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Survey: Librarians and Faculty a Mile Apart on Need for Better Communication

Faculty and librarians don't see eye to eye. While nearly every single academic librarian (98 percent) thinks there needs to be better communication between the library and faculty, only 45 percent of faculty think the same. They even disagree on whether or not they work together to coordinate course reserves. While 57 percent of faculty say they do, 69 percent of libraries say they don't.

The only place they appear to agree with each other is on the preferred mode of communication — email; almost half of librarians push email to confer with faculty, and 61 percent of faculty do so.

Those results and others come out of a new survey run by the Library Journal and Gale, a Cengage division that provides research resources to libraries. The survey questioned 547 faculty members and 499 academic librarians in the United States and Canada using lists of contacts provided by Gale.

What keeps faculty and campus librarians from consulting with each other? In this open-ended question, librarians said the reason was because workloads were too heavy and the players too busy. On the faculty side, the response was different; while 27 percent reported that they simply had no need for consulting, only 15 percent said they were too busy.

A disconnect also surfaced around what services the library should focus on. Both groups agreed that supporting student information literacy was one of the most important services provided by the library (specified by 97 percent of librarians and 84 percent of faculty). From there, they went off in different directions. Whereas development of collections in direct support of courses was chosen by 97 percent of librarians, that was selected by only 73 percent of faculty. Whereas 55 percent of faculty said they believe that text and data mining is an essential service the library should offer, only 33 percent of librarians agreed. Likewise, while 27 percent of faculty said the library should help in managing research grants, only 14 percent of librarians concurred.

Standard operating procedure may be one of the reasons why the gap exists between the two groups. "Campus culture is that librarians are not 'officially' part of any one of the four colleges in the university, so we are not allowed at faculty meetings, don't participate in committees, and have little interaction with faculty or students. This is the first thing that needs to change," noted one librarian. "Faculty need to see us as active participants in the students' education."

Perhaps faculty are waiting for librarians to make the first move. Advised one faculty respondent: "Meet with us, make efforts to learn our discipline."

Said another, "Create more opportunities for staff and faculty to use the resources, and have more walkthroughs with what you can do with the resources. I think [a] majority of the faculty and staff are unaware of the resources available to them."

"The findings support what academic librarians already know anecdotally: proactively engaging librarians in the work of teaching faculty, including research and curriculum development, is key to a robust working relationship that leads to better outcomes for students," said Meredith Schwartz, executive editor at Library Journal, in a prepared statement.

"As more pressure is put on higher education institutions to measure outcomes, there needs to be greater recognition of the value the library brings to the table," added Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager for Gale. "From the survey it's clear that there is opportunity and need to engrain the library in campus culture — which will ultimately elevate the learning experience, a common goal for all stakeholders."

The survey results are available at for registration. The findings are scheduled to be presented during a panel session at The Charleston Conference, a library conference, in November.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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