Dawes and Malone share plans for ACRL: Cast an informed vote in the election this spring

Trevor A. Dawes; Debbie Malone


Ed. note: C&RL News offered candidates for ACRL vice-president/president-elect, Trevor A. Dawes and Debbie Malone, 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 provide a national forum to all members. We hope this will assist you in making an informed choice when you vote in the election this spring.


Trevor A. Dawes

TREVOR A. DAWES

ACRL: Looking ahead

A few recent blog posts1 have discussed the demise of the academic library. Predictions of the end of the library, like those of the death of paper, are not new, but they seem to have gained momentum recently with the ubiquity of services like Google and Wikipedia. With “everything being online,” or at least the belief by some people that it is, some of our patrons are turning to these services as a research starting point, leaving librarians to wonder about our future and scrambling to find ways to engage our users as they embark on their information-seeking journeys. One blogger, however, suggested that it is past time we stop predicting our own negative futures, and instead develop means of helping our users to discover—or rediscover—the resources and services in the library.2 In terms of making the library a place to begin looking for information, some libraries have also embraced the concepts of the “Googles” and “Wikipedias” by deploying Web-scale discovery systems to help simplify the research process for their process for their patrons. This is only one step in helping to bring the user back to the library—or, perhaps, bringing the library to the user. There are countless other examples of positive library outreach.

The discussion about the future of the library and what our users (or nonusers) think about us is directly related to the ACRL initiative of demonstrating the value of academic and research libraries. Irrespective of how our users begin their research process, it is our responsibility, as librarians, to engage them in meaningful discourse that leads to the use of the carefully curated resources we make available. In addition, we need to demonstrate to the academic institutions of which our libraries are a part that the use of these resources can—and does—lead to student success and that the resources contribute significantly to the research and scholarly activities of our faculty members.

But how do we demonstrate our value? Some have written in recent years about ways we can show a relationship between library use and student success.3 Others have addressed the impact library use can have on faculty research and scholarship.4 It is important that ACRL reaffirms the important role libraries play in the academic enterprise. Although there are many areas through which we can demonstrate our value, a focus on literacy, accessibility, and accountability will be the hallmark of my presidency.

Literacy

We have read study after study from sources, such as the Pew Research Center, OCLC, or ACRL members, about students’ perceptions of the library; about the fact that the Internet is the first place students visit to begin their research; and about the need to deliver content on mobile devices for it to be consumed.

While these statements may be true for some segment of our population, they are not universally true. We must, however, be thoughtful of our services and the ways in which we provide them, if we expect them to be consumed. ACRL has played, and should continue to play, a role in helping libraries meet their goals of furthering the missions of the institutions of which they are a part. It is, in part, through the countless hours of instruction and individual consultations that our librarians deliver each year that we create an information-fluent society.

Since September 2006 I have been an adjunct instructor at the College of Information Science and Technology at Drexel University. In this role I have gained a broader understanding of the need for library instruction and the librarian’s role in developing or enhancing the information literacy and technology skills of the students with whom we interact. This is a critical need, particularly as colleges and universities are being scrutinized with respect to student learning outcomes.

Accessibility

ACRL members have repeatedly expressed appreciation for the professional development opportunities the association provides, as these help us to be more efficient in our various roles on our campuses. However, as we continue to face economic challenges that often prevent us from participating in some of the opportunities, we need to find ways of delivering the same high quality content, but at lower costs. Already, ACRL successfully offers Webinars, online seminars, and virtual institutes, but some members have expressed a desire for more face-to-face interaction.

I believe, in this respect, ACRL can leverage its relationship with its state and regional chapters. These affiliated associations have long been providing similar programs, and, with the support of and promotion by ACRL, they can reach more people in places where needs exist. Successful models already exist with the ACRL Scholarly Communication Road Show and the use of local members as legislative advocates to enable chapter members to further the goals of the association on both the state and national level.

By bringing more content to the local level, ACRL will not only meet the needs of members who aren’t able to participate in national events, but will also have the opportunity to learn more about the issues faced by academic and research libraries served by the state and regional chapters. The current ACRL vice president plans an “Open Innovation Project,” where the public (or, I suppose, in our case, librarians) can identify some of our major challenges and also suggest solutions. I argue that this happens regularly at the local level, and we need to connect those with the ideas that drive innovation with each other and with the rest of the library community to better our chances of success.

Accountability

We can’t claim success without accountability. We are, after all, accountable to the students and faculty members that we serve; we are accountable to the administration of our institutions; and we are accountable to ourselves. The newly formed ACRL Value of Academic Libraries Committee is designed to help us move beyond the traditional outcomes assessment measures to determining, in demonstrable ways, the true return on investment our campuses make in our libraries. It is important for us to continue this work to maintain or increase funding, to ensure that academic decisions on our campuses are made with an awareness of the library and its role, and to firmly cement the library as an integral component of the success of our colleges and universities.

A vote for me

You may ask why you should vote for me. I will bring energy, experience, and expertise to the position. My work on several committees and boards of local and national organizations has deepened my knowledge and understanding of working with member organizations and how these organizations can help libraries remain viable. I have come to appreciate more the differences each member of the organizations brings and the value of this diversity of views. In New Jersey, we (the New Jersey Library Association) organized several events and programs in response to the governor’s recent proposed budget cut to libraries and, through our grassroots efforts, were able to restore a large portion of the funding. This effort in particular took the coordination of staff and users from all types of libraries across the state to be successful, and its success was not only in restoring the library funding, but also in educating the New Jersey population about the value of libraries.

My collaborative and collegial working style, coupled with my ability to think strategically and act practically, will enable me to lead the association—along with you—in the direction set forth in the ACRL Plan for Excellence.

I am indeed honored to have been nominated for this position. ACRL has a tradition of excellence, addressing needs of the academic and research library community: shaping the direction of libraries, building on existing and developing new partnerships, and guiding academic institutions as they fulfill their missions. I look forward, as vice president/president-elect, to continuing that tradition and welcome your support in my effort to do so.

Please visit my Web site at http://trevordawes.com for more information.


Notes
1. For example, Tay, A.. , “Is Librarianship in Crisis and Should We Be Talking About It?”. Musings About Librarianship (November.25. , 2011 ), http://bit.ly/uRegkz (accessed December 6, 2011).
2. Arellano, V. , “A Crisis of Our Own Making,”. The Formerly Freelance Librarian (August.24. , 2011 ), http://bit.ly/tUP7fV (accessed December 6, 2011).
3. Kelly, M. Kross, A. , eds, Making the Grade: Academic Libraries and Student Success (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2002 ).
4. Strong, G.E.. , “Library Spaces for the Scholarship Process,”. EDUCAUSE Review (July/August. 2011 ), http://bit.ly/uFodyg (accessed December 6, 2011).
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