Collaboration and Change in Two Years of The Journal of Academic Librarianship (Hackett)
“Collaboration and Change: Two Years of The Journal of Academic Librarianship”
It is no secret that the world of librarianship is changing. Between budget cuts, changes in the academic landscape and emerging information technology, it is difficult for the average librarian to remain ahead of the curve. One author even refers to librarians suffering from “change exhaustion”.[i] Yet, as reading two years of The Journal of Academic Librarianship demonstrates, keeping abreast of emerging trends in academic and reference librarianship is necessary to maintain relationships with students, faculty and publishers. Many articles compare the current world of academic librarianship to the past and emphasize the different roles librarians now play. This review will analyze two years of this journal, taking special note of its emphasis on the relationship between librarians and academic faculty members, the importance of introducing students (both undergraduate and graduate) to online databases and the emergence of Open Access.
As early as 1985, Julie Neway published a study concerning the role of librarian as a “team player in the research process”[ii] Later articles built on this idea. Of particular importance in the twenty-first century is the relationship between librarians and adjunct professors. Libraries and teaching staff positions both exist to serve the academic needs of students; yet with universities diverting their budgets away from hiring full time staff and offering tenure less frequently to those already on the payroll, students often do not receive the benefit of a fully engaged teacher. Furthermore, as many articles point out, students are more likely to go to their professors rather than librarians for advice about projects.[iii] Since adjuncts often teach on multiple campuses, it is difficult for them to meet with students outside of regular office hours. A part-time teacher constantly on the move does not have time to introduce his or her students to all the resources the university library has to offer. So the question becomes: how do university librarians promote the materials which their library has to offer (materials for which students’ tuition pays) while also respecting the difficult position in which many professors have been placed?
In her study of the changing role of librarians, Neway paints a picture of the “traditional” librarian as passive. The new librarian must be proactive. [iv] Twenty-first century librarians must take active roles to forge working relationship with staff members, especially part-time professors. One study went so far as to explicitly tell library staff to “get out of the library.”[v] For many librarians, this means working with the student body and faculty to discover how best the library can serve them. One way in particular they can do this is working with faculty to combat plagiarism. Rather than simply requiring students to sign an honor code—a system which relies on disciplinary methods to enforce correct citation—librarians can arrange with teachers a time when they will take over the class and teach students how to cite.[vi]
Of course, many of the measures described refer to how the library deals with undergraduate students. But what about graduate students, who are presumably aware of the library’s existence and who already know how to cite research materials correctly? In the last ten years, university libraries have poured money into providing an extensive selection of online databases to its students and faculty members. Unfortunately many surveys of library patrons indicate that these expensive resources go underutilized. One investigation indicated that most PhD candidates (the group which one assumes would be most invested in an advanced online database system) at Georgetown University preferred print resources to those online, even though online databases provide more up-to-date and searchable content.[vii] This revelations harkens back to the “get out of the library” theme repeated throughout the journal’s articles. In order to promote an academic community of the highest level, PhD candidates in particular must be aware of all the resources at their disposal.
Another repeated theme in the two years reviewed of The Journal of Academic Librarianship was the question of publishing—more specifically of publishing in Open Access publications. The journal’s current editors Wendi Arant Kaspar and Wyoma vanDuinkerken place their sympathies solidly in the pro-Open Access camp,[viii] as do most library staff. Ideologically, providing access to a resource with (using the definition of the Budapest Open Access Initiative) “immediate, free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles”[ix] is directly in line with the philosophy of librarianship. Yet authors disagree as to the specific merit of academic work published on Open Access journals. There is even some disagreement as to what kind of academic is published by these journals. One study claims that newer journals are more accepting of previously unpublished scholars, providing a leg up for younger academics but also making it possible for poorly researched papers to be published on a wide scale. Another study found that scholars with greater than five years of experience performing research and writing were more likely to be published in Open Access journals.[x] Given that Open Access was the theme chosen by the editors for the first issue of the 2013 edition, it is obvious that this is an important issue in academic librarianship.
The theme of change comes up repeatedly in The Journal of Academic Librarianship—change in professional relationships, publishing models and the role of libraries most particularly. Even the journal itself has undergone changes over the last two years. With new editors Kaspar and vanDuinkerken came the present emphasis in published articles on a “new, practical librarianship”[xi] Articles like “Part Time Faculty and the Academic Library: A Case Study” and “When is Enough Not Enough?”[xii] focus specifically on how to serve the library while also recognizing time and budgetary restraints. From this one can surmise that in the past academic librarianship (as represented by this journal) was focused on more theoretical matters.
In the article “Thinking Like Curators” and in a case study based on the University of Western Ontario, the respective authors use a specific word to describe their chosen vocation: stewardship.[xiii] Framing a job as stewardship goes beyond calling it a profession; it brings to mind something greater. In The Journal of Academic Librarianship, librarians repeatedly refer to their job as bringing patrons to the information resources they need. They are stewards of information. In one of their editorials, Kaspar and vanDuinkerken refer to Richard M. Dougherty’s 1999 retrospective of the academic librarian field. At that time, the mounting costs of serials was the greatest problem confronting information professionals.[xiv] Though the serial problem led to the current problem (or solution) of Open Access, the authors’ point is that things have changed since 1999. However, the notion of librarianship as stewardship remains the same.
[i] Wendi Arant Kaspar and Wyoma vanDuinkerken, “The More Things Change…,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 5 (September 2012): 267.
[ii]Quoted in Joacim Hansson and Krister Johannesson, “Librarians’ Views of Academic Library Support for Scholarly Publishing: An Every-day Perspective,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 3 (May 2013): 232.
[iii] David Gibbs et al., “Assessing the Research Needs of Graduate Students at Georgetown University,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 5 (September 2012): 268–276; Denise R. Denison and Diane Montgomery, “Annoyance or Delight? College Students’ Perspectives on Looking for Information,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 6 (November 2012): 380–390; Mónica Colón-Aguirre and Rachel A. Fleming-May, “‘You Just Type in What You Are Looking For’: Undergraduates’ Use of Library Resources Vs. Wikipedia,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 6 (November 2012): 391–399.
[iv] Hansson and Johansson, 232.
[v] Colon-Aguirre and Fleming-May, 397.
[vi] Katie Greer et al., “Beyond the Web Tutorial: Development and Implementation of an Online, Self-Directed Academic Integrity Course at Oakland University,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 5 (September 2012): 254–255.
[vii] Gibbs, 271.
[viii] Wyoma vanDuinkerken and Wendi Arant Kaspar, “Commentary on Open Access from the JAL Editors,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 1 (January 2013): 20–22.
[ix] Quoted in Geoffrey Little, “Applying Open Access to Library Technologies,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 1 (January 2013): 99.
[x] Leslie Stebbins, “Reviews and Analysis of Special Reports,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 1 (January 2013): 102–104.
[xi] Wyoma vanDuinkerken and Wendi Arant Kaspar, “Editorial,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 2 (March 2012): 77.
[xii] Jacqueline Courtney Klentzin and Diane Todd Bucci, “Part-time Faculty and the Academic Library: A Case Study,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 38, no. 2 (March 2012): 101–107; Wendi Arant Kaspar and Wyoma vanDuinkerken, “When Is Enough ‘Not’ Enough?,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 4 (July 2013): 319–320.
[xiii] Geoffrey Little, “Thinking Like Curators,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 2 (March 2013): 123–125; John Costella et al., “Undergraduate Program Review Processes: A Case Study in Opportunity for Academic Libraries,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39, no. 2 (March 2013): 169–174.
[xiv] Kaspar and vanDuinkerken, “The More Things Change. . .”, 265.