C&RL Spotlight

Wendi Kaspar is C&RL editor and policy sciences librarian at the Texas A&M University Policy Sciences and Economics Library, email: warant@library.tamu.edu

Periodically, we may get so wrapped up in our hectic lives and the myriad of little details that we lose sight of the meaning behind our work. It is easy to lose sight of it in all the myriad of commitments and activities—reference consultations, classes to teach, resources to buy, committee meetings to go to, books to read (and write), papers to review, and on and on.

At least this happens to me, at times, particularly in the deluge of a new semester.

Then some event or meaningful interaction shakes me out of that myopic view.

September saw a number of reminders that there are larger issues that deserve our attention and engagement. That the meaning in our lives is derived from how we impact others.

So, in the midst of a busy semester, I was shocked to receive an invitation to serve on a high-profile committee to address Title IX issues on campus. This is an issue to which I have dedicated a lot of my service efforts. But I will admit to being conflicted about serving on this committee. On the one hand, I was already busy (as we all are) with editing, writing, committee work—oh, and my actual job.

On the other hand, this was an important effort to address how Title IX is addressed at the university, the adjudication process, and the sanctioning guidelines. A significant effort but also daunting by its implications for our campus climate, by the scrutiny it will be under, by the time commitment, and by the very nature of the issue dealing with sexual assault and sexual harassment (a topic reaching every part of academe, no matter what size institution).

After going back and forth and unsure of what to do, I decided to take a walk around the gardens at the George (H. W.) Bush Presidential Library (my office is adjacent) and get away from these circling thoughts. It is a great place to get away from the bustle and to reflect.

George H. W. Bush Library inscription.

Walking around the pond, I considered what I should do, and I turned to face the back of the Bush Library.

There is nothing like the words of a world leader, one who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act and saw the end of the Cold War, to shake one out of a very self-centered perspective. It was a little like a slap in the face and a reminder that there are efforts that are much more important.

Around this time, I also had occasion to read a publication by a couple of colleagues1 and was reminded that access and equity are not just words and are not only present in our policies but are values that we model. It also helped me remember that there are ways in which librarians can engage in addressing social justice—actively, appropriately, and professionally. It also reminded me that, by virtue of our commitment to equity and access, we have a responsibility to do so.

It is interesting because, I think, as academics and as librarians, we try very hard to be apolitical and neutral in an effort to withhold judgement and be accepting of all individuals and all ideas. However, it may be, in some circumstances, that neutrality is complicity. We need only look to the news headlines to be reminded of this. The paradox of intolerance forecasts the potential outcome: “If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”2

Being the editor of C&RL, he value of equity has always been a fact that is uppermost in mind. That I have been given a trust to model the values of the profession, to challenge, and to help develop the profession through the research.

It just so happens that the November issue of the journal addresses a number of issues of equity (literally, in one case), and I invite you to check out the new issue:

“Is There a Racial Wage Gap in Research Libraries? An Analysis of ARL Libraries” by Quinn Galbraith, Heather Kelley, and Michael Groesbeck. Racial equality has been of great importance to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), as seen through various initiatives. However, in recent years, little research has been done regarding the racial wage gap in ARL libraries. Researchers used 35 years of raw ARL salary survey data to examine the wage gap between racial minorities and nonminorities (whites). Using this data, researchers created a model that controlled for institution, years of experience, years of experience squared, position, law or medical library, and sex in order to better understand the nature of the racial wage gap. This model shows that the gap has gradually closed over the years and that there is no longer a statistically significant wage gap between racial minorities and nonminorities in ARL libraries today.

“Lived Experience of Academic Librarians of Color” by Juleah Swanson, Azusa Tanaka, and Isabel Gonzalez-Smith. Lived experience encompasses the perceptions, feelings, and context of an individual’s human experience. Researching lived experience can be a way of understanding identity, emotions, perceptions, and contexts to develop a more thoughtful understanding of human experience. This research explores the following questions: What are the lived experiences of people of color who work as academic librarians in the profession? What are the contexts of their experiences? and How do these librarians see themselves? Through qualitative research using a phenomenological approach, this research reveals the complex, nuanced, and varied lived experiences of academic librarians of color navigating a predominantly white profession.

“How Do You Work? Understanding User Needs for Responsive Study Space Design” by Asha L. Hegde, Patricia M. Boucher, and Allison D. Lavelle. The academic library is changing. No longer simply a warehouse of information, the university library is a place for students and patrons to study, collaborate, socialize, and learn through social activities. This change in use reflects a paradigmatic shift from understanding the library as information repository to understanding the library as “place,” “third space,” and/or “learning commons.” As the paradigm of the academic library changes, it transforms academic library design. Because the conceptual basis of current academic library design is still changing away from traditional academic library spaces, it is necessary to continuously evaluate user needs and desires for study spaces, and what makes an ideal study space, to keep the design of academic libraries relevant to its patrons.

“Design and Implementation of a Study Room Reservation System: Lessons from a Pilot Program Using Google Calendar” by Shira Atkinson and Kirsten Lee. Collaborative work spaces within academic library settings are becoming increasingly important as libraries consider their roles in the 21st century. This paper considers the value of implementing a room reservation effort as part of the larger drive towards creating viable collaborative work spaces, and how to effectively manage a room reservation system. This paper presents a pilot study of the effectiveness of Google Calendar appointment slots as a room reservation system in a library setting at Fordham University, a major university in New York City. In a one-semester study, staff tracked usage trends among different user types and evaluated the efficiency of their selected room reservation system. Through this evaluation, staff determined that Google Calendar is technically equipped to provide a free, but very basic, room reservation system for academic libraries, but that it requires considerably more upkeep and management by staff than the more costly or open source options. Results of this study can further be used to guide future decisions regarding room reservation policies and system requirements.

“Academic Freedom and Librarians’ Research and Scholarship in Canadian Universities” by Mary Kandiuk and Harriet M. Sonne de Torrens. This study examines the extent to which librarians employed at Canadian universities have academic freedom protection with respect to the right and responsibility to engage in research and scholarship as part of their normal workload and the right to pursue unrestricted lines of inquiry in research and scholarship. An analysis of the terms and conditions of employment for Canadian academic librarians and the results of a nationwide survey reveal that the majority are protected by academic freedom in their contractual agreements. The findings also reveal that the inclusion of research and scholarship as part of normal workload is a challenge for many librarians, definitions for research and scholarship vary across institutions, and time constraints impede the ability of librarians to conduct research and scholarship.

“Parallel Lines: A Mixed Methods Impact Analysis of Co-Curricular Digital Literacy Online Modules on Student Results in First-Year Nursing” by Fiona Russell, Chris Rawson, Chrissy Freestone, Michael Currie, and Blair Kelly. An important component of the academic health librarian role is the establishment of interventions to support the development of student skills in evidence-based practice. It is important for practicing librarians to evaluate their activities in order to determine effectiveness and to inform decision-making and best practice in librarianship. A series of six online modules was developed for a core first-year Bachelor of Nursing unit. Modules were subsequently investigated for impact on student learning of evidence-based practice by determining any correlation between students’ completion of the modules and their academic performance. The level of students’ interest and engagement was also examined through a survey about their experiences of and attitudes towards the modules. A positive correlation was found between module completion and attainment of higher grades by students. Feedback from the survey indicated that students engaged positively with the modules.

“The Right to Be Forgotten and Implications on Digital Collections: A Survey of ARL Member Institutions on Practice and Policy” by Virginia Dressler and Cindy Kristof. In spring 2017, digital librarians and digital collection managers at Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member institutions were surveyed on practices and policies surrounding takedown requests in openly accessible digital collections. The survey collected basic demographic information surrounding the digital repositories (anonymized) and presented a series of hypothetical scenarios for respondents to consider and reflect upon. The survey received a 25.8% response rate, with many intriguing insights. Survey findings are presented, along with a discussion on future recommendations for work in this area.


  1. Stephen E. Bales and Lea Susan Engle, “The academic librarian: A call to action, Progressive Librarian, 16–40 (2012).
  2. Karl Popper, The open society and its enemies (Routledge, 2012).
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