Practical Planning Lessons: Using Interaction With Faculty To Gain Support for Library Instruction And Funding
By Frank Elliott
University of Minnesota Libraries
ASEE Annual Meeting Presentation
June 28, 2001
Setting The Stage: Budget Cuts: Loss of Faculty Contact: Students Not Well Prepared To Use The Library
- The situation — facing another round of cancellations of about 20%. Cuts had started about 1992 and have continued every couple years with no end in sight.
- The move out of the Science & Engineering Library (Walter Library) for a 55 million dollar renovation severed many links with faculty. We moved out in December, 1999. Temporary facility (a gym) had no instruction classroom and almost entire collection except for reference, reserve, journals 1998- was placed in a storage facility across campus. Many faculty depended on browsing.
- As I worked with students on their research, I realized that they were not well prepared to do their research assignments, or to tackle their thesis or dissertations. Very few classes had term paper assignments; virtually none at the undergraduate level. Just a few at the graduate level. There was not a successful organized effort to get graduate students prepared to do library research for their projects, theses, or dissertation.
Some Key Concepts Guided Me
- Ladder of citizen participation: Arnstein. Participation involves varying degrees of shared power: Manipulation, therapy, informing, consultation, placation, partnership, delegated power, citizen control.
- Changing the agenda and using forums, arenas, and courts: Bryson & Crosby … “the intentional design and use of forums, arena’s and courts to formulate and achieve desired policy outcomes. Key point is to begin to control what issues come up for consideration.
- Using richer modes of communication in complex and ambiguous situations needing more give and take: Daft.
- Action Research Elden & Chisholm: Generate knowledge about a system while at the same time doing things to change it. Kurt Lewin’s original idea from the 1940s. A lack of formal reporting, doing things orally and internally. An emphasis on using information gathered to make changes.
Used Open-Ended In-Person Interviews To Gain Support: An Interview Is Not Just An Interview
- Why do this?
- A 30-45 minute conversation allows much rich give and take.
- It was possible for me to gauge facial expressions. Saw and heard non-verbal and verbal cues. Realized what wasn’t understood; words that made no sense to them. What wasn’t said was almost as important as what was said.
- It was possible for them to share things with me in their offices. Their papers and reports and the work of their students were easy to show to me. I saw their ways of working and their personal libraries.
- Doing office interviews increased their comfort and willingness to participate, give me their advice, and for me to share knowledge and expertise with them.
- It was possible to engage a “reciprocity response” meaning a small gift brings a gift in return. I offered them help; showing that I cared about them — they responded with something back.
- It was possible to get an in-person promise (that promise was to write a letter to get administration support for library funding)
Gaining Support For The Interviews
- Made a personal contact with each Department Chair; explaining the interview project.
- Asked each chair to give me the names of two people in each major area of their departments.
- Together we wrote a note inviting participation and strongly encouraging it. (Show an example of letter from chair of Civil Engineering)
- Not a single person turned down the interviews. All faculty members were happy to have an opportunity to talk.
Doing The Interviews
- The departmental timing strategy was to move from the smallest departments to the largest and most prestigious where there was most to lose. Learned from mistakes moving from department to department.
- Scheduling. Calling them in person; not leaving a message worked very well. Learned from message leaving dilemma in first department.
- Only One interview per day meant information was absorbed and I did not become overwhelmed.
- Did a bibliography on each faculty member — using a key database. Most often Compendex.
- Used a form and took Compaq portable notebook with me — show an example here.
- Approached this as an organized yet informal conversation; did not try to cover all the points all the time.
- Key interview points were: How they use the library, student related library assignments, making them understand the situation we faced.
- Came into each interview relaxed and aware of their research interests. It was very important to be able to listen well — a racing, frantic pace and interviewing do not mix well together.
The Results And Findings So Far (13 interviews)
- Interviews are complete in the Aerospace Engineering & Civil Engineering Departments. Mechanical Engineering is next.
- The departments are much different in the number of term paper like assignments:
- Aerospace does virtually none (confirmed at department meeting)
- Civil engineering does a very few at undergraduate and much more at the graduate level
- Many faculty members don’t do very much of their own library research; are familiar with very few databases; can’t name them in many cases. (They become informed in other ways)
- This not doing library research is often a matter of time pressure.
- Their graduate students are their research helpers, but much more than this. Their research is the faculty member’s research; they work as teams.
- Learned a tremendous amount about precise research interests and projects. For example learned that most of the work of Civil Engineering’s Structural Division was related to earthquakes. (In Minnesota)
- Learned that almost everything is approached in a deeply mathematical and experimental way. When mathematics doesn’t work, experiments and models are created to see what happens.
- Gained an agreement from almost everyone to write letters. (At the Aerospace Engineering Faculty Meeting did one/half hour presentation for them) Again reiterated that needed letters of support. (Show an example of one letter)
- Gained many opportunities for library presentations.
- Became first winter seminar speaker for Aerospace Engineering each year. There are few opportunities for class related presentations; so need to work more with research groups.
- Gained expanded time for Civil Engineering Orientation Presentation (from 15 minutes to an hour)
- Several additional opportunities for specific Civil Engineering graduate classes were created.
- Provides a process to inform and guide daily work
- Library instruction
- Collection development
- Helping faculty and graduate students set up current awareness profiles for themselves. (An offer of help which was seldom turned down)
- Gaining faculty support for the library
- Created a large amount of good will which was not there before
- Faculty were very appreciative of spending the time to talk with them.
- Faculty are more supportive of the library.
- Our relationships are much more constructive. We are doing things together.
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