Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

What Faculty Want Librarians to Know – Charleston Conference


What Faculty Want Librarians to Know | Against The Grain.

This session provided a good reminder of the obscure and  not-so-obscure needs of faculty, and by extension, students – their students. Dr. Johnson’s feelings about the tactile nature of “data” (as in, information) may be due to his own experiences, but it is digitization that will enable the access that all three panelists desire.

The place of monographs in each of these faculty members’ respective fields was interesting to observe.  For the physicist, the use is limited to what is available online and only for reference purposes – finding that elusive equation or citation.  It is not surprising that books (of all formats) play a much larger role for the classicist.  I paid attention to his need for better online browsing capabilities – I’ve always felt that the loss of serendipitous shelf-scanning could impede innovation.  Topical searching in our library catalogs may not provide the same connections.  I was a bit surprised by the importance of physical books to the international studies panelist.  She stressed the importance of digitization for improving access.

Actually, this last panelist, Dr. Christine Fair, was the most provocative.  She expressed her love and hatred of specific libraries, based largely on the ease of gaining access to the collections.  Of particular concern to her were special collections, with their inane rules against borrowing, copying, photographic or other ways of accessing the content of the items externally.  This issue is controversial in the special collections world right now, with some libraries leading the way to opening collections and not accepting collections with such stipulations.

Christine wanted to emphasize that the librarians need to instill their value to the students – their primary customers.  She describes how, when conducting studies for RAND, librarians charged for their services.  This provided a direct indication of the value of library resources and librarians.  This link is missing with students, although it shouldn’t be.  At our institution, 99% of our funding comes from student fees.  But because it is applied generally, once a semester (not each visit) and often not paid for by the students themselves (or wrapped into loans which are not paid off for quite some time), the students lose that connection, and thus do not value the resources or services.

Key takeaway points for me were:

  • Better connections between libraries.  There are still far too many obstacles to sharing, obtaining and effectively using each others’ resources.  In an era where more collections (such as our own) are relying more on access and less on ownership, this is particularly disconcerting.  These are not the first faculty members I’ve heard grouse about the limitations of borrowing items from other libraries.  Some of these obstacles are self-imposed and harken back to an era of restricting access (protecting collections).  Others are externally derived, notably related to absurd copyright environment.
  • Students need more instruction on understanding the search process and less on the technical details of conducting a search.  Too many faculty assume that students already know what they are looking for.  But students need help with formulating their questions, with evaluating resources, and with understanding the limitations of accessibility of digital content.
  • Digitization is the key to increasing access to resources.  This would include more than just books and articles – but documents (old and recent), proceedings, reports, and data.

While it is difficult to ensure that the specific and often very narrow  information needs of faculty are met, the insights of this panel of faculty give us some direction.

 

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This entry was posted on November 9, 2014 by in Academic Libraries, Collections, Intriguing Ideas, Scholarly Communication.
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