time period. However, we do expect such services to become increasingly important supplements and we will watch this sector carefully for developments. It is possible that third-party streaming services will evolve rapidly and we must be prepared to reconsider our collection development practices. We note that we already subscribe to the Naxos Music Library andDRAM Anthology of Recorded Music streaming services. We do not subscribe to a video streaming service, but we have made very limited use of the Amazon Video-on-Demand streaming service to meet last-minute faculty requests.

In focus group discussions in 2008, faculty and students expressed strong preference for maintaining a course-reserve model for media, in which media items on course reserve must be viewed within the assigned location (either the Burling Listening Room or the AV Center). (The alternative would be to treat Reserve media like Reserve books, allowing them to circulate freely but for short periods of time. Users would take the item to their preferred location and machine, not necessarily in Burling or ARH.) This preference means that the equipment in those facilities must be adequate to demand and in good condition.

The Listening Room opened in 1983 as part of that year's renovation of Burling Library. Despite various additions of viewing and playback equipment to accommodate new media formats, the bus architecture that carries the signals from the central control room to each viewing or listening station has largely remained the same. That architecture severely limits the ability of users to control their own experience (e.g., a user cannot skip from one track to another on a CD or DVD). Moreover, key components in the control room are showing signs of failing and should be replaced or upgraded to ensure continued service.

B. Access to Primary Evidence.

The College's strategic emphasis on inquiry-based pedagogy calls for increased attention to the availability of the kinds of primary evidence suited to inquiry in the various disciplines taught at Grinnell: research findings from field observation and laboratory experiments; political and sociological survey statistics; economic data; primary texts; images; etc. Increasingly, students and faculty prefer to use primary evidence in digital formats (sometimes alongside the same evidence in original non-digital formats). The Libraries are members of ICPSR (the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research)-- and ARTstor (, and hold several important primary-source collections such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Early American Newspapers. Continued acquisition of such collections will be necessary to keep pace with the Expanding Knowledge Initiative. We also collaborate with Information Technology Services and some academic departments to help make digital collections available. (For example, we work with the Art Department to support use of the library catalog system for the Department's Slide Collection.) If the College’s goals are to be met, we must continue to develop our technologies to increase the visibility of these resources and to encourage their interdisciplinary use. In 2007, the Libraries, ITS, and the Dean's Office collaborated in developing an overview of the infrastructure of content and tools required for inquiry-based learning (see "Supporting Inquiry-Based Learning Under Grinnell College’s Strategic Plan: Implications for Library and Information Technology Services,"

C. Selecting Books for the Collection.

Most selection for the book collection is performed title by title. We have a few specialized approval plans (small-press poetry and fiction, contemporary French, Russian, and German authors, and music scores), but we do not have a general English-language approval plan. Faculty are somewhat active in recommending books, audio/video, and other material for purchase. Choice cards and Choice magazine are key tools for selection. As part of a recent reorganization of the consulting librarian program, consulting librarians now distribute appropriate sets of Choicecards to faculty in their areas in addition to selecting books themselves. The Collection Development and Preservation Librarian selects in all subject areas and provides oversight and continuity for the collection development program. However, our review of Choice tends to lag about a year behind, and we note with some concern how quickly books go out of print. We also wonder if librarian and staff time could be freed for other important work if we relied on a general approval plan for English-language university and major trade presses. We note that, according to a recent study, (Beth E. Jacoby, "Status of Approval Plans in College Libraries," College and Research Libraries 69(3) May 2008: 227-240) libraries with book budgets comparable to Grinnell's rely on at least one general approval plan. We will investigate further whether this is a good tool for us to consider.

4. Special Collections

The College’s commitment to inquiry-based learning provides opportunities for the primary resource materials owned by the Grinnell College Libraries to be more fully integrated into the educational experience of its students. Among these resources are the rare books, manuscript and archival collections, historical maps, and other unique materials that comprise the Libraries’ Special Collections.

The Key Challenge

The key issue we face is how to maximize the impact of these primary resources on inquiry-based learning.

Use of Special Collections has shown a significant increase over the past five years for both on-campus and off-campus users (see reference statistics in Appendix 12). Classes have met in the Special Collections department for an introduction to using materials from special collections. A number of student projects, from first-year Tutorial papers on local history to a senior Mentored Advanced Project on Irish poets, have been completed using materials from the collections. Although this is an encouraging trend, it indicates a need for more assertive efforts to engage students and faculty with the materials in Special Collections and their potential for research. How much more use might materials get if they were easily discoverable through common search tools such as Google or the library catalog, or were linked from course pages on PioneerWeb? Similarly, campus offices that need information from the college archives could identify sources much more easily if more transparent access to the archives existed.

The need for accessibility is made more immediate by the College's increasing focus on inquiry-based learning. This is an obvious opportunity for increasing the engagement of Special Collections and Archives with the College's academic program. We need to promote that opportunity actively among faculty, develop guides to the collections that help students and faculty identify subject areas in which primary-source inquiry can be fruitfully conducted using our collections, and clarify our collection development plans.

The responsibility to maintain the institutional archives of the college presents a particular challenge in an era where so much institutional history is born digital. How can we best archive and maintain those key institutional documents so they will be accessible for future use? How do we create entry points so that materials from the College Archives that are used by students, faculty, and many campus offices can be easily identified? The Alumni Office, the Development Office, and Communication and Events call on the archives frequently to provide materials for publication and press releases. Alumni and other off-campus researchers, from scholars to local genealogists, use the Archives for their research. Making more of the College Archives accessible electronically would facilitate the work of these offices and individuals.

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do

A. In consultation with faculty and other stakeholders, develop a written collection development plan for Special Collections (including the Vault, Manuscripts, and Iowa Room) and the College Archives.

This plan should identify access strategies appropriate for different collecting areas. Access may include item level and/or collection-level MARC records, non-MARC indexes or finding aids, digital surrogates, and other strategies.

B. In coordination with the Digital Initiatives Committee,(see the proposal in the section on Digital Initiatives), develop a plan for creating and managing digital assets that will include the following:

* A plan for networked storage of digital materials held in Special Collections, as well as a list of priority materials.

* A plan for digitization of selected Special Collections materials, including a plan for sharing data about Iowa-related digital collections with the Iowa Heritage Digital Collections (

* An image database for photographs held by Special Collections. Images in our collection are currently not easily identifiable, but are among the items which are frequently sought by researchers and college staff.

C. Improve Web access to materials in Special Collections.

1. In consultation with faculty, create Web-accessible subject guides to materials in Special Collections to highlight opportunities for student and faculty use of the collections in the curriculum and for independent study (Bowdoin College for one example:

2. In consultation with representatives from campus offices, create guides to facilitate access to commonly sought archival information.

3. Improve the Special Collections Web site to enable researchers to make better use of our collections. In particular, examine issues of navigation within the site, searchability, and links to related resources.

D. Develop an exhibition program, including Web-based exhibits.

Offer students the opportunity to curate exhibitions or to create digital projects from our collections. Examine the feasibility of working with Faulconer Gallery or other campus organizations to create exhibitions. Other institutions commonly have online and on-site exhibitions of their important collections. For example, Amherst’s exhibitions of rare books often include labels written by faculty; Augustana College grants a stipend to encourage researchers to use their special collections; and Amherst has an active publication program.

Strengths To Build On

Collections Profile

Our collection of rare books, with approximately 2500 items, is a good teaching collection with editions that date from 1477. Based on recent experience, faculty seem increasingly interested in helping students see for themselves the historical development of print-based communication; this seems to us especially important as we encourage development of "critical information literacy" throughout the curriculum (see Section 1). The rare-books collection is particularly strong in the history of Iowa and the settlement of the American Midwest; approximately 1800 items are on Iowa. This strength in Iowa history is complemented by a significant collection of postcards that depict Iowa scenes (approximately 11,000 items). The highlight of our manuscript collection is the James Norman Hall papers. Hall, best known as the co-author of Mutiny on the Bounty, was a Grinnell graduate in the class of 1910. However, the bulk of our manuscript collection consists of materials from people and organizations affiliated with both Grinnell College and Grinnell the town. Examples include the papers of George Herron, Professor of Applied Christianity at the College from 1893 to 1899 and a key figure in the social gospel movement, the Matlack Family Papers, a rich resource for local history covering 120 years in the life of a Grinnell family, and the records of several Congregational churches in the area.


Most of the book collections in the Iowa Room (faculty and alumni publications) and the Vault (rare books and manuscripts) are represented in the Libraries' online catalog. There is a small backlog of uncataloged early printed books, which should be evaluated for relevance before cataloging. Most of the Manuscript Collections are processed to the box or folder level with finding aids; the finding aids are available on the Libraries' Web site ( Some of the finding aids are also cataloged in the Libraries' online catalog, and those that are not are in queue to be cataloged.

College Archives are organized by Record Group. Although the Record Groups are listed online ( access is supplemented through a card file. Many college and student publications are cataloged in the Libraries' catalog at the title level, but not all.

A collection of College-related materials, including biographical information on alumni and faculty, information on college buildings and events, and information about the community of Grinnell is kept in a separate pamphlet collection. Currently, this is the most heavily used part of the archives. Access to these materials is only through the Iowa Room card catalog. Making this collection more easily accessible via the Web or the library catalog would increase the visibility and use of these materials.

Two collections within Special Collections—Iowa postcards (3800 items) and early 20th-century photographs of Turkish missions (90 items)—have been digitized and made available through the College's image-management repository, the Pioneer Digital Image Database, or PDID, which is a local instance of the James Madison MDID software. Access is open through a guest login, but the content is not indexed in Google and has not been harvested.


Most of Grinnell's peers, including Amherst, Bowdoin, Carleton, and Colorado College, have more developed digitization programs than Grinnell. This provides us with a community of practice upon which we can draw as we embark on new projects.

Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome


One librarian, the Special Collections Librarian and Archivist of the College, staffs Special Collections. She is also responsible for general reference and instruction responsibilities and is consulting librarian for the History and Education Departments. Additionally 0.75 FTE support staff assists in the department. Generally, 24 hours/week of student staff are employed during the academic year. The department is open to users on weekday afternoons with other hours by appointment.

Developing new areas of expertise

In order to fulfill the recommendations given above, (especially digitization efforts and web development), staff will need support and resources to develop new areas of expertise.

Space limitations

Only small classes of 12 or fewer can fit into the Special Collections reading room for an instruction session. There is room for a maximum of six researchers at any one time—and that does not allow them much room for spreading out materials such as maps or drawings. Workroom space is no longer adequate for equipment and staff workspace, particularly if we undertake local digitization projects. The collection area (Vault) is also crowded, even with duplicates and some little used collections moved to off-site storage.

Awkward exhibition space

Exhibition cases are difficult to re-arrange. There is inadequate lighting, and the cases are not large enough to display oversized materials, such as historic maps.

5. Digital Initiatives

Whereas academic libraries have traditionally focused on providing access to published books, journal articles, and similar widely disseminated materials, today libraries are increasingly taking responsibility —in cooperation with technology services and other partners on campus —for creating access to unique local collections. Digital initiatives can include institutional (or scholarly) repositories of student- and faculty-created scholarly or creative work, and digital collections of images or other media files created from local collections of artifacts.

An institutional repository (IR) is a type of digital collection designed to capture and preserve the intellectual output of an academic institution (Lynch, Clifford. "Institutional Repositories: Essential Infrastructure for Scholarship in the Digital Age." ARL Bimonthly Report, No. 226, February 2003. That material could include journal articles and books written by faculty, papers written by students, data sets compiled by faculty and students, college administrative documents, student publications (for example, a student newspaper), mixed media projects, material not published in the traditional academic manner, and more. These materials are collected and organized in digital form and are then made accessible to the campus and to the world through the Internet.

Other digital collections usually are comprised of digitized versions of materials unique to the institution—for instance, historical publications, special collections, or collections of artifacts. Again, the materials are collected, organized, and made accessible in digital form.

The Key Challenge

Successful digital initiatives require working collaborations among classroom faculty, curators, librarians, and technologists that are somewhat new to Grinnell College, in addition to investments in infrastructure like hardware, software, and facilities.

The most important purpose of digital initiatives—for Grinnell College, its Expanding Knowledge Initiative, and its Strategic Plan—is to allow students, faculty, and others to discover and work directly with scholarly materials and primary sources in ways that are not feasible when the materials are in a tangible format. Digital versions of fragile books from special collections allow students to work intensively with the material without endangering the original copy; an online database of archival photographs can be searched without mediation by the archives staff; and born-digital items—whether artworks or data sets—often must be preserved in their digital form if they are to remain intelligible and useful to future scholars. Increasing the opportunities for students, faculty, and others to discover and work with primary sources—whether those are textual, data, visual, or audio—strengthens direct inquiry-based learning and teaching and fosters imaginative uses of sources across disciplinary traditions.

In addition, digital initiatives that make student, faculty, and staff work available beyond the institution increase the reputation of the College and celebrate the achievements of the College community. The public profile of the College is also enhanced when our accessible digital connections include materials unique to Grinnell, such as historical items related to Grinnell’s involvement in the Social Gospel movement of the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, works by and about Grinnell alumni prominent in the New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s, and materials on the Grinnell-in-China program, which dates back to 1916. By highlighting these unique digital collections and scholarly repositories for potential students, faculty, and other interested parties to explore, the College can demonstrate the diversity and robustness of its intellectual community and the richness of its history.

Finally and importantly, these initiatives can demonstrate to students in a real way how they are part of a larger scholarly community that produces new knowledge by building on the past work of others. Local digital initiatives also contribute to the national and international collection of scholarship and cultural heritage, on which the Grinnell community, in turn, depends for its learning and teaching.

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do

A. Designate an individual to serve as the point person within the Libraries for our work with digital initiatives.

B. Establish a campus Digital Initiatives Committee composed of staff in the Libraries, Information Technology, and Instructional Technology.

C. Develop a plan for identifying and collecting appropriate content for the Liberal Arts Scholarly Repository (LASR) and prepare to do so for an eventual Grinnell College institutional repository.

D. Develop a collection identification plan for unique local materials to be digitized. (See the recommendations in the section “Special Collections and College Archives.”)

E. Create a physical space on campus with the technologies needed for creating and handling digital items and security suitable for unique objects.

F. Develop a technology plan for sharing Grinnell's open-access collections.

G. With ITS, develop a networked storage plan for secure and enduring storage of selected digital masters and born-digital material.

Strengths to Build On

Grinnell College has been experimenting with institutional repositories and digital collections for several years. As part of these experiments, the Libraries have built two digital image collections, and we are currently collaborating with several other institutions to create the Liberal Arts Scholarly Repository (LASR).

Our two original image collections, Historic Iowa Postcards and Turkish Mission Photos, are based on Access databases which hold the metadata and links to the digital images. Both collections are presented to the public via the Pioneer Digital Image Database (PDID)--, a local instance of MDID (The Madison Digital Image Database, an open-source platform. See PDID hosts a variety of College image collections. The creation of these two collections served as a testing process for developing quality standards, scanning procedures, metadata, and methods of storing digitized images for long-term preservation ( Having successfully completed these two projects, we are ready to identify and begin processing other collections in-house. Curricular need will drive the selection of materials to be digitized, and we will utilize student workers as much as possible.

The Libraries currently participate in a consortial institutional repository, the Liberal Arts Scholarly Repository (LASR). LASR is a collaborative effort undertaken with Bucknell College, Carleton College, the University of Richmond, St. Lawrence University, Trinity College, and Whitman College. This group is working on developing a DSpace ( repository with a Drupal ( portal to increase the visibility of liberal arts scholarship and creative work. The Libraries do not envision that LASR, with its stated goal of collecting the scholarly work of students and faculty, will meet all of the digital repository needs of the campus and, in the future, additional IR options may need to be explored.

Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome

Digital initiatives are complex projects that require a wide range of skills and a great deal of time, thought, and planning. The establishment of new digital collections calls for well-articulated ties to the curriculum, community activities and collections, and state or regional activities and collections. Policy guidelines must be established for selection, securing authors' permissions, and withdrawal of contributions from the repository, among others. The IR must be promoted on campus to earn the support and interest of the faculty and students, which will ensure that the collections are well-used and that the IR is well-regarded as a place to contribute scholarly work. Technical prerequisites include a platform that we are committed to updating and maintaining, server space for long-term storage of digital materials, infrastructure for scanning, and established metadata standards. A physical workspace with the technologies needed to digitize materials and the security necessary for handling unique items must also be found.

No one department can carry out all of the activities necessary for a successful digital initiative on its own. Joint leadership from the Libraries and ITS will be necessary, but greater collaboration between these two bodies and other academic and administrative departments, such as Communication and Events and Admissions, will also be required. The involvement of faculty members, students, and staff outside of the library will be essential.

Within the Libraries specifically, we will be challenged to find adequate staff time to devote to planning and implementing digital projects. The Libraries may need to achieve efficiencies of staff in other areas in order to devote more staff time to these projects.

The College's current platform for presenting digital collections, PDID, is not currently capable of providing direct access to its open-access collections so long as it also hosts restricted-access collections that require a log-in (the open-access collections thus require a guest log-in). As a consequence, Grinnell's open-access collections are not crawled by Google. In addition, although we have tested Open Archives Initiative (OAI) [] harvesting from PDID with ARTstor (, our open-access collections have not been registered with any standard tools that automatically collect and index information from the Internet, which limits public awareness of the resources held by Grinnell College. Among our priorities on this front is participation in the Iowa Heritage Digital Collections (

6. Partnerships and Collaboration

The Libraries' ability to provide services adequate to the aspirations of our community depends on two dimensions of collaboration: those undertaken between the Libraries and the other departments and units of the College, and those undertaken with other academic libraries and information organizations. Collaboration also characterizes learning and teaching at Grinnell College, and the Libraries have an important role to play in fostering this style of academic life, both through the ways we work with our partners and through the spaces we develop.

The Key Challenge

Strengthening collaborative networks within and beyond the College is crucial to the Libraries’ ability to support inquiry-based learning and liberal arts scholarship and to foster collaborative learning and research. We consider collaboration to extend beyond the exchange of information or simple coordination of efforts to include actively shared leadership in the creation of a communal vision. This type of collaboration is increasingly vital to long-range planning and to the implementation of new services, especially those mediated by information technologies. Our ability to increase the number and kinds of intellectual resources available to the Grinnell community will depend upon our ability to work and plan across structural divisions originating in a world that no longer exists. Closer working relationships will allow us to discover new needs as they arise and to apply the resources necessary to meet them.
Over the past ten years, many academic libraries have increased their collaboration with related campus services to better integrate instructional support for students and, sometimes, faculty. Typical partners include IT help desks, writing centers, media production services, and services focused on quantitative literacy. The goal of these efforts is to provide seamless support to students as they access information in a variety of formats, engage with their classmates and with ideas, and use a range of technologies to create new scholarly and artistic works.
Much of this collaborative work has been framed by facilities projects that bring together many instructional support services under one roof. The new spaces created to house these collaborations are typically referred to as "information commons," "learning commons," or "academic commons." See Appendix 13 for further discussion of the “academic commons” concept. Anticipating that a more thorough review of facilities will be undertaken in the near future at the College level, we have not focused here on facilities planning, but we have noted the importance of assessing our spaces for their potential to encourage the collaborative provision of services by curricular support units and collaborative learning by students. Not only the lack of space, but also the absence of articulated planning and assessment processes between services offered by the Library, ITS, and academic support centers, may cause us to miss opportunities for integrated student learning and hinder the development of new services.
Another project that will require collaboration to flourish is the Liberal Arts Scholarly Repository (LASR), a Web-accessible digital repository for student and faculty scholarship ( The success of LASR depends on the expertise of multiple types of professionals, the human and computing resources of multiple colleges, and the coordination of goals and implementation efforts of many stakeholders. Seven liberal arts colleges, including Grinnell College, are collaborating in the development of this repository; within the College, responsibility for LASR is shared between the Libraries and Curricular Technology Services. Maximizing the benefits of this project for the intellectual life of Grinnell College will also require increased collaboration between the Libraries, Curricular Technology Services, and the academic departments.

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do About Collaborating on campus

A. Convene a regular meeting of representatives of areas that provide academic resources (including the Writing Lab, Faulconer Gallery, Science Learning Center, Math Lab, Reading Lab, and ITS Help Desk) at the beginning of each academic year or semester to exchange information about services, improve referrals, and identify opportunities for improving support for students and faculty. The group should also develop a set of indicators to determine whether service has improved as a result of this collaboration.

In recent years, there has been relatively little interaction or coordination among the academic services that support students and faculty, including the Libraries, the Writing Lab, the Faulconer Gallery, the Math Lab, the Science Learning Center, the Reading Lab, and the ITS Help Desk, although each unit makes referrals to the others as appropriate. We are concerned that important opportunities may be missed to help students integrate the various aspects of their learning, from identification and evaluation of source material, to construction of arguments appropriate to the discipline in which they are working, to effective presentation of the results of their inquiries. For example, greater collaboration between librarians and writing professionals could help students better understand the iterative processes of writing, research, and revision. Similarly, greater collaboration between librarians and statistical consultants could help students make better selection of numeric data as evidence, and better analysis of data to inform their arguments.
Increased collaboration among the Libraries, ITS Help Desk, Writing Lab, and similar units should lead to a documentable increase in the number of referrals each is making to the others. However, simple referrals that bounce students from office to office do not create the learning and service environment we envision. A better indicator of success may be the number of active collaborations between librarians and other academic professionals in support of specific student projects.

B. Identify spaces in which some of these units could collaborate more directly in support of student learning, or develop proposals for creating new spaces if existing spaces are not adequate.


C. Enrich the collaboration between the Libraries and ITS by developing regular processes for joint planning.

We have addressed collaboration with Information Technology Services (ITS)--ITS consists of Desktop Support, Campus Information Systems, Network Services, Telecommunication Services, Curricular Technology, and Audio-visual Services. The Director of ITS reports jointly to the Vice President for College Services and to the Dean of the College/Vice President for Academic Affairs--separately here because of the special nature of the relationship between it and the Libraries. On the one hand, the Libraries constitute an important client for ITS. Almost all library services are transacted through digital technology in some fashion, and the Libraries therefore depend on the networks, servers, middleware, application software, hardware, and other services provided by ITS. This client relationship becomes increasingly important as an ever-larger percentage of the Libraries' information resources are provided in digital formats.
On the other hand, increasing amounts of student and faculty "authorship," whether to create a class presentation or to write a paper or a symphony, assume digital forms. These works typically integrate information discovered through one or more library services with tools supported by ITS. Increasingly, proficiency, sophistication, and creativity in the application of digital technology to information in digital forms characterizes advanced scholarship and pedagogy in most disciplines taught at Grinnell. We would characterize the current collaboration between the Libraries and ITS as situational, person-dependent, and project-specific rather than as a part of our culture. We believe there is potential for a richer collaboration between the Libraries and ITS in developing Grinnell's digital infrastructure and supporting the students and faculty who use it.

D. Increase interdisciplinary collaboration among the curators of primary evidence collections already held by the College including library archival collections, Gallery collections, records of scientific observations, theatre set designs, collections of scientific and musical instruments, botanical and geological specimens, and anthropological artifacts. Convene a meeting of these curators, librarians, and technologists to explore goals for displaying and accessing primary source material and to make recommendations to the Digital Initiatives Team (see the recommendation under Digital Initiatives).

Strengthening the College’s inquiry-based learning program is the first item on the College’s current strategic plan. We see opportunities for the Libraries, in collaboration with others on campus, to advance this goal significantly. The College holds several strong collections of primary artifacts that support inquiry in a wide range of disciplines, including (among others) the Faulconer Gallery's art collections, the Music Department's musical instrument collections, the Biology Department's Herbarium, and several special collections held by the Libraries. All of these have been digitized to some extent, but the digital files reside on different servers and/or were cataloged without regard to cross-searchability. The curatorial silos in which they reside may impede discovery and use across different disciplines. A collaborative approach to digital asset management would increase the usefulness of this material to the whole College community.

E. Increase interaction between the Libraries and the Student Affairs Office.

We believe that opportunities may be missed to help students better integrate their curricular, co-curricular, and social lives. Libraries are one of the campus spaces in which students often conduct these disparate activities simultaneously. The readings, musical performances, and other events sponsored by the Libraries are intended to highlight this blending of academic and non-academic life. Recent changes in Student Affairs administration may lead to more interaction.

F. Assess needs and opportunities for ex officio representation by the Librarian of the College on the campus’ governing bodies.


G. Develop a proposal for a one- or two-year internship for a recent MLS graduate to focus on diversity.

Academic libraries seek to support diversity in the profession of librarianship by creating post-MLS internships for new minority librarians. We want to participate in this broader movement by developing a proposal for a one- or two-year internship focused on diversity. This internship would support the College’s strategic goal of increasing diversity on campus and, alongside the possible addition of a new librarian position, help the Libraries focus staffing flexibly on areas of strategic importance to library service.

Strengths To Build On: Campus Collaboration

The Libraries enjoy excellent partnerships with individual faculty, academic and administrative offices, and with faculty and student governance groups. Most of these relationships are long-standing, though a few—especially with Student Government—are relatively recent and will require extra effort to maintain and build. However, we see room for growth in the Libraries' engagement with all of these sectors of the campus.

Strong consulting librarian program

As members of the faculty, Grinnell College librarians are well-integrated in the academic life of the College and enjoy good partnerships with classroom faculty. As members of the Science Division, librarians participate in division meetings and are represented in personnel matters by the divisional representative. Librarians are eligible, like all other members of the faculty, to vote in Faculty Meeting and to serve (through election or appointment) on faculty committees. For example, librarians have been elected or appointed by the Faculty Organizing Committee to serve on the Instructional Support Committee, Benefits Committee, Convocation Committee, Committee for Public Events, Affirmative Action Committee, Faculty Organization Committee, Division Personnel Committee, Eco-Campus, and Committee for the Support of Faculty Scholarship. Librarians have also been appointed as Faculty Mentors, interviewers for Bowen Scholarships, and readers for the annual Phi Beta Kappa awards.
As we note in the section on Information Literacy, librarians consistently and routinely collaborate with classroom faculty in teaching.
We have recently reorganized the academic liaison program to create greater cohesion among the assignments held by individual Consulting Librarians ( Assignments are now focused as much as possible within a single academic Division, and we have also expanded the responsibilities of consulting librarians to include collection development in their disciplines in addition to instruction and reference. Our goal in making these changes has been to enhance communication between librarians and their consulting departments, and to empower consulting librarians to be responsive to faculty needs.

Successful and ongoing collaboration with Curricular Technologists

There is a strong connection between the Libraries and Curricular Technology. Curricular Technology is jointly supervised by the Director of ITS and, through an Associate Dean, by the Dean's Office. The Librarian of the College meets monthly with the Associate Dean and the IT director to review issues of mutual concern and to plan future initiatives. All the librarians and curricular technologists, together with the Associate Dean and the Director of IT, also meet together monthly. The CTS/Library group regularly collaborates in the development of faculty workshops and, for the past two years, the library/curricular technology portion of the orientation program for new faculty. They have also actively collaborated in the LASR project (itself a multi-institutional collaboration), in the ARTstor beta test of institutional hosting (, and in the development of the College's digital image management system, PDID.

Good paths of communication with the SEPC and Student Government

The Libraries have recently enlarged and reorganized their SEPC (Student Educational Policy Committee) and expanded its mission to serve as their primary student advisory group. The SEPC includes four students elected from among the student staff at the beginning of each academic year, one student appointed by Student Government Association Cabinet, and two students elected by Joint Board to represent diverse residential clusters. Together with three permanent staff, the SEPC constitutes the Libraries' Outreach Committee. The Librarian of the College has also recently begun regular communication with Student Government through the SGA President and the Vice-President for Academic Affairs.

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do About Collaboration beyond Grinnell College

H. Create opportunities for greater exchange of ideas and information with similar-sized academic libraries in the state or region, and be alert for opportunities for deeper collaborative engagement as these exchanges develop. Examples may include Carleton, Macalester, and St. Olaf Colleges in Minnesota; Drake, Luther, and Wartburg Colleges in Iowa; and Augustana College in Illinois. By focusing on partners within a day's drive, more staff can be involved on a continuing basis.

Library-to-library collaboration is valuable both for the tangible improvements in services and resources they create, and for the less tangible but still vital exchange of ideas and knowledge that they foster. Academic libraries collaborate with each other to improve the services each is able to offer to their local communities and to advance professional practice. Examples of long-standing collaboration include interlibrary lending and borrowing, and coordinated responsibility for collection development (in which library A agrees to maintain strength in subject X on the understanding that library B will maintain strength in subject Y) coupled with generous lending agreements. As subscriptions to electronic databases have become common, libraries have also collaborated in joint licensing, bringing more business to a publisher and reducing administrative overhead in exchange for lower subscription fees. At the same time, by working together with publishers libraries have also had a profound influence on industry standards and contract language. Some collaborations take the form of formal memberships in incorporated associations; others are more informal. Although these types of collaborations are not a cure-all for perceived weaknesses in our collections, a focus on building relationships with nearby academic libraries is a necessary precursor to future collaborations that will result in improved service to the College community.

I. Encourage and support greater leadership and participation by Grinnell librarians and library staff in state, regional, and national professional associations and library consortia.

Library services at Grinnell depend on the larger technical and resource-sharing networks of which Grinnell is a part. It is in the Libraries’ and the College’s interest for Grinnell’s librarians and library staff to have an active voice in shaping the visions, policies, and programs of these associations and consortia and to be present when new initiatives are planned.

J. Establish closer collaboration with Grinnell’s public and school libraries to promote resources and services available to our respective communities and to facilitate access and use of these resources.

Strengths To Build On: Collaboration beyond Grinnell College

We have well-established working relationships with other colleges and libraries.

Our most active partnerships include (The Libraries are part of several other groups whose sole purpose is to jointly license databases; these aren't included because their missions are so restricted and there is no collaboration in the sense defined above):
Iowa Private Academic Libraries: An informal consortium of 33 private academic libraries in Iowa. IPAL's primary collaboration is joint licensing of databases. Altogether the consortium has licenses for 91 database titles, of which Grinnell participates in 25 for an average savings of about 25%. A Grinnell librarian has served the consortium as the joint-licensing coordinator since 2004, during which time the number of vendors expanded from 1 to 10.

Oberlin Group of Libraries: An informal collaboration of eighty liberal arts college libraries in the United States. Its primary collaboration occurs through its annual directors meeting and associated conversation among directors. Grinnell also participates in four joint database subscriptions through the Oberlin Group.

Center for Research Libraries: An international consortium of over one hundred academic and research libraries which acquires and preserves newspapers, journals, documents, archives and other traditional and digital resources for research and teaching, and makes those resources available to member institutions cooperatively, through interlibrary loan and electronic delivery. Grinnell is a relatively new member of CRL, but Grinnell librarians participate actively in CRL governance and projects.

The Libraries also participate in a variety of ad-hoc collaborative projects, which are valuable for developing new knowledge and skills internally and connecting us to other professionals outside.
In addition, Grinnell librarians and library staff take many leadership and service roles in state, regional, and national professional associations (the Iowa Library Association, Iowa chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Center for Research Libraries, and the American Library Association, among others).Appendix 14 lists our primary elected and appointed positions from the last five years.
Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome: Collaboration beyond Grinnell College
We lack a strong resource-sharing consortium: The Libraries are somewhat weak in their formal collaborative or consortial relationships, in comparison with peer libraries ( A good overview of the consortia in which liberal arts college libraries participate may be found in the background papers prepared for a recent conference on Shaping Liberal Arts College Library Collections: New Models and Active Strategies, sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and the Council on Library and Information Resources. See This is partially due to structural weaknesses of our region. Resource-sharing consortia such as OhioLINK (between private colleges in Ohio) and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (between the Big 10 public universities) simply do not exist in Iowa, a state with a relatively small number of research libraries and no state-level support for their cooperation with private colleges in the licensing of subscription databases.

7. Cultivating Engagement

The librarians and staff of the Grinnell College Libraries seek to foster a sense of shared ownership of our collections, services, and mission. We cultivate engagement by making the college community aware of the resources and assistance available to them, facilitating the use of library resources, and discovering the real needs of the students, faculty and staff at Grinnell College. Through educational programming and publicity, we take the collection to the campus, reaching students and faculty at critical points of need. By establishing a responsive relationship with the college community, we gain insight into unmet needs and involve the community in the process of deciding how library resources will be used and developed. This is connected to but also distinct from library services; librarians and library staff work to provide excellent services, and outreach is then necessary to make our patrons aware of these services.

The Key Challenge

The Grinnell College Libraries must reach out to campus constituencies to increase awareness of services, to facilitate the use of library resources, and to discover the real needs of the community.

Connecting with faculty

Grinnell College librarians seek to work with faculty members in their assigned departments by understanding the department's teaching program and information needs, keeping the department informed about the services offered by the library, assisting in locating information resources and developing collections, and collaborating for information literacy instruction in first-year Tutorials and 100- through 400-level disciplinary classes.

Connecting with students

We want to bring students into Burling and Kistle Libraries, for these are places where they have proximity to personal assistance, print-based materials, and others who are engaged in similar activities. We want to help the students feel a connection to the space, to encourage engagement with the collection, and to bring active and participatory learning into the Libraries.
At the same time, we want to connect with students in the online world that they, much more so than previous generations of students, inhabit. Students have a multitude of electronic options for performing research, and we need to be sure that students are aware of and comfortable with the online services that the Libraries provide for them.

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do

The Libraries will focus on four areas of action, with the overall goal of promoting the resources and services provided by the Libraries to the college community. These recommendations are based in part on the results of a short survey created and implemented as part of the self-study process. (The task force created a short informal survey that was left in various places on campus. 107 responses were received. Questions covered frequency and purpose of library visits, resources used, and activities performed in the libraries. See Appendix 15.)

A. Increase the visibility of personalized consulting and research services

If the personalized services provided by our reference librarians were better understood and more visible, it is likely that they would be sought more frequently. We see three possible strategies for increasing awareness and use of research consulting services:

  • Better and more creatively promote our existing Ask-a-Librarian services, including instant messaging reference, telephone reference, and the reference desk. Although much of this promotion would need to occur outside of the library facilities, we should not neglect the potential impact of making consulting and research services more visible within the physical Libraries by, for example, increasing the signage around the Burling reference desk, installing phones on every floor in Burling that ring directly to the reference desk, and posting the reference desk phone number throughout the Libraries.
  • Use creative programming to promote consulting and research services. For example, we might hold “open research” sessions a few times per semester, hold study methods workshops, or try new kinds of study breaks, such as a quiz night or “Library Olympics.”
  • Strengthen our referral networks. For example, ask faculty to encourage their MAP (A Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) is an approved course of faculty-directed scholarly or creative work, serving to integrate the knowledge and skills gained by the student's course of studies, and aiming to produce results that merit presentation to the college community or the wider scholarly world. See students to talk to a librarian early in their research process, and also ask faculty to list the consulting librarian for their department on syllabi as a resource for students. (Some departments currently do this, but the practice is not consistent across the College.) Additionally, ensure that the Writing Lab and student employees in the Libraries are referring research-related questions to reference librarians.

B. Develop and strengthen ties with faculty

In addition to the above strategies for increasing the visibility of the Libraries’ research and consulting services to students, we also need to increase our visibility among and our connections with the teaching faculty. Examples of ways we might accomplish that include:

  • Arranging to be, at least briefly, on interview schedules for new candidates for faculty positions; arrange to be notified about job candidate talks or pay closer attention to general announcements.
  • Providing short lunchtime workshops and information sessions for departments.
  • Continue to offer to work with individual classes in all the ways we can imagine possible; continue to evaluate the ways we can work effectively with Tutorials.
  • Continue to work with collection development contacts and brainstorm for new creative ways to promote the collection, databases, and other library resources (e.g. Center for Research Libraries, Interlibrary Loan, and alerts).

C. Make active learning a priority

Active learning invites interaction with other students and with the collections, including discovering, processing, and applying information. Active learning takes place in a context relevant to the learner. We should build on our strong start at developing active learning programs in the Libraries, tying to the College’s Strategic Plan as we offer resources and opportunities for inquiry-based learning. Examples of ways in which we might strengthen active-learning opportunities in the Libraries include:

  • Building our public programs of literary readings, collection-related lectures, study breaks, art programs, and similar activities. These presentations in an intimate space invite more interaction among the students, the presenters and the collection than similar events held in larger spaces on campus.
  • Increasing the participatory dimension of this programming with -- for example -- student-created murals; Wednesday and/or Thursday night “happenings,” held in conjunction with Faulconer Gallery; open mics in the art gallery bringing together images, words, and music; one-act play reading sessions; and encouraging artists to do work that is about cataloging and collections.
  • Encouraging activities and student installations that happen outside the library facilities. This would draw attention to the Libraries' presence on other parts of campus, provide students with a sense of ownership, and be an opportunity for creativity.
  • Expand the membership of the Student Outreach Committee to include students neither working in the Libraries nor serving in student government.

D. Develop our physical spaces

Meeting the needs of the campus and creating spaces in which to provide flexible interactive programs will motivate the changes that we make in our physical space. Opportunities for this development that we have already identified and implemented include rearranging the West Lounge to provide greater flexibility for workshops, study breaks, and readings. Having a tea cart and Wednesday-night refreshments in this area further enhances its role as a space for relaxing and socializing in Burling. Written comments volunteered by the survey respondents suggest that the Libraries should consider ways to provide better group study space in Burling, similar to the group study rooms in Kistle.
We may also be able to create shared spaces with the Faulconer Gallery and Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. The art gallery and the Libraries are cultural resources. They are repositories and places of creation; they represent the past and make possible the creativity of the present and future. We should work together to promote what we have to offer and to develop creative activities and opportunities for learning.

Strengths to Build On

Some forms of cultivating engagement are ongoing and well-established. For example, librarians currently meet with all Tutorials and, as part of this, contact the instructor to plan the librarian’s contribution to the tutorial. Other activities are more serendipitous. For example, librarians create exhibits to support campus events such as readings by visiting writers, symposia, and art exhibitions.

Librarians’ relationship with faculty

Librarians work with faculty members in their assigned departments by answering questions about the library, providing support through library services, and collaborating for information literacy instruction. Consulting librarians may attend departmental meetings, meet with new faculty, identify and work with classes that will benefit from librarian collaboration, work with other librarians to present workshops, attend workshops with faculty members, attend MAP presentations, and attend job candidate presentations. Librarians also serve on faculty committees.

Librarians’ relationship with students

Ideally, the relationships built with faculty members lead to student engagement as well, such as when faculty add librarians as a contact on course syllabi or refer their students for Library Labs. Reference desk and Library Lab services at both Burling and Kistle Libraries are among the most important ways in which librarians work with students to provide research assistance, provide guidance and direction in the process of learning to do research, develop critical judgment, and introduce students to disciplinary tools and resources. In addition to the formalized program of Tutor-librarian collaboration for information literacy instruction in Tutorials, librarians pursue opportunities to work with other classes in their consulting departments. The Libraries also regularly offer a two-credit course and currently teach a four-credit special topics course.
The Libraries have sponsored a variety of events and programs to provide opportunities for active learning and creating memorable experiences that may stay with students after they leave Grinnell. Types of library events have included literary readings, "open mic" nights, study breaks during finals week, and art in the library.
The Libraries solicit student participation in decision-making processes in a variety of ways. The Libraries’ Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC) is intended to give students a more direct voice in library operations and the library environment. The Committee provides a connection to the Student Government Association (SGA) through its SGA-appointed members. The public comment board on the first floor of Burling Library allows students to ask any question they want, with many of them answered by the Librarian of the College.

The contributions of the library staff

Library staff members are also involved in engagement with students, faculty and others on campus on a regular basis. For example, Acquisitions, Interlibrary Loan, and Circulation staff communicate with faculty and staff about purchases, ILL requests, and reserve materials. Supervisors and student assistants at the circulation desk provide greetings, service, information of all kinds, and even complimentary hot water and tea to students, faculty, staff, community members, and visitors. In addition, the direct contact between individual library staff and student employees creates a personal connection and may perhaps be an opportunity to engage students in other aspects of the Libraries.
The Libraries’ Web site: The Libraries’ Web site has been updated to include many features that highlight new collections, services, and events. The Book Review & Favorite Books blog publishes community members’ critiques of recently read books, and the Library News Blog allows the library to communicate with users about upcoming events, new services, or changes to existing services. A New Titles page spotlights intriguing recent additions to the collection, which supplements a more exhaustive list of new books generated on a monthly basis. We recently added Research Pro ( and SubjectsPlus ( to our Web site to facilitate student and faculty research. Nevertheless, while we count the Web site as a strength to build on, we realize that we are not where we would like to be concerning our Web presence. We will continue to modify our site, knowing that significant work needs to be done.

Other strengths

The Black, Latino, and Smith Memorial Collections create spaces in Burling Library to browse books in a specific area of interest. New books carts in both Burling and Kistle Libraries and a new reference books cart in Burling provide a quick way for users to browse new additions. The online and print Movie Browser maintained by the Listening Room staff gives users quick access to DVDs they might want to watch for fun. We have modified existing space by rearranging the West Lounge to provide flexibility for workshops and study breaks as well as readings. Having a tea cart and the Wednesday night refreshments in this area further enhances its role as a space for relaxing and socializing in Burling. These efforts help members of the community connect with the Libraries by bringing services and collections to the fore in fun and interactive ways.

Weaknesses and Constraints to Overcome

Physical space

  • Event space in Burling Library is currently limited and the furniture in it is not designed to be easily movable to accommodate a variety of programs.
  • There is very little signage to promote the availability of reference services on the first floor and in other areas of Burling Library.

Librarian and staff time

Many exciting engagement programs are within our reach, but all programs will require a significant amount of time to develop, promote, and launch. These responsibilities may need to be a component of future positions created at the Libraries or be made a priority as a key responsibility shared by several Librarians and staff members.

Developing effective methods of forming partnerships

The Libraries’ previous efforts to strengthen ties with faculty and other constituencies on campus have not been as successful as we might like. In order to foster more and stronger relationships across departmental boundaries, new strategies may need to be used.

8. Staffing and Organization

 Changes in the information environment within which learning and scholarship take place have challenged libraries everywhere, including the Grinnell College Libraries. Management of print and digital collections is more complex and more time-consuming, and teaching has become a more demanding, intensive activity for librarians. New digital initiatives — including both digitization of primary resources within our collections and development of an institutional repository of student, faculty, and staff work — will further involve librarians and staff. Traditional liaison, instruction, collection development, and technical services duties will continue, all in an economic environment which does not allow for increased staffing.

The Key Challenge

For new library initiatives to succeed, we either need to identify opportunities for increased efficiency in our current work and/or to identify work that can be eliminated (or both), to create time for launching new programs and learning new competencies.

Current Staffing and Organization

1. Overview

The Grinnell College Libraries are staffed by 8 librarians (including the Librarian of the College) and 15.25 FTE support staff. Since the mid-1990s staffing has increased by one librarian and 1.4 FTE staff (1.0 newly added in FY09). Meanwhile, the College has grown from 1200 to 1550 students and from 173 to 208 faculty. Based on FY07 reports from its 11 designated peers, Grinnell is below the median in total staffing, and last in number of librarians. See Appendix 17 for comparisons with our designated peers.

The Libraries' organizational structure is relatively flat in hierarchy, with all librarians reporting to the Librarian of the College and, until FY09, all support staff reporting to one or another of the librarians. In FY09, five FTE of Circulation and Interlibrary Services staff began reporting to the Manager of Access Services, a newly created position that reports to the Associate Librarian of the College.

Three librarians — the Associate Librarian of the College, the Collection Development Librarian, and the Catalog Librarian — carry most of the supervisory responsibilities in the Libraries. The Special Collections Librarian supervises 0.75 FTE support staff, and the Data Services Librarian has dotted-line supervision over the Acquisition/Government Documents Assistant. The position of Associate Librarian of the College, formerly a permanent assignment, now rotates on a three-year cycle.

The librarians, the Administrative Assistant, and the Manager of Access Services meet together weekly and constitute the Libraries' management team. Agendas are posted in advance in a directory open to all staff, and minutes are circulated to all staff. All staff meet together monthly.

Within the College, the Libraries are positioned as a department of the Science Division and are represented on Executive Council, the Faculty Personnel Committee, and the Faculty Budget Committee by the respective elected representatives of the division. The Librarian of the College reports to the Dean of the College/Vice President for Academic Affairs (meeting monthly) and works closely with the Dean and the Associate Deans.

The primary faculty oversight committee for the Libraries is the Instructional Support Committee, which is "responsible for encouraging teaching initiatives and ensuring the auxiliary support necessary for the successful completion of teaching objectives" by, among other duties, "rais[ing] issues of immediate concern and participat[ing] in long-range planning regarding the development and maintenance of facilities and services to support teaching, including those provided by the libraries, bookstore, audio-visual center, and computer center" (see Faculty Handbook, p. 25: The Libraries are represented ex-officio by the Librarian of the College. The Libraries are not represented organizationally on the Curriculum Committee.

Because the Libraries serve all academic programs and many of the non-academic programs, we see some risk in this divisional arrangement that the Libraries' needs for information or resources will be overlooked. Decisions about faculty hiring and curricular changes, for instance, may not be made in full consideration of the implications for library services. This risk is somewhat offset by the Librarian of the College's direct reporting relationship to the Dean of the College. As the College's Expanding Knowledge Initiative matures, we are particularly concerned that the Libraries not be disconnected from discussions about the new areas of knowledge targeted for faculty expansion and the interdisciplinary initiatives under consideration.

2. Reference and Instruction Services

Seven librarians routinely participate in the reference and instruction program, with occasional participation by the Librarian of the College. The reference and instruction program includes:

  • providing 43 hours per week of reference-desk staffing and 20 hours per week of on-call reference in Burling Library
  • providing 30 hours of on-call reference in Kistle Science Library
  • teaching information literacy sessions in tutorials and other classes
  • preparing and meeting with students for Library Labs
  • serving as consulting librarian for assigned departments (responsibilities include liaison, instruction, and collection development)

3. Access Services


3.5 FTE administrative and support staff are assigned to Circulation. Library materials are circulated from four locations:

  • Burling Circulation/Reserve: Staffed by support staff plus student staff all library hours
  • Burling Listening Room: Staffed by 1 FTE support staff and students
  • Kistle Science Library: Staffed primarily by students under the direction of the Manager of Access Services
  • AV Center: Staffed by ITS staff and students, with training and support from Listening Room and Access Services staff (see Media Collections, below).

In addition, two un-staffed facilities are managed by Access Services: the Curriculum Libraries (Elementary and Secondary) in Steiner Hall and the Libraries’ Offsite Storage Facility, which is located at the Facilities Management office site.

Student staff assigned to Burling Circulation are expected to be able to work at Kistle Science Library, and vice versa. This is a relatively new expectation, and procedures for coordinated hiring and training are still being refined. In addition, since 2007 all student staff hired for any public service point participate in a common orientation that covers general policies and service standards.


Print reserve services are provided by circulation staff in Burling and Kistle libraries. Electronic reserve services are provided by a circulation supervisor and the Administrative Assistant. Most document scanning is provided by academic department support staff, not the Libraries.

Interlibrary services

2 FTE support staff. The Innovative Interfaces interlibrary loan module and OCLC WorldCat Resource Sharing are used for interlibrary loan. Ariel is used for document receipt and transmission. Electronic delivery of articles to Grinnell College patrons is not currently supported but is planned for spring 2009, via Ariel.

4. Technical Services

6.75 FTE support staff:
* Acquisitions and Federal Documents: 1.5 FTE
* Cataloging: 2.75 FTE
* Serials: 1.5 FTE
* Library Systems: 1 FTE

The Libraries acquire and process print and audio/video works in a variety of languages, primarily English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. The College recently filled a three-year position for an Arabic language instructor and interest is growing in a broader program of Arabic studies. The Libraries catalog most English and Western-European language materials in-house. Russian-language materials are currently processed in-house but are being considered for outsourcing. Cataloging for most Chinese- and Japanese-language audio and video materials is outsourced to TechPro. Cataloging for printed Chinese and Japanese materials is generally managed in-house with the assistance of native-speaking student staff.

In recent years a backlog developed of ca. 6800 items, including 2000 books in foreign languages, with Russian, French, Chinese, and Spanish dominant; 1,200 scores; 200 videos; and 100 sound recordings. In 2008 we contracted with a consultant to examine our existing workflow for acquisitions, cataloging, and shelf-preparation and to make recommendations for eliminating the backlog, enhancing workflow, streamlining cataloging practices, and improving service to our patrons. Based on these recommendations, staff implemented new procedures on July 1, 2008, which direct about 65% of newly acquired materials directly to student workers for rapid cataloging. As of February 1, 2009, the “backlog” has been reduced to under 2000 items. Responsibilities for regular cataloging staff have been shifted to make the best use of their skills. Our goal is a workflow that keeps pace with current receipts and frees staff time to address emerging needs. Thus far, we are achieving this goal. The model developed in this process may provide an example for other workflow and staffing changes.

5. Media Collections (Listening Room and AV Center): 1 FTE Support Staff.

The Libraries' media collections (CD, DVD, VHS, and related formats) are divided between the "Listening Room" in Burling Library and the AV Center in Alumni Recitation Hall (primarily classrooms and faculty offices for the Humanities). This represents a relatively recent consolidation of library-owned and departmentally owned collections, with the Libraries now responsible for acquiring, cataloging, and maintaining all media collections. The AV Center is staffed by support staff and students under the administration of Information Technology Services (ITS) with training and support from the Libraries. The Listening Room is managed by one FTE Library support staff (the Listening Room Supervisor). The Listening Room Supervisor is responsible for selection of video and audio (under the direction of the Collection Development Librarian), provision of circulation and other public services (under the direction of the Associate Librarian of the College), and cataloging (under the direction of the Catalog Librarian).

Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do

In order to do the important new work which awaits us as information professionals, we need to find ways to be more efficient in our work processes and to make the best possible use of the staff we do have. Below are some suggestions for achieving those efficiencies.

A. Systematically assess and evaluate needs and responsibilities

Conduct an inventory of needs and responsibilities to determine opportunities for assignment or reassignment of staff, cross training, delegation, elimination of tasks and/or more efficient means of performing them.

B. Increase cross-training

The ebb and flow of library work in certain areas means there are crunch times for some staff and less busy times for others. We see opportunities to improve cross-training to gain greater flexibility across units and to delegate more work to students. Currently, staff are cross-trained between access services and cataloging for copy cataloging and electronic reserves. The Administrative Assistant to the Librarian of the College has regular duties in electronic reserves and cataloging, and serves as a backup for interlibrary loan. We need to find additional areas for cross training.

C. Implement annual staff plans

Each person in the library should create a personalized annual plan, separate from the annual performance evaluation, which would focus on how their job fits into the Libraries’ annual plan and the tasks each person needs to achieve to help the Libraries attain its overall goals. The plans would include suggestions for training, coaching, and other forms of development needed by individual staff members. These plans would help focus and fine-tune the performance of library staff.

D. Better utilize student library assistants

Improve training and support for students who work at service desks by instituting a training program; develop clear guidelines for referrals to reference librarians; and investigate successes at other libraries that use student staff to provide information or reference service.

Areas of Special Concern

Two major areas of the twenty-first century library have been neglected in our organization. One is the Libraries’ Web presence. The Libraries’ presence on the Web is as important as our physical facilities: it is the portal that mediates library services and facilitates access to library collections. Although the Libraries have had a Web site since the mid 1990s, no staff are formally assigned responsibility for maintaining the site. Although staff routinely update the site and add new content and new features, no one has been able to focus attention on our website in a way that would improve access for our users. This academic year a campus-wide committee, which included library representation, reviewed content management systems (CMS) and recommended that the College replace its current Web-authoring platform with Drupal. The Libraries see a campus-wide CMS as a potentially viable replacement to the Libraries’ own Web site, provided adequate control is delegated to departments. We are currently waiting to see if and when the College might implement a CMS.

Another area of concern is electronic resource management. Responsibility for collection development, ordering, cataloging, proxy access, web page entries, usage statistics, etc., are divided among an array of staff, again with no designated central assignment of duties.

Coda: Assessment and Planning: How We Get from Here to There

Like most academic libraries, the Grinnell College Libraries have collected data of various kinds to assist in planning, developing, and evaluating library programs and services. The Libraries report ca. 200 data items to four state and national surveys for aggregation and comparison with other academic libraries. We are beginning to use this transactional data in new ways, developing new tools for collecting feedback from our users, and—most important—placing greater priority on responding to that feedback through formal planning.

The Libraries have a history of seeking feedback from users. Since at least 1995 we have solicited comments from students who use the "Library Lab" consultation service, and a "feedback" button has been part of the Libraries' Web site from its beginning. We solicited faculty and student feedback for the design of the Interactive Instructional Facility (1997-98) and the Computer Commons (2007) in Burling Library, and for design and selection of seating (2003-2006) in Kistle Science Library. We instituted a "student comment" bulletin board in Burling Library in 2007, and the Librarian of the College responds directly to most postings. We have also made organizational changes to increase communication between the Libraries and the faculty (through our reorganized "consulting librarian" program)-- and between the Libraries and students (through a reorganized and expanded Student Educational Policy Committee)-- This gives us a strong foundation on which to continue to build.

In February and March 2007, the Libraries surveyed the entire Grinnell College community to find out how well we are serving campus needs. We used a national survey instrument, LibQUAL (, which measures the gaps between minimum expectations for library service at Grinnell College, desired level of service, and perceptions of the actual service levels. The data and conclusions gathered from that survey were presented in a Faculty Meeting and posted on the Libraries' Web site (, and served as the basis for our planning efforts in 2007 and 2008. As a result of LibQUAL and our annual planning, we have begun to develop a more systematic program which builds assessment into each of our programming goals. For instance, we are collecting usage statistics with tools such as Google Analytics in order to assess how our digital collections are used and for planning the development and improvement of Web-based materials we develop. Additionally, we are beginning to examine records of interlibrary borrowing and lending, electronic database and journal use, and book circulation for patterns that might guide decisions on undertaking new subscriptions, allocating staff, or re-locating little used library materials. Beyond formal, empirical assessments, we will continue to discuss our ideas with students and faculty groups across campus and look for other ways to solicit formative feedback. And twice each year, we will continue to bring together all library staff and student representatives to identify short-term and long-term goals for library service based on the information obtained through both formal and informal feedback.

Because we emphasize information literacy in this report, focusing on ways to assess its effectiveness is particularly important. We should more deliberately assess the effectiveness of our instructional sessions for individual students as well as entire classes. Additionally, we plan to assess the impact of our instruction within academic departments and to consider the effectiveness of our overall information literacy program. We are beginning our work with academic departments to articulate information literacy expectations for majors, upon which instruction sessions can be collaboratively designed and assessed. In August of 2008, incoming first-year students took the Research Practices Survey (RPS) which provides baseline indicators of information literacy experiences, attitudes, approaches, and skills. We are planning to administer this survey to each incoming class and then again as an exit survey to fourth-year students beginning in 2011 (