November 19, 2017

Academic Librarians On Taking Their Seats at the Table | ALA Annual 2016

ULS-panel-ALA-Annual-2016-image-2-700x403At “Taking Our Seat at the Table: How Academic Librarians Can Help Shape the Future of Higher Education,” sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries University Libraries Section (ACRL ULS), library administrators spoke up about how their institutions are looking ahead—both within and outside of the library.

Maria Martinez-Cosio, assistant vice provost for faculty affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), discussed how her library is realizing its vision of an academic plaza within the library through an extensive DOE Title V grant–funded renovation. As the fifth most diverse public university in the nation and the third largest destination for transfer students, UTA needs to focus on serving  veterans, first-generation students, and sophomores slumping after freshman year support ends. Work is in progress, but the finished space will likely include a first floor FAB lab and the aforementioned academic plaza on the second floor holding some 26 partners including the university advising center; the IDEAS center, which will provide free tutoring and mentoring, spaces to work, study, or nap; and a market carrying snacks and sandwiches.

Monica Metz-Wiseman, director of academic resources at the University of South Florida (USF), discussed the library’s response to issues of textbook affordability. Statistics show 65 percent of students nationwide cannot purchase the textbooks they need, impacting recruitment, retention, time to complete their degree, teaching practices. USF has addressed the issue in a number of ways, including developing a more user-friendly online course reserve system, adopting ebooks in the classroom, publicizing USF’s Textbook Affordability website, developing open access textbooks, and amending the university bookstore contract to allow library participation in textbook affordability pilots or activities. USF is also participating in textbook data analysis with the state of Florida in order to help influence statewide policies.

Susan Ryan, dean of the library and learning technologies at Stetson University, Deland, FL, highlighted the university’s 3-D printer curriculum as an “unexpectedly successful way that our library has taken a seat at the table.” Students need a wide skill set in order to move into a high-tech global economy, and although plenty of libraries have 3-D printers, not many offer for-credit undergraduate courses in their use. With clear communication to librarians and faculty about how they stand to benefit, said Ryan, a 3-D curriculum could be a good fit for many institutions. At Stetson it has been such a success—across such diverse departments as chemistry, biology, mathematics, integrative health, and even art and music—that the library had to add two $25,000 Stratasys commercial-grade 3-D printers (one donated) to its existing lineup to keep up with demand.

Last, Catherine Murray-Rust, dean of libraries and vice provost for academic effectiveness at the Georgia Institute of Technology, spoke about what academic librarians everywhere can do in order to secure a seat at the proverbial table of university life as educators—“not as a secretary, not as a servant, but as a contributor, an influencer, and perhaps even as a mover and shaker.” Librarians need to be visible and credible, earn their place in the conversation, and work hard to stay on the guest list. This involves, among other things, asking for introductions and new assignments, serving on committees and task forces, teaching classes other than library instruction, participating in faculty research projects, getting help with promotion from communications and marketing staff, and increasing their knowledge of their institution specifically and higher education in general. Rule number one: If you don’t have a seat already, bring your own chair.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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