Guest Post, the third in a four-part series, by KC Lynch:
Part 3: Utilizing the Power of Librarians
Let’s say librarians rule the world…since it’s not far from the truth. While some decisions are out of their hands, like which databases to subscribe to (these decisions are made at University or even Consortia level), librarians are responsible for the collection development in their specialty. They respond to requests from faculty for specific periodicals, but they also suggest new materials, and provide guidance for students and curriculum developers.
When a student comes looking for a specific journal, the librarian will first determine if it’s part of the institution’s catalog. Most journals in university collections are available through immense, searchable database packages like EBSCO or JSTOR. To be listed in such a database, journals are reviewed on characteristics like readership, relevance, citation data, etc. (The MLA has a similar review process for its list of vetted periodicals.) Different databases have different criteria: TWC is listed by EBSCO, but not by Jstor.
Since TWC is accessible for free, there is another way the title can be found. When I sat down to discuss the finer points of collection development with a librarian at the University of Washington (UW), she created a catalog entry for TWC in 30 seconds. Now, when librarians all over campus use programs like Serials Solutions to comb through UW’s collection, TWC will be listed, regardless of its presence (or lack thereof) in the larger database packages.
Better than that, Specialty Librarians can help a journal gain visibility within its field. Each department has its own librarian, who runs a web page that acts as a vital digital resource for students and faculty. This type of resource, according to Ithaka’s 2009 Faculty Survey, has a greater impact than general-purpose search engines as the starting point for research.
We already know that librarians are big fans of online journals. In Ithaka’s Library Survey 2010, 267 library administrators from colleges and universities across the U.S. were asked what they would do with an unexpected 10% budget increase. A 55% majority said they would spend it on online and digital journals, even over discovery tools and staff/facility expansions.
Library administrators also support open-access platforms: 84% believe they should take an active role in educating faculty about OA, and 71% believe that OA journals that are linked from their website are part of their research collection.
Moreover, 68% said it was important that library staffs work with faculty to incorporate digital information resources into their curricula.
It’s their role as teaching facilitator that makes the librarian a scholarly journal’s greatest ally. Ithaka’s 2010 Library Survey reports that 97% of respondents believe the highest priority for library staff resources is supporting faculty instruction and student learning, and that it will become increasingly important over the next five years. 84% agreed with the statement: “it is strategically important that my library be seen by its users as the first place they go to discover content,” not because the library is a repository, but because librarians know how to find what you’re looking for.
Ithaka quotes the “Value of academic Libraries” report by Megan Oakleaf: “In the past, academic libraries functioned primarily as information repositories; now they are becoming learning enterprises. This shift requires academic librarians to embed library services and resources in the teaching and learning activities of their institutions. In the new paradigm, librarians focus on information skills, not information access; they think like educators, not service providers.”
All of this boils down to one thing: librarians consider themselves integral to the teaching experience, whether faculty do or not. Which means not only are librarians filling the needs of their department, they’re actively engaging in curricula building. They’re making smart choices for the future of their department.
So how do we get them to choose TWC? The short answer is to engage them through their departmental web pages and that old staple of librarian communication: the listserv.
There are other ways, of course—outlets that Librarians, Administrators, Faculty and Academics-at-large have in common. Coming up in the next part: Social Networking.