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 (http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/services/LASR/index.html). 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 (http://www.lib.grinnell.edu/research/consultinglibs/). 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 (http://www.artstor.org/what-is-artstor/w-html/services-hosting.shtml), 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 http://www.oberlingroup.org/reports-regional-consortial-projects). 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.
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