Faculty: Why should we collaborate with campus librarians?

A new report details significant barriers to communication and collaboration between librarians and faculty…and why it matters.


More than 20 percent of surveyed faculty say there is no need for campus librarians and faculty to consult each other on course resources.

This finding is one of many revelatory highlights part of a new survey on campus libraries, revealing that greater collaboration and communication are needed between librarians and faculty in order to maximize their effectiveness and improve learning outcomes for students.

The survey of about 500 librarians and 500 faculty members was conducted by Library Journal and Gale, a global provider of research resources as part of Cengage Learning.

Many previous studies over the years have shown that library use leads to better grades and helps with student retention, and, therefore, faculty members should encourage their students to use the resources made available to them by libraries and incorporate these resources into their own curricula.

“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.

However, the report emphasizes that there is significant room for improvement. As it stands, 27 percent of faculty thinks there is no need for campus librarians and faculty to consult one another, with one respondent reporting that “faculty does not view the library as an up-to-date resource” and another claiming that quick and easy access to Google Scholar is more essential than library resources.

For those faculty members who do wish to engage with librarians, there is a perceived disconnect between how much collaboration actually occurs. More than half of faculty (57 percent of respondents) says they coordinate with librarians on course reserves, but only 31 percent of librarians say they coordinate with faculty.

Similarly, while a whopping 98 percent of librarians wish for better communication with faculty, only 45 percent of faculty members reported the same hope.

“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,” said 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.”

Limits to Library Presence

If there is a clear need for libraries to become a greater presence on campuses, what is limiting growth? According to the report, disconnects on main library service focus play a large role. While librarians and faculty unanimously agree that supporting student information literacy is the most essential service provided by the library, there was less agreement around other services such as developing discipline-wide collections, supporting faculty research, developing collections in direct support of course curricula, and text and data mining.

The results of the survey suggest, however, that a greater emphasis from libraries on supporting course curriculum could go a long way in bridging the gap between faculty and librarians. While 66 percent of librarians rated their libraries as being “excellent” or “above average” at developing collections that directly support course curricula, only 54 percent of faculty agreed. Thus, even greater strides from librarians in making this an increased area of focus could pay large dividends in establishing better relationships with faculty over time.

However, librarians shouldn’t be too hard on themselves. While only 46 percent of librarians thought so, 58 percent of faculty think libraries did an “excellent” or “above average” job in supporting faculty research.

How to Improve

Main suggestions from respondents on how to improve communication and collaboration centered on increasing personal interaction. For both parties, the preferred line of communication is e-mail.

Additionally, faculty indicated that they would like dedicated library liaisons for each department in order to learn their disciplines and then better instruct how the library can help them.

Meanwhile, academic librarians want more opportunities to attend faculty meetings and an institutional commitment to embedding library-taught research skills.

Perhaps the greatest key to facilitating greater collaboration between librarians and faculty at this point lies in simply making the commitment toward actually doing so.

For the full report,“Bridging the Librarian – Faculty Gap in the Academic Library 2015,” and the complete results of the survey, click here.

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