Nov 06

Share Your Thoughts on “New Rules for the Road Ahead”

From ACRL:

As part of its 75th Anniversary celebration, ACRL has released of an initial version of “New Roles for the Road Ahead:  Essays Commissioned for ACRL’s 75th Anniversary,” authored by well-known bloggers and thought leaders Steven Bell, Lorcan Dempsey, and Barbara Fister.

Pam Snelson, the chairperson of ACRL’s celebration of its 75th anniversary, asks, “Looking to find your way to that elusive sweet spot between the present and the future? The best map you will find to navigate the changing intersection of higher education and librarianship is the collection of essays in ‘New Roles for the Road Ahead.’ Bell, Dempsey, and Fister define the issues, ask questions, create new roles, offer directions, and challenge thinking. By framing the road ahead and positioning librarians in innovative roles, their essays offer compelling instructions for creating a new library landscape.”

In a series of twenty essays, Bell, Dempsey and Fister share their thoughts on the world in which academic libraries will thrive, ways libraries are responding to change, and new roles for libraries and librarians. The essays include reflections on ways academic libraries can succeed in a changing higher education environment, take advantage of opportunities, and think about the best ways to deliver both ongoing and innovative services to students and faculty.

A draft of “New Roles for the Road Ahead:  Essays Commissioned for ACRL’s 75th Anniversary” is now available for open public discussion through a CommentPress site at Your thoughts on this emerging publication will help shape the authors’ final work, so log in and comment now.  You’ll see sections entitled “Framing the Road Ahead”, “Shifts in Positioning”, and “Responding to Opportunity: Creating a New Library Landscape” with three thoughtful voices chiming in to shape an exciting vision for our collective future.  Weigh in with your thoughts though November 30!

Nov 03

Call for Proposals: ALA Annual Conference Poster Session

Share your best ideas and work with the national library community by presenting a poster session at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco!

The poster session committee encourages submissions from all types of libraries and on any topic relevant to librarianship. Submissions may include a description of an innovative library program; an analysis of a solution to a problem; a report of a research study; or any other presentation that would benefit the larger library community.

Poster session participants place materials such as pictures, data, graphs, diagrams and narrative text on boards that are usually 4 x 8 feet. During their assigned hour time periods, participants informally discuss their presentations with conference attendees. Titles/abstracts from previous years are available on ALA Connect. (Note: that this site is only serving as an archive for previous Annual Conference poster sessions) More information on this year’s posters.

The deadline for submitting an application is February 6, 2015. Applicants will be notified by the end of March, after a double blind peer review process, whether their submission has been accepted for presentation at the conference. The 2015 ALA Annual Poster Sessions will be held June 27 and 28, 2015 (the Saturday and Sunday of the conference) in the exhibits hall.

Start your application process now. You must create a username and password for the site before you submit your application, you must choose to submit a poster session proposal after you log-in, and you will receive a confirmation e-mail after you have completed your submission.

Questions about poster session presentations and submissions may be directed to:

Melanie Griffin, Chair of the ALA poster Session Committee

Candace Benefiel, Chair of the ALA Poster Session Review Panel

Website for More Information

Oct 27

Summary of April 23 Online Discussion

Academic Library Outreach: The Intentional, the Desperate, and the Serendipitous – Summary of April 23 ULS Members-Only Online Discussion

Author: Jennifer Lee, University of Calgary, on behalf of the ULS Membership Committee

On April 23, 2014, ULS held its second members-only online discussion.  About 60 attendees attended to discuss academic library outreach. The two speakers, Lizz Zitron and Matt Upson, offered two contrasting perspectives: intentional, planned outreach, and “on-the-fly” outreach. More information on the speakers can be found at

The discussion started with two polls. The first asked attendees whether there was outreach at their institution; most answered in the positive, though they would also like to do more. The second asked attendees what roadblocks to outreach they had; many reported the lack of human and financial resources.

Lizz Zitron started with a roadmap for intentional outreach:

  1. Create an outreach vision: library and institutional vision  statements are a good starting point because they provide terminology  that can be used in the outreach vision. Lizz reported great success  with her programs when using library and institutional vision  statements this way.
  2. Create goals: create specific, measurable goals that lead to observable behavior. Create some goals that can be measured quantitatively, and others that can be measured qualitatively. Qualitative measures provide invaluable comments and observations that  can be used in reflection and assessment (step 4).
  3. Form plans: these are courses of action based on the goals. For example, “to have [goal], we will do [plan]”. Start with a few manageable goals and plans.
  4. Reflect and assess: assessment helps administrators support outreach, especially if the goals reflect your mission or vision. Qualitative data helps “tell the story” behind the numbers of quantitative data. For example, while numbers tell how often an “Ask a Librarian” chat reference service is used, qualitative data can indicate whether users would recommend the service to others.

Lizz then gave examples of outreach activities involving students. Some connected students with the community by asking them to volunteer their time or expertise in a library event held for the community. Others connected students to the library through contests and use of library materials, including using weeded books to create poetry, and inviting students to create displays.

Matt Upson talked about co-creating a comic that served as an instruction, advocacy, and outreach tool. As a new library director with minimal staff, he realized that the traditional instruction methods formerly used at his institution were ineffective and that the library was under-used. Since his new library assistant had 20+ years of experience creating and illustrating comics, a library zombie comic was born (both digital and physical). It met instructional goals, but it was also an interesting outreach and marketing tool that re-defined the perception of the library. The comic incorporated stakeholders such as the faculty, student workers, and other community members. The comic was heavily promoted before its publication. For example, students who “liked” the library on Facebook got a chance to be drawn as a zombie; a teaser poster was put up on campus featuring the front of the library, which attracted many questions.

a few hundred hardcopies were purchased with a grant and the library held a pizza release party after both the digital and physical versions were published. Since there were close to a million downloads at the time of the party this was also announced during the print release.

The project morphed from an instructional resource to a tool for increasing engagement. It tied into things the library was already doing: they had a graphic novel collection, and were already trying to use the library for non-academic purposes.

In closing, Matt encouraged attendees to play to their strengths, and to involve the community in the planning process. This avoids the perception of “performing outreach for the sake of outreach”. The library zombie comic is available at: Other institutions with library comics include  Kansas State University Salina Library, Fresno City College, and Lehman College.

The session was then opened up for questions and comments, including:

Attendance and scheduling: definitely keep track of numbers, which may be low at the beginning. It is also useful to talk with other coordinators on campus (e.g. residence hall directors, student life staff) to avoid duplication of activities and scheduling overlap, and as another source for promoting outreach. Library events may also be hosted outside of the library with these same coordinators. Lastly, food, of course, helps attendance!

Other activities suggested as part of the planning process: work with students who are interested in planning, and meet regularly. Assess immediately after every program, including attendee comments, things that worked, or did not work. A student can keep track of comments and then they can be discussed at a weekly meeting. For some, planning may not be reflexive, but it results in better quality outreach. If it works at your institution, a general call for volunteers may attract those with complementary talents.

Tips on getting students excited or finding appropriate working opportunities for them: student workers are a big part of the community and the student population, so ask them what will get them in the library. This increases buy-in as well. If working with students on planning, it also helps to model what you want to see, and to give them a framework for planning and assessment; while this takes time to set up, it can save time in the long run.

ULS hopes to hold these discussions in the fall and spring to highlight ULS member work, to extend conversations beyond ALA Annual and Midwinter, and as a benefit to ULS members. ULS also hopes to briefly summarize these as an added member benefit.

*The next members-only discussion*, Thursday, November 20 from 3-4 pm EST, will be about student success. To register, go to:

*Interested in university libraries?* Join your colleagues at ACRL ULS, where you can find opportunities to participate in continuous learning activities like our lively and engaging online discussions, to volunteer on professional committees, to make connections with a great network of university librarians, and more! For more information on ULS, including an archive of past events and discussion forums, see also our Section website. To become a member, simply update your ACRL division memberships at and select the University Libraries Section under ACRL. Membership is free is you are not already enrolled in more than 2 sections and only an additional $5.00 if you are. We look forward to welcoming you as a member!

“See” you at the next discussion!

Oct 24

Members-Only Online Discussion: Student Success

Members-Only Online Discussion: Student Success
Brought to you by the ACRL-ULS Committee on the Future of University Libraries

The ULS Membership Committee is pleased to provide a FREE online discussion for ULS members on Thursday, November 20 from 3-4 pm EST.  Registration Information

Assessing How Libraries Contribute to Student Success

Feeling pressed to prove that your library contributes to student success?  Are administrators demanding evidence that funding the library helps retain and graduate students?  While it may seem obvious  to librarians that students would not succeed without the library, demonstrating that can be a challenge.

Read short descriptions of ways three libraries have effectively assessed their contributions to student success, and then join this online discussion, where assessment librarians will encourage discussion of various ways to measure and demonstrate how your library helps students succeed.


Eric Ackermann (Head of Reference Services and Library Assessment, Radford University) will speak on how his library has tracked how the library’s participation in freshman orientation and core courses has affected retention.

Jennifer L. Jones (Assessment & User Experience Librarian, Georgia State University) will explain how her library followed three cohorts of undergraduates to assess the effect of using library workstations, study rooms, and research clinics.

Shane Nackerud (Technology Lead for Libraries Initiatives, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) and Janet Fransen (Engineering Librarian, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) will discuss the big data model the library used in partnership with the university’s Office of Institutional Research to assess the library’s contribution to student outcomes.

The speakers have shared descriptions of their successful projects to help you prepare for this discussion. 

Oct 16

75th Anniversary of ACRL Scholarship Campaign

ULS is participating in the scholarship campaign for the 75th Anniversary of ACRL. Please consider donating what you can so that we can reach our goal of underwriting one full scholarship?

Note:  Be sure to click on ADD TRIBUTE at checkout and then IN HONOR OF on the next page. In the TRIBUTE NAME box, please put University Libraries Section.


Jul 25

Digital Humanities and Its Implications for Libraries and their Patrons: Part 3

An Interview with Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities Librarian and Assistant Professor of Library Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Matt Conner, Librarian at the University of California, Davis, and author of a newly released book, The New Library: Four Case Studies (ALA)

Editor’s Note: This interview is the final post in a three-part series of interviews with Harriett Green, conducted by Matt Conner, about digital humanities.

PART 3: Promotion of Digital Humanities to a New Audience

Matt: Can you tell me about your liaison work with departments and how you promote digital humanities?

Harriett: My approach has been to take up embedded librarianship where you really try to get involved with the faculty and students in the department.

So, I’ve been reaching out with anything from email newsletters to showing up at department events. There were a couple professors who already have pretty strong ties to the library and came in a lot already. Sometimes just talking to them about the collection and their class needs has led to me saying, “I can teach a class. Or send your students in and I can have research consultations with them.” I think I’m beginning to build more instruction programming and outreach and finding different ways to support them.

Matt: What kind of instruction do you do?

Harriett: The 300 and 400 level classes are where I’m working because introductory writing is handled by the undergraduate library. I’m doing research sessions such as showing ProQuest Historical Newspapers, how to use primary resources, how to approach the research process. I also include MLA, ABELL, and the Literature Resource Center, and I show how to find secondary sources. It seems that in the lower level classes, the 100 to even the early 300, they’re mostly just using the primary text and doing close readings. It’s not until the 300s and 400s where they’re doing the research that the professor feels like I should bring them in. But a lot of professors do take students to the rare book and manuscript library as well.

Digital Humanities and Teaching Practices

Matt: Is there a sense of how digital humanities is changing instruction as opposed to research? Are they using these tools in class? I mean I guess they would informally but are there changes in instruction that you can speak to?

Harriett: Yes, definitely. I’ve read about it a lot more than I’ve actually done it. But there’s definitely this movement that they call digital pedagogy where they’re talking about using these kinds of tools in the classroom, teaching students how to code. Teaching basic tools like having students blog and document their thought processes and that way. There’s a blog on Chronicle of Higher Education called ProfHacker. It’s a group blog by academics, and several have talked about digital pedagogy and what they’re doing specifically to incorporate it into the classroom. There are several good examples of small digital humanities projects that bring students into the research process. For the past couple years, Kate Benzel, an English professor from the University of Nebraska at Kearney was using our Carl Sandburg Archive. We digitized a bunch of his letters and notes, and she and a student were marking up the digitallly transcribed Sandburg’s notes in TEI text encoding. In his notes, he writes marginalia referring back to classical texts and other texts that he used for his poetry. And they were marking up that marginalia, then going back and finding the source texts for those marginalia and linking it to his poetry. I think that’s the kind of digital pedagogy that people are doing which is having students use these digital tools to look at the text closely and do close readings.

Matt: So, it’s not just the passive reception on a screen of what tools can do. Students are actually getting in and doing it.

Harriett: Right and having students use these tools in different ways. And it’s becoming a larger and larger movement as digital humanities really kind of started as research. Now they’ve done research and they want to know how to bring it into the classroom.

Jul 09

ACRL-ULS Fostering Leadership through 2014 Emerging Leaders

Editor’s Note:  Nataly Blas, Business Librarian, Loyola Marymount University

The creation of the program Emerging Leaders (EL) has been one of several initiatives ALA has developed in order to foster the growth of leadership skills in early career librarians. ACRL-ULS has taken an active role in promoting leadership opportunities to librarians by sponsoring one participant of the Emerging Leaders program. This year, I feel very fortunate and am thankful to ULS for sponsoring my participation in the EL program. Emerging Leaders kicks off with a leadership workshop during the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Afterward, it grows and develops in an online learning and networking environment. The program concludes with a poster session presentation to display the results of the project planning work of each group at the ALA Annual Conference.

The ULS sponsorship adds to the Emerging Leaders experience by providing insight to an ACRL section and allowing exploration among the various ULS committees. As an early career librarian, participating in an ALA committee can seem a bit intimidating — the ULS sponsorship alleviates the first-time jitters by extending a warm welcome. As the EL program approaches its end in ALA Annual, the Emerging Leader will participate in an ACRL ULS committee and is given the opportunity to further develop their leadership potential by networking with fellow academic librarians and collaborating in ULS projects.

The EL program has been a fulfilling experience that has sharpened my leadership skills and has given me the opportunity to network with other leaders in our profession. My team, Team L, was charged with developing a marketing and communication plan for ALA’s Learning Round Table. As part of our project, we surveyed its members in order to ascertain communication preferences and current involvement with the round table. Team L developed a plan based on the survey findings – the marketing and communication plan includes goals and objectives which encompass social media, website maintenance, branding, outreach, and assessment.

I look forward to the culminating Emerging Leaders poster session in the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and participating in ACRL ULS! I am also delighted to work with the former ULS Emerging Leader and talented librarian, Tarida Anantachai and look forward for the announcement of the 2015 ULS sponsored EL participant!

Jun 24

Digital Humanities and Its Implications for Libraries and their Patrons: Part 2

An Interview with Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities Librarian and Assistant Professor of Library Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Matt Conner, Librarian at the University of California, Davis, and author of a newly released book, The New Library: Four Case Studies (ALA)

Editor’s Note: This interview is the second in a three-part series of interviews with Harriett Green, conducted by Matt Conner, about digital humanities.

Part 2: Digital Humanities and the Profession

Matt: So, now I’m interested in what happens when you have this kind of product. So, you have an online digital project integrating text and maps and so forth. The faculty are so guided by tenure requirements and publishing. Do they use this for teaching? What happens to these projects?

Harriett: That’s another big issue that comes up especially if you read news about digital humanities in places like the Chronicle of Higher Education. Scholars do this for their research too. They spend an immense amount of hours gathering these materials and putting them together. So, you could almost say it’s like a book online in the sense that they have put together this huge archive, interpreted it, analyzed it, and made this interpretive product, this scholarly product, that other people can use for research.

Some of them use it for teaching and they get their students to work with them too. But they also do it as research projects. That’s what’s coming up more and more as faculty are getting into digital humanities: How can I show that this is just as much of a scholarly endeavor as that book? They are slowly making some progress. And some people are able to get tenure on digital portfolios and digital types of research, and even gain scholarly prominence through blogging.

Matt: You showed me a list of journals that were devoted to digital humanities-type work. So, outside of that, how much of an impact are they having on the journal American Literature or PMLA? Are they getting what we would call impact factor?

Harriett: More and more actually. At MLA 2012 in Seattle, there was a ton of panels on digital humanities and digital humanities projects. There was almost a sense that “This is what’s going to save our discipline.”

Matt: There is great angst about what’s going to happen in English.

Harriett: PMLA published a special issue edited by Bethany Nowiskie who has a Ph.D. in English and directs a digital humanities lab within UVA Libraries called Scholar’s Lab. And that issue of the PMLA journal was all about digital humanities. Shakespeare Quarterly did an open access issue that wasn’t digital humanities per se, but they had an open access issue where they had people submit articles online and review online, and that’s intertwined with digital humanities as well. Not just to submit to a journal but also engage in open access and open peer review. To bring your scholarship out into the open as well.

There’s many different ways that people have incorporated digital tools and digital methods into their work. SAHARA is a digital archive produced by Society for Architectural Historians, and the SAH also has a journal that very much incorporates digital images and audio into the published articles. So, many different humanities disciplines are starting to at least be aware of open access and trying different ways of scholarly communication and publishing.

New Discoveries by Digital Humanities

Matt: Do you have a sense of the new body of work that’s come out of this? Are we learning new things based on the frequency of some word or are we learning some new thing about the texts?

Harriett: Yes, I think we have. There have been articles that shed light on trends in Victorian literature, like how sentimental the novels truly were. Or, in digital history we can now compile thousands of different accounts and see how people were migrating and how they viewed different events. There are definitely projects that have started to reveal new insights into texts or new trends in history.


Jun 20

ACRL ULS/DLS Joint Social

Interested in university libraries, distance learning, or in just casually meeting some fellow librarians? Join us at ALA for the first ever joint ULS/DLS social. The social will be at Grill 55, Wine Room, at the Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel, 3400 Paradise Road / Las Vegas, NV 89169-2770 ( on Saturday, June 28 from 5:30 pm — 7:00 pm.  Enjoy appetizers and a cash bar, while also networking with fellow ULS and DLS members and other conference attendees.

From the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Renaissance is less than a 10 minute walk–see map here: .  We hope to see you there!

Jun 19

ACRL ULS Members-Only Online Discussion: July 14th

ACRL ULS Members-Only Online Discussion: July 14th

brought to you by the ULS Membership Committee

Reorganizing for the Future
Monday, July 14, 2014
2 PM — 3 PM (EDT)

Do you work in a “library of the future”? Would you like to learn how to reorganize so that yours can be such a library?

Join the ACRL ULS Committee on the Future of University Libraries in an online moderated discussion about how several university libraries evaluated existing resources in order to pave the way for new services. What efficiencies were found in operations? What tough decisions to modify or eliminate existing services were considered? How did reorganization free up resources to help the organization move forward?

For the discussion, we have gathered five stories that describe successful library reorganizations that support the future of the library. The writers of three of the stories will form a panel to discuss your questions using the stories as starting points for investigating how to set priorities, create efficiencies, follow aspirations, overcome constraints, and take advantage of opportunities. Below are some glimpses to get you thinking.

The online discussion is free. To register, please see ACRL ULS members are offered first priority.


Closing and merging libraries forced a focus on library priorities. “We closed and merged libraries, reviewed the library’s priorities, redeployed the staff, implemented innovative ways to develop, purchase and catalog materials, re-imagined the delivery of library services, and re-defined the roles of librarian and support staff.” [Read the whole story #1.]

A whole library reorganization led to successful efficiencies. “The Review simultaneously created staff capacity that was re-deployed in areas where the Libraries are growing, and was informed by a staff survey that allowed people to articulate their strengths and interests and helped the organization reveal hidden talent and interest.” [Read the whole story #2.]

Restructuring is embraced to focus on future aspirations. “…University Libraries are nearing the end of a self-evaluation intended to prepare the organization for the change from an environment based on print resources to one built on digital materials.” [Read the whole story #3.]

Budget constraints prompted the formation of a new access services department. “The new group began by identifying successes to replicate…. User needs, workflows, and capacity were analyzed, to leverage limited resources for maximum benefit. … [Operations] were standardized for efficient and consistent service.” [Read the whole story #4.]

Reorganization provided opportunities within access services units. “The goals of the Access Services reorganization for … libraries included removal of silos, increased cross-training of staff to flex during high-impact periods and to better inform workflows across divisions, re-envisioning the staffing and labor of certain service points, and integration of functions with Technical Services.” [Read the whole story #5.]



Story #1.

The McGill Library faced a $1.8M cut in March 2013, representing 5.2% of the Library budget. A retirement program was implemented by the administration of McGill University in order to help reach the target. Although more than 30 (of 180) library staff members accepted the retirement package, the Library was not allowed to replace any of them. The “new retirees” left in July 2013, so an emergency plan was developed and implemented over the spring and summer 2013. The Library administration closed and merged libraries (including the Medical Library), reviewed the library’s priorities, redeployed the staff, implemented innovative ways to develop, purchase and catalog materials, re-imagined the delivery of library services, and re-defined the roles of librarians and support staff.  In addition, we dealt with dissatisfaction and negative publicity from faculty members, students … and unfortunately our staff.

Carole Urbain, Director, Academic Affairs, McGill University Library


Story #2.

In Fall 2011 the University of Minnesota Libraries undertook an organizational review with the intention to restructure the organization to better support the strategic plan and directions. The review concluded in April 2012 resulting in a greatly altered Libraries structure that coalesced expertise from across the organization around broad strategic directions.  The structural changes, while foundational, perhaps obscure some of the smaller, impactful intentions and outcomes of the process.  The organization adopted a “zone” model in which it increased supervisory spans and decreased structural layers signifying greater emphasis on managerial work and leadership (with still unfolding positive results!).  Work became more efficiently distributed across each zone, moving away from a model where functional expertise was replicated in each individual library, large and small.

In the newly formed Research and Learning Division (encompassing Public Service functions), Departmental Directors and Managers assumed the majority of Administrative and Operational Management responsibilities; thereby allowing Subject Liaisons and other specialist professionals (Instructional Design and Delivery, Copyright,  Data Services as examples) to more significantly focus on supporting those needs. New horizontal structures (Instructional Coordinators, Research Services, Data Management Curation) were created to provide the opportunity for increased focus in these areas while ensuring coordination across the organization. The Review simultaneously created staff capacity that was re-deployed in areas where the Libraries is growing, and was informed by a staff survey that allowed people to articulate their strengths and interests and helped the organization reveal that hidden talent and interest. At present, roughly 2 years out from initial changes, the organization is working through review and fine-tuning of the new structure to ensure continued focus on the intended outcomes.

Jeffrey S. Bullington, Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering Libraries, University of Minnesota Twin Cities


Philip Herold, Research & Learning Director for Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Minnesota Twin Cities


Story #3.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst University Libraries are nearing the end of a self-evaluation intended to prepare the organization for the change from an environment based on print resources to one built on digital materials. The Digital Strategies group, a committee that plans the Libraries’ digital activities focusing on digital content created or collected by the libraries, charged a task force to implement a strategic plan calling for integration of digital content and services into the Libraries’ workflow.

The Task Force began with some basic premises:

  • Collection and curation of unique content was paramount
  • Our Libraries did not intend to form a centralized Digital Library or Digital Projects office
  • Many existing positions in our organization were created to serve a bibliographic work environment, and that environment has changed dramatically

As the Task Force worked through these challenges the group members realized that the incorporation of unique digital materials and services into the mainstream workflows of the Libraries would require an examination of most aspects of the Libraries’ current structure and functions. Through its examination of individual units, the group has explored many topics including:

  • Recognizing the existence of a “shadow library” that accomplishes necessary tasks outside the formal organizational structure and how to incorporate it into the structure
  • Developing a pool of non-MARC metadata creation specialists
  • Developing a R&D/skunkworks/sandbox aspect to the organization
  • The redefinition of a subject liaison’s role
  • Developing cultures (i.e., new ways of thinking) throughout the Libraries
  • Re-tasking existing bibliographic positions for work with digital resources

The Task Force is nearing the end of its charge and is still having strong discussions about the organization and its future. We welcome opportunities to share our experiences with other libraries.

Brian P. Shelburne, Head, Image Collection Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Story #4.

The MIT Libraries reorganized in 2010. Services, collections and staff were brought together by functions, toward the goal of  “One Library, One Collection.” The new organization’s shape was framed by the need to deliver services to an interdisciplinary research community working on a 24×7 basis across the globe, as well as a shift toward digital content. The organization’s size was constrained by economic realities.

Access Services for MIT’s four main libraries, Resource Sharing, Scanning, and Storage were merged into a new department called Information Delivery and Library Access (ID&LA). This diverse portfolio of programs came together as a patchwork quilt. Customer service, including collections as services, was the common thread joining together forty staff across varied locations, schedules, and service cultures.

Each of the teams within ID&LA was composed of talented staff, however, few had previously worked together to jointly solve problems. The new group began by identifying successes to replicate, toward solutions at scale. User needs, workflows, and capacity were analyzed, to leverage limited resources for maximum benefit. Many operations were standardized for efficient and consistent service, with some flexibility to support targeted user communities.

Early actions included encouraging staff to work across service points outside of their home library, centralizing electronic and print course reserves services, creating new approaches for stacks management, and integrating the retrieval of materials from the stacks for both patron requests and resource sharing transactions. Two unmediated borrowing services were added to extend the reach of MIT’s collections. Borrowing periods were increased to reduce barriers to access. An ‘auto-renew’ service will soon launch to save patrons time by anticipating their needs.  Expanded delivery of library materials to offices or dormitories is under active discussion.  ID&LA now leads improvements to the MIT Libraries facilities to increase support for collaborative learning and innovation.

Christine Quirion, Head, Information Delivery & Library Access, MIT Libraries


Story #5.

In 2009, Harvard University offered the first of two subsequent early retirement packages to staff and the ensuing Harvard College Library reorganizations, while prompted in part by a need to maintain workflows in light of the changes in staffing, provided the opportunity to review all workflows and ensure the skill sets of the staff were being used effectively.  This description focuses on the Department of Access Services within Widener and Lamont libraries, the main research and undergraduate libraries, respectively. 

The goals of the Access Services reorganization for Widener and Lamont libraries included removal of silos, increased cross-training of staff to flex during high-impact periods and to better inform workflows across divisions, re-envisioning the staffing and labor of certain service points, and integration of functions with Technical Services.  Specific goals included:

  • Commitment to cross training
  • Commitment to collections security
  • Staff participation in teams for policy and workflow oversight
  • Excellent customer service, internal and external
  • Information literacy for reference triage

Access Services staffing was reduced by over 30% as a result of early retirements, attrition, and the elimination of a category of less than half-time employee. Simultaneously, we were working with the campus-wide library community to ensure the launch of a new Scan and Deliver service with no additional labor. Additionally, after a hiatus, we reincorporated Serials check-in with no additional labor, including retrospective check-in. 

The tools used to effect the change included a Skills Assessment of all Access Services staff in Widener and Lamont libraries to ensure that librarians and library staff had the opportunity to self-assess their contributions and potential in addition to assessments by managers.  Concurrently, working groups were created for the various functional areas comprised of librarians and library staff to ensure that all perspectives and expertise were informing changes to workflows and services.

The reorganization began with the Widener Access Services divisions of Privileges, Circulation, Interlibrary Loan, Harvard Depository Transfer, Stacks Management, and Serials, and eventually included the Access Services Department for Lamont Library (undergraduate library).

Follow these links to fuller reports on the process and results.

Cheryl McGrath, Director, MacPháidín Library and Archives, Stonehill College

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