Association of College & Research Libraries

English and Reichel share plans for ACRL

Ray English is director of libraries at Oberlin College, e-mail:; Mary Reichel is university librarian at Appalachian State University, e-mail:

Vote in the election this spring

Ed note: C&RL News offered ACRL candidates for vice-president/president-elect, Ray English and Mary Reichel, this opportunity to share their views with the membership. Although many of the issues facing ACRL are discussed informally at meetings, we want to use this venue to provid…ational forum to all members. We hope this will assist you in making an informed choice when you receive your ballot this spring.


“Oh, you better start swimming Or you’ll sink lik…tone For the times, they are a-changin”’ —Bob Dylan

“Toto, I'v…eeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

—Dorothy, Wizard of Oz

Writing this position piece has provide…ery enjoyable opportunity for me to reflect on the state of academic libraries and ACRL. As I've looked back at the recent past, I’m struck by the extraordinary technological changes in our libraries that have taken place in just the last few years. Ubiquitous computers and networking, Web-based catalogs, library Web pages that provide central access for research, electronic journals, e-prints, e-books, electronic reserves, digital collections (including primary sources of exceptional richness), and distance education are just some of the features of our new landscape.

Ray English

Mary Reichel

The new technologies have, in some respects, put us i…osition to provide richer information resources for our students and faculty than ever before. But the new environment is also much more complex and demanding, both for our users and for us. As we’ve provided library resources and services electronically, we’ve created whole new library functions at the same time that we’re continuing the operations of the printbased library.

Staying abreast of such fast-paced change and increasing complexity is essential for all of us. Even more challenging is our need to shape the change we’re experiencing in accordance with our values, rather than simply let change happen to us.

Only by being leaders, advocates, and activists—both on our own campuses and at state and national levels—can we sustain the quality of our libraries and ensure that they remain central to our institutions’ educational missions.

ACRL's response

ACRL has responded well to the changes in academic libraries, higher education, and our external environment. Our association is very mature, with strong financial resources an…arge, stable, active membership. The 1996 strategic plan continued the association’s historical emphasis on professional development, but it also placed new priorities on national legislative advocacy and outreach to higher education organizations.

A…rite…ew strategic plan is scheduled for adoption by the ACRL Board at the Midwinter 2000 meeting. The new plan will further expand the roles of the association into new areas of critical importance, such as scholarly communication…ully support the new strategic plan and would work energetically to accomplish its goals. If elected…ould be particularly interested in collaborating with the ACRL Board, committees, sections, and chapters in the following areas.

Professional development

If we’re to deal effectively with the changes transforming our libraries, it’s essential that ACRL continues to provid…ariety of professional development opportunities. We especially need to build on recent efforts to increase the leadership and advocacy skills of our members.

The association has had great success with its national conferences, annual conference programs, preconferences, and institutes. We need to make these opportunities as accessible as possible to everyone who works in academic libraries…ould place high priority on keeping the costs of conferences and institutes as low as possible and providing scholarship opportunities for those who are not in the best position to participate.

I would also like to encourage further efforts to use technology to make programming more available at regional and state levels. The Web broadcast of Jim Neal and Pat Schroeder’s debate at the Detroit National conference, which was the focus of the Indiana chapter’s state program, i…ine example of what’s possible.

Outreach and legislative advocacy

We face particular challenges at state and national policy levels. Publishing in the digital era is increasingly characterized by licenses and contract law, rather than copyright, and there are continuing pressures from commercial interests to privatize information that has historically been in the public domain. It’s no…egular occurrence for us to learn of new bills in Congress that have major implications for libraries. Fair use and wide public access to information can only be assured if we continue to work actively to shape legislation and national information policy.

The recent development of an ACRL legislative agenda, the reallocation o…taff position, and especially the creation of the ACRL legislative network have been very positive responses to these concerns. A…ext step…ould encourage ACRL to look for ways to broaden participation by ACRL members in legislative advocacy and to build legislative coalitions with organizations that share our interests. ACRL has been quite successful in creating links to other higher education organizations. It’s now time for us to move from outreach to collective action.

Scholarly communication

It’s imperative that we explore all possible avenues to creat…cholarly publishing environment characterized by ease of access, fair prices, and archival permanence. The pricing practices of some journal publishers remai…ajor threat to the quality of all academic libraries.

As prices have gone up faster than budgets, the quality of print collections has declined and the system of scholarly communication itself has come under increasing pressure. In years past, the most problematic publishers have claimed that their price increases were due primarily to increased costs. We now know—beyond any reasonable doubt—that they were motivated by profit maximization and that their prices will respond to political and competitive pressures.

ACRL’s legislative and outreach efforts have put the association in an excellent position to pla…uch more active role in shaping scholarly communication. As is the case in the legislative arena, we need to work collaboratively with other organizations, especially the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, to mobilize as much pressure as possible against those publishers who are the worst offenders. We also need to demonstrate through actual examples that high-quality, reasonably priced journals and other forms of scholarly communication are feasible. Finally, we must educate faculty on our campuses about scholarly communication issues. ACRL can pla…articularly valuable role in fostering campus education programs.

Information literacy

Our users fac…uch more complex information environment tha…ecade ago. Using that environment to the best advantage requires more skills and abilities. Unless our students become genuinely information literate, rather than simply following an Internet mania, they will increasingly bypass libraries—particularly the printed resources we offer—in favor of what is erroneously perceived to be faster and better means of approaching research problems. In that event, education and academic libraries will both suffer.

We will make real progress in this area only through careful collaboration with teaching faculty on the integration of information literacy into our curricula. The ACRL Institute for Information Literacy, the articulation of information literacy competencies, and the documentation of best practices are wonderful initiatives in this area. They deserve ACRL’s continuing strong support, as do ACRL President-elect Betsy Wilson’s plans to develop broader collaboration among different types of libraries and other organizations interested in this issue.

Composition of the profession

ACRL’s most recent survey of membership indicates that we are mostly middle-aged or older, and that we’re overwhelmingly Caucasian. Students, our primary user group, are becoming increasingly diverse. In addition, academic libraries are experiencing problems in filling vacant positions. We must strengthen recent efforts to recruit new librarians into academic libraries and also redouble our efforts to diversify the profession. ALA’s Spectrum Initiative, the recent Congress on Professional Education, and ACRL’s discussions with library school deans offer good beginning points for our work in this area.

I believe that one of the keys to our success involves encouraging all academic libraries to begin programs to recruit students—especially those from underrepresented groups—into the profession. Virtually all of us employ significant numbers of student workers and many of use have quite diverse student bodies. As an initial effort we can all initiate programs designed to diversify our student work forces and to demonstrate to students the exciting possibilities of library careers…ould be particularly interested in developing models for academic libraries in these areas. It’s also essential that we continue dialogue with library schools to ensure that their curricula are as responsive as possible to the needs of academic libraries.


Given all the issues and challenges we face, it’s natural to wonder if it’s even possible to shape the direction of change. It’s also natural to wish fo…impler time and place. (Can’t we somehow clic…air of red shoes and return to Dorothy’s Kansas?) But we all know there is no going back—and no standing still. The times require more and more that we be activists in virtually all aspects of our professional lives. If we don’t want to sink like Dylan’s metaphorical stone, we all have to swim.

I want to thank the Nominations Committee for selecting me as one of two candidates for ACRL President for the year 2001-

2. Having recently served on the ACRL Board, the ACRL Executive Committee, and as chair of the ACRL Budget and Finance Committee…eel tha…m very familiar with the issues that confront our association and well qualified to serve in this capacity…ould enjoy the challenge of bringing an increased sense of activism and engagement to our association.


It is an honor to be asked to run for President of ACRL an…ould like to start my statement by sharing with the readers the strength…eliev…ould bring to the role.

I have been an academic librarian since 1974 (ove…uarter o…entury, but who is counting?) and an active member of ACRL and ALA since 1977. Through the year…ave been active in ACRL as chair of the Instruction Section, chair of Appointments and Nominations Committee, chair of the President’s Program Planning Committee, an…ember of the ACRL Board…ave devoted the time, energy, and resources to these endeavors because ACRL is important for each of us as individuals and for all of us a…rofession.

I have gained far more tha…ave given to ACRL by coming to know librarians from all over the country, from different types of higher education institutions, from different backgrounds, and with different priorities.

There is no doubt in my mind tha……ar better librarian because of my involvement in ACRL and ALA, an…ould like to see ACRL continue to provide activities and forums that help individuals develop into the best academic librarians and staff they can become. Sharing ideas, research, problems, and solutions i…owerful means of improving ourselves and academic library services.

ACRL’s importance for our profession and for academic libraries cannot be overstated. While part of ALA and its overall concerns, ACRL is the professional voice for the academic library community in all types of higher education institutions…m proud of the increasingly proactive stance that ACRL is taking in publicizing its standing as the organization representing all academic libraries and librarians…greed to be nominated for the president’s role, in part, becaus…eliev…an provide leadership that will help the association become even stronger.


My individual strengths include the ability to keep my eye on the ultimate goal, the big picture of what we are striving to achieve. Understanding the overview allow…ocus on what is truly important and the ability to cut through red tape when necessary to get something done…m respectful of the association’s operating principles, bu…lso know that expeditious guidance through the bureaucracy will make the association much more meaningful to individuals who want to see change or who want to complet…oal.

Another of my strengths is my ability to listen to others and to pull people together for more powerful decisions through consensus than would have been reached individually…nderstand how the Board works, how the ACRL staff interacts with the Board, how ACRL relates to ALA, an…ould work to make the Board as accessible to members as possible. At the same time, members need the Board to be serious about its fiduciary responsibilities. My service on the SOLINET Board, as well as the ACRL Board, has led t…trong understanding of the financial aspects of organizations.


As president…ould support ACRL’s strategic plan an…ould emphasize 1) recruitment to our profession and broadening member participation in the association; 2) ACRL’s strong legislative and policy focus; and 3) closer connections with other higher education groups through an emphasis on the importance of information literacy and scholarly communication.

As we expand recruitment of bright, talented individuals fro…ariety of academic disciplines…elieve academic librarianship and ACRL will thrive only if we are successful in increasing ethnic diversity among our colleagues and in ACRL. To that end…ould try to make appointments within the association that would increase diversity among active members…ould support the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Recruiting into the Profession, implement its recommendations, and examine the need to make recruitin…tanding committee, as well as supporting such efforts as Job Shadow Day.

A…oard member…atched (an…ope helped) ACRL strengthen our involvement in legislative and policy issues. Devoting staff time to legislative and policy activities made timely notice of emerging issues possible and allowe…roader representation of academic librarians to respond to these important issues. The renewed dedication to helping shape legislation and policy also reinvigorated the Government Relations Committee. This initiative has improved our relationship with the Association of Research Libraries…ould do what is necessary to continue this emphasis.

Information literacy and scholarly communication

The cornerstone of my career and my participation in ACRL has been my belief in the importance of what we do as academic librarians, especially our involvement with the education of undergraduate and graduate students. In these wonderful, exciting, and challenging times, information literacy is more essential than ever for students.

Students prefer easily accessible resources; research shows that librarians/researchers/ faculty members also prefer easily accessible resources. It is no surprise then that the Internet is so popular. We have the challenge and excitement of helping students learn the necessary critical thinking and evaluation abilities to determine whether the easily accessible reources are also the most suitable resources for the academic task or project. Being in academic libraries now allows us the luxury of focusing on students’ evaluation of resources and use of them.

Similarly, academic libraries’ role in the scholarly communication process i…ital one. Librarians reach faculty, administrators, and staff through not only our support of the research process, but also in our leadership in helping researchers understand the full dimensions of the scholarly communication process.

Faculty respect for libraries and their interest in collaborating with librarians in the educational process is derived from the support they receive in accomplishing their own research and in understanding the “food chain” of scholarly communication—from researcher to publisher to libraries and back. In our own right, ACRL ha…istinguished history of promoting research related to academic libraries and information studies.

As president…ould continue to support College and Research Libraries and our other publications that advance knowledge in our field. In fact, we ar…odel o…uccessful nonprofit, scholarly publishing effort.

As President of ACRL…ould tie my selected priorities to current initiatives, such as the Institute for Information Literacy an…ontinual emphasis on the bright future of academic libraries, and the role libraries play in the educational and scholarly communication process. With this emphasis…loser relationship to higher education i…atural priority.

Strong academic libraries are key t…trong higher education for undergraduate and graduate students. That future may come i…ifferent set of clothes from the ones we have been wearing, but the necessity for strong libraries continues.

Explaining the importance of academic libraries i…rucial role for ACRL, and, as President…ould ask the association to define what we think academic libraries, services, and collections will be in 2010 and beyond. We can develo…odel vision that will be useful for us a…rofession and on our campuses a…uide to the future of academic libraries. ■

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