Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Everything is fine, fine, fine

Library Journal and Gale/Cengage produced a report called "Bridging the Librarian-Faculty Gap in the Academic Library" which documents the results of a survey sent to a pool of academic faculty and academic librarians. The purpose of the survey was to identify where faculty and librarians are in agreement with regard to what constitutes an essential library service and what can be done to increase communication and understanding. An executive summary can be found here.

The most interesting part of the summary is the set of bar graphs in the middle of the document. The first bar graph notes the percentage of faculty respondents and librarian respondents who considered a particular service essential in academic libraries. The second bar graph indicates the percentage of faculty respondents and librarian respondents who rated their library "excellent" when it came to providing the services referenced in the first bar graph.

There are a handful of services on the first graph that a higher percentage of faculty consider essential than librarians: supporting faculty research, coordinating research data services, adding faculty articles to the digital repository,  text and data mining, parceling course materials from separate texts, and managing research grants. Interestingly, faculty also gave librarians higher marks on providing those services than the librarians gave themselves.

It is worth noting that the faculty respondents came from private, college or universities and that many of the respondents came from the sciences and the humanities. It is also worth noting that every individual library operates in a different context. So what this report says on a macro-level might not scale down to your individual library.

On Thursday, Rachel wrote about how the best way to understand our undergraduate users is to engage with them and then provide them with the services they want. She wrote:
There is a simple solution, you know. We can get comfortably uncomfortable and ask students what they want out of interactions with librarians and libraries. We can ask students what their ideal relationship with a librarian looks like throughout their college career. We can listen seriously to what they say, and try to be exactly who and what they need and want.
The report from Library Journal and Gale/Cengage gives us a place from which to start the conversation. Asking what we can do to support faculty research is a good place to start the conversation about what their ideal relationship with a librarian looks like. But let's not stop there, assuming that's all they want. And when we ask faculty what their ideal relationship with a librarian looks like, let's ask because we really want to know and not because we want faculty to take us seriously or see as as equals.

Ultimately, I think that coming into agreement about which services are essential for each of our user groups is the most important thing we can do to succeed. There are some library services we will never be able to jettison, and that's not a bad thing. But there are some services we offer our users that made sense at the time, but which have been rendered obsolete by the passage of time. It isn't that those services never had value--they did. But now they don't, and those services (and the people who provide them) can be transformed into something new and even more useful for users. We just have to be open to having the conversation and open to accepting the feedback even when it makes us uncomfortable.

Stay positive,

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