College & Research Libraries News

Librarians: An element of diversity within the faculty

By Diane C. Parker

Director of Libraries Western Washington University

One librarians answer to the question, “Why are librarians faculty ?”

At any college or university, librarians tend to be a small percentage of the faculty, perhaps 3% to 4% of the whole. It is easy for a such a small group to become relatively unnoticed and not widely understood. In fact, librarians provide an element of diversity within the faculty. They are the same as other faculty in fundamental nature, but differ in the form and scope of their professional activity.

A. The fundamental similarities

1. Faculty are involved with the life of the mind. They interact with others to share and extend the realm of knowledge.

2. Faculty are engaged with the subject matter of the academy.

3. Faculty are involved with teaching others.

4. The career development of faculty members is based on incremental accomplishments culminating in a high level of professional maturity and contribution to the furtherance of knowledge. Their promotion to senior ranks depends on enhanced mastery of their discipline within a position, rather than changing job assignments.

B. Patterns of engagements

Instructors and librarians differ in their patterns of engagement with the fundamentals. Some of the various patterns are described below:

1. While instructors focus more on the content of a discipline, librarians focus more on the structure of disciplines and how they are organized.

2. Librarians collect and organize materials into coherent collections so that instructors and students can find specific items and browse through subject matter easily. The librarian’s perspective on knowledge tends to be encyclopedic, with concern for the whole universe of knowledge.

3. Instructors are professionally committed to academic freedom with its principles of the right to profess a point of view, provided that it is done responsibly. Librarians are professionally committed to intellectual freedom with its principles of providing a neutral forum for diverse points of view.

4. While instructors provide a disciplinary interpretation or perspective on knowledge, librarians stress diverse points of view and comparison of the many ways of approaching a topic.

5. For instructors, teaching focuses more on subject mastery and specific skills. For librarians, teaching focuses on fostering skills for independent research and lifelong learning.

6. While both instructors and librarians teach, instructors do more group teaching, and librarians tend to do more one on one teaching.

7. Instructors have more opportunity to interact with the same students and hence are more likely to set values and be role models. Generally, instructors have the final responsibility for evaluating the student’s accomplishments. The teaching setting for librarians is usually more informal, and values are modeled, not prescribed.

8. In addition to focusing on current curricular and research needs, librarians tend to take a longrange view, preserving our intellectual and cultural heritage as well as anticipating the future.

C. Engagement with the knowledge cycle

Knowledge may be viewed as a process or cycle that begins with its creation and continues with its organization for retrieval and use by others. Instructors and librarians both are active in the full cycle, but differences exist in the patterns of engagement at each stage. The stages in the cycle are described briefly below:

1. Producing knowledge through scholarly and creative work

2.Organizing knowledge by classifying materials for use by others

3. Retrieving knowledge through systematic, structured methods that can be applied to a variety of disciplines

4. Using knowledge, assessing the value of what currently is known and incorporating it back into the process of producing new knowledge

Instructors and librarians both are involved to varying degrees with the entire cycle of knowledge.

D. Intellectual domain of librarianship

Each discipline attempts to define its own intellectual domain, its own issues. Such definitions are not easy at a time when traditional discipline boundaries are eroding and interdisciplinary or crossdisciplinary interests are becoming more prevalent. But what is the domain of the librarian? Potentially everything; there are few boundaries or limits. There are, however, typical interests. Some are listed below:

1. Broad categories: philosophy and principles of indexing and classifying knowledge;

bibliographic description of information;

intellectual freedom;

the history of knowledge;

the sociology of knowledge;

the organization of knowledge;

characteristics of disciplines;

the boundaries between disciplines;

textual criticism;

language and its use;

rhetorical theory;

learning styles;

cultural learning differences.

2. Narrow categories:

content issues in a specific discipline;

bibliographic issues in a specific discipline;

history of books, printing and libraries;

collection development;

public services;

technical services;

application of appropriate technologies;

evaluation of organizational effectiveness (includes systems analysis);

content issues in a specific discipline;

bibliographic issues in a specific discipline;

effective interviewing techniques;


E. Learning environments

Recent developments in cognitive psychology are causing the academy to reassess the importance of the classroom experience. Learning takes place in many environments, and in the library individual instruction and independent learning are at their peak. Students are free to discover ideas serendipitously, with or without the guidance of a librarian. Doing independent research in the library is excellent training for developing skills in decision making. In the library, students can, and frequently do, exercise their own academic freedom.

F. Partners in the enterprise

Both instructors and librarians play many roles in the college or university. The librarians’ contributions to the institution’s mission are in many ways unique and indispensable. Librarians participate fully with other faculty to promote effective utilization and development of knowledge. Complementing each other and frequently working in partnership, instructors and librarians are close collaborators in the academic enterprise.

I would like to thank the Library Faculty of Western Washington University for their vigorous debate; a number of other academic librarians over the last seventeen years for their insights and comments; and several administrators and lay persons who stimulated this effort one way or another. Especially I would like to thank William McPheron (now at Stanford) who years ago commented, “It’s just a different pattern of engagement.”

Librarian status study

A task force appointed by the ACRL Academic Status Committee has been charged with replicating and expanding the Thomas G. English study, “Librarian Status in the Eighty-Nine U.S. Academic Institutions of the Association of Research Libraries: 1982,” College & Research Libraries (May 1983): 199-211,45 (May 1984): 189-95. The study will be expanded to include college and community college librarians.

The results of the new survey will be presented at a program on the “status of status” to be sponsored by the ACRL Academic Status Committee at the 1991 ALA Annual Conference in Atlanta. Committee members are interested in obtaining information on research or any other studies currently in progress pertaining to faculty status. All information is needed regardless of scope. Task force members would appreciate hearing from anyone currently involved in research. You may contact any of the following individuals:

Susan Perry, Survey Task Force Chair, Head of Meyers Library, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

Larry R. Oberg, Academic Status Committee Chair, Director of Libraries, Stockwell-Mudd Libraries, 602 E. Cass Street, Albion, MI 49224.

Irene Hoadley, Director of the Administration Office, Sterling C. Evans Library, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX77843-5000.

Charles Lowry, Director of Libraries, Box 19497, University of Texas, Arlington, TX 76013.

Rush Miller, Dean of Libraries, Bowling Green State University Library, Bowling Green, OH 43403.

New library building to house film archives

On Tuesday, July 18, a new era in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began with the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive. On hand to turn the first shovelful of soil at the Waterworks Building on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills were Richard Kahn, president of the Academy, and Hillary Salter, mayor of Beverly Hills.

The Academy is restoring and expanding the historic Waterworks Building to house its collections. Built in 1928 as the first water treatment plant on the West Coast, the structure was one of the community’s first municipal buildings. Slated for demolition in 1986, it was saved by a citizens ’ group that lobbied for its rehabilitation. The Academy’s proposal to use the building as a library was accepted, the services of architects Frances Offenhauser and Michael J. Mekeel were secured for renovation and expansion, and the project is now slated for completion by the summer of 1990.

The Margaret Herrick Library, founded in 1931 and named after a former Academy librarian and executive director, is one of the largest collections of film-related material in the world. Among its special collections are: papers and memorabilia of

Alfred Hitchcock, Mary Pickford, John Huston, Mack Sennett, Edith Head, George Cukor, and Lewis Milestone; scripts and pressbooks for more than 2,200 Paramount films from 1912 to 1965; a comprehensive collection of industry trade journals dating from 1906; and the Lux Radio Theatre Collection of scripts, disk recordings, and publicity material.

The Waterworks Building in the late 1920s.

Copyright © American Library Association

Article Views (Last 12 Months)

No data available

Contact ACRL for article usage statistics from 2010-April 2017.

Article Views (By Year/Month)

January: 2
February: 5
March: 0
April: 3
May: 0
June: 3
July: 2
August: 4
September: 1
October: 3
January: 1
February: 4
March: 8
April: 4
May: 3
June: 5
July: 5
August: 1
September: 2
October: 3
November: 3
December: 3
January: 0
February: 0
March: 0
April: 0
May: 0
June: 0
July: 0
August: 5
September: 12
October: 11
November: 4
December: 5