Association of College & Research Libraries

College librarians seek national advice

By William A. Moffett Chair, ACRL College Libraries Section

The College Libraries Section is trying some- thing new. In anticipation of the ACRL strategic planning process as well as in an attempt to forge links between the CLS Executive Committee and college librarians active at the ACRL chapter level, the section is currently engaged in setting up a national advisory council. It will have its first meeting at ALA Conference in Chicago on Saturday morning, July 6. Section members who have been looking for ways to become more involved in the life of the section are urged to attend or write for a report.

William A. Moffett

We recently invited presidents and chairs of the various ACRL chapters to nominate representatives from among the college librarians already active in their chapters. We have deliberately allowed for a good deal of self–selection too, because the primary consideration is one’s willingness to assist us in making the section more effective in meeting the interests of its membership.

Why is that important? If the CLS does not succeed in becoming more responsive to the needs of college libraries, who then will represent the interests of the small and medium-sized institutions?

The problem of better representation in ACRL, which has increasingly tended to reflect the concerns of its other constituencies, is a particularly difficult one for our section to solve, constituted as it is of a large and extremely diverse membership. It has been virtually impossible to get the membership as a whole caught up in the activities of the section, especially as the work of the section has traditionally been conducted almost entirely at the annual and midwinter meetings which the great majority of members do not attend. Developing new leaders has been haphazard at best because the system discourages many good librarians from ever getting involved. There has been absolutely no connection between the activities of college librarians at the chapter level and the national level, and no very clear expression of our constituency’s needs and expectations. The needs are probably substantial; the expectations are not. We don’t even know each other very well, much less what we can expect of one another.

We are especially aware of the problem when participating in the annual nomination and election of executive committee officers. With little national visibility for college librarians, there has been a tendency for the membership to rely on name recognition, with the predictable bias towards directors over rank-and-file librarians, and towards those affiliated with better-known institutions in thickly populated regions, expecially the Midwest and Middle Atlantic. A truly representative national council might enable us to overcome this tendency.

We think it would also respond to expressions of concern from a number of members who have felt left out, or who have charged that the programs sponsored by the executive committee are not relevant. Participation in the national advisory council might also provide a means of maintaining an active role for persons who have previously served on CLS committees and task forces. All too often in the recent past these people have dropped out of touch, and whatever they learned from their former participation has been lost to the incumbent leadership.

The purpose of the council and the future of the section will be the only items on the agenda for the membership meeting in Chicago on July 6. If what is planned as a three-year experiment proves to have the value many of us think it has, we will eventually take the steps necessary to amend our by-laws and make it a permanent body.

Incidentally, we are joining the university library section in sponsoring a program on July 7 entitled, “Defining the Academic Librarian,” and the CLS Executive Committee meets on July 9. Kibitzers are cordially welcome. We hope you’ll come.

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