C&RL Spotlight

Wendi Kaspar


The preoccupation with accountability and engagement in higher education is impossible to ignore—it is prevalent in the news media, in political rhetoric, and in public discourse. However, accountability and engagement are more than buzzwords. In higher education, they demonstrate the desire for a stronger connection between academic efforts and society or, more specifically, between the creation and the application of knowledge. There has been an increased call for universities and colleges to model societal values and to be responsive to the needs of industry and the public.

Libraries are in a unique position to assist institutions of higher education in addressing these demands by collaborating with scholars and researchers in the academy; liaising with faculty to support their teaching; empowering students through building information literacy skills; partnering with academic programs to gather evidence of impact; providing public access to the creation of new knowledge; and facilitating connections with industry, government and the community. Through these efforts, academic libraries play a pivotal role in fulfilling the missions of their institutions, while meeting the changing needs of society.

The articles in the July 2016 issue of College & Research Libraries demonstrate this unique position. In fact, they are representative of the larger conversations occurring in higher education today and how innovation can help to move efforts forward. Articles in the current issue examine the evolving values in higher education and academic libraries: demonstrating value, advocating open access to information and expertise generated from academia, using emerging technology in information provision, framing research data as scholarship, and promoting diversity.

  • Christopher W. Belter and Neal K. Kaske. “Using Bibliometrics to Demonstrate the Value of Library Journal Collections.” Abstract: Although cited reference studies are common in the library and information science literature, they are rarely performed in nonacademic institutions or in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences. In this paper, we analyze more than 400,000 cited references made by authors affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration between 2009 and 2013. Our results suggest that these methods can be applied to research libraries in a variety of institutions, that the results of analyses performed at one institution may not be applicable to other institutions, and that cited reference analyses should be periodically updated to reflect changes in authors’ referencing behavior.
  • Brian K. Kooy. “Building Virtually Free Subject Area Expertise through Social Media: An Exploratory Study.” Abstract: Central to the ongoing success of the liaison model is the need for liaison librarians to stay informed and up-to-date about recent developments in the subject areas of their assigned academic departments and programs. This article describes an exploratory study conducted to determine whether information obtained from the social media accounts of discipline-based scholarly associations can be used by liaison librarians as a no-cost expedient method of staying informed and up-to-date. The results of the study provide insights into the disciplines and associations that are using social media, the social media platforms that associations are using, the quantity and type of information that associations are posting, and the potential for liaisons to use the information as a way of staying current in their assigned subject areas.
  • Paula R. Dempsey. “‘Are You a Computer?’ Opening Exchanges in Virtual Reference Shape the Potential for Teaching.” Abstract: Academic reference librarians frequently work with students who are not aware of their professional roles. In online interactions, a student might not even realize that the librarian is a person. The ways students initiate conversations reveal their understanding of the mutual roles involved in reference encounters. Conversation analysis of live chat transcripts at two institutions establishes the importance of opening exchanges to shape the potential for teaching. Chats that students open with relational cues (greeting, introduction, courtesy, verbal softeners) last longer than chats without these cues. Longer chats include more expressions of enthusiastic gratitude. The transcripts show evidence of successful strategies by librarians to shift chats from transactional openings to conversations with potential for engaged learning.
  • Christine Fruin and Shan Sutton. “Strategies for Success: Open Access Policies at North American Educational Institutions.” Abstract: Recognizing the paucity of quantitative and qualitative data from North American educational institutions that have pursued open access policies, the authors devised a survey to collect information on the characteristics of these institutions, as well as the elements of the open access policies, the methods of promoting these policies, faculty concerns about the policies, and how those concerns have been addressed. The data collected through survey results from 51 institutions can inform the strategic decisions being made by other institutions considering an open access policy and illustrates the essential roles that academic libraries can play in the development and passage of open access policies.
  • Yi Shen. “Strategic Planning for a Data-Driven, Shared-Access Research Enterprise: Virginia Tech Research Data Assessment and Landscape Study.” Abstract: The data landscape study at Virginia Tech addresses the changing modes of faculty scholarship and supports the development of a user-centric data infrastructure, management, and curation system. The study investigates faculty researchers’ current practices in organizing, describing, and preserving data and the emerging needs for services and education. The results demonstrate the changing nature of faculty demands regarding data documentation, storage, and archiving and identify opportunities for libraries to develop a coherent service, research, and education system to address the evolving needs.
  • Julie Gilbert. “Heroes and Holidays: The Status of Diversity Initiatives at Liberal Arts College Libraries.” Abstract: Studies about diversity initiatives in academic libraries have primarily focused on large research libraries. But what kinds of diversity work occur at smaller libraries? This study examines the status of diversity initiatives, especially those aimed at students, at national liberal arts college libraries. Results from a survey of library directors reveal that, while diversity programming happens informally at most libraries, and while diversity is valued by library directors, diversity work has not been prioritized at the organizational level in any systematic manner.
  • Emily P. Frank and Nils Pharo. “Academic Librarians in Data Information Literacy Instruction: Case Study in Meteorology.” Abstract: E-science has reshaped meteorology—due to the rate data is generated, collected, analyzed, and stored—and brought data skills to a new prominence. Data information literacy—the skills needed to understand, use, manage, share, work with, and produce data—reflects the confluence of data skills with information literacy competencies. This research assessed perceptions of data information literacy and attitudes on its instruction for graduate students in meteorology. As academic librarians have traditionally provided information literacy instruction, the research determined if they were perceived as having a role in data information literacy instruction. The modified Delphi method was applied to obtain the perspectives of a panel of experts, representing students, librarians, professors, and researchers, for the purpose of forecasting and consensus-making. Through the consideration of the University of Oslo’s Department of Geosciences’ Meteorology Section, the research found that data information literacy skills were relevant to the work of meteorology students. Stakeholders perceived that academic librarians could play a future role in general instruction, but that they would have to overcome obstacles to be involved in data information literacy instruction. For librarians to enter this domain, they would need to improve their technical skills, enhance their discipline-specific knowledge, or rely on collaborations. The significance of these findings was limited by the modest target population under examination. Consequently, the results were strongly linked to the specific setting. Further studies would be necessary to determine their generalizability.

As the incoming editor of College & Research Libraries, I feel strongly that this is the most critical charge for academic libraries—to address these questions and sociopolitical issues along with playing a significant part in the dialogues that are shaping higher education.

It is an honor to be a part of publishing such significant research in librarianship that reflects this role, and I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of those great editors of College & Research Libraries who have come before me. Most recently, Scott Walter, who has provided innovative leadership for the journal responsive to emerging trends in scholarly communication, and the editors emeritus, who have helped shaped scholarship in the profession and the prestigious and influential journal that C&RL has become:

  1. 1939–1941 A. F. Kuhlman
  2. 1941–1948 Carl M. White
  3. 1948–1962 Maurice F. Tauber
  4. 1962–1963 Richard Harwell
  5. 1963–1969 David Kaser
  6. 1969–1974 Richard M. Dougherty
  7. 1974–1980 Richard D. Johnson
  8. 1980–1984 C. James Schmidt
  9. 1984–1990 Charles Martell
  10. 1990–1996 Gloriana St. Clair
  11. 1996–2002 Donald E. Riggs
  12. 2002–2008 William Gray Potter
  13. 2008–2011 Joseph Branin
  14. 2012–2016 Scott Walter

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