Thursday, August 29, 2013

Asking For Allies: How to Win Friends and Influence People

Too often, in my experience, academic libraries operate on an island, divorced from the rest of campus, from faculty, staff, and academic administration. This has a number of negative effects on the library and its staff. To wit:
  • A lack of feedback channels or institutionalized processes, or ones that atrophy 
  • Feeling disconnected from the campus community
  • Feeling as if the library and its staff are not stakeholders in the community (yes, that word)
  • While any successes, however defined, the library experiences are their's alone, so are the failures, however defined. 
For this academic library, allies and library stakeholders (again!) are valuable and hard to come by. Enter the ex officio library committee, made up of faculty; academic administration, such as deans and associate provosts; a representative from student government, where applicable; and perhaps even adjunct faculty, which now make up seventy-six (76!) percent of all faculty.

No doubt there are downsides to yet another committee, including more hands in the library's precious cookie jar, and the inertia and in-fighting that make academia such a wonderful place to be, but for an isolated library (intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, not physically), it is a net benefit.

Sayre's Law:'s_law 
No doubt a committee that provides feedback to a library is obvious at larger and/or less (ahem) dysfunctional colleges and universities, as well.

I am asking for the formation of such a committee because I want feedback on what we're doing, and I want it via a regularly occurring process. I am asking that the success, or failure, of this library not be charged solely to library staff, but to the community it supports and is a member of. I am asking for allies.

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