In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • A Wider View of Librarians in the Academy
  • Sarah M. Pritchard (bio)

We now take for granted an array of partnerships between the library and other campus units, especially those related to information technology, writing centers, university presses, offices of research, and, of course, instructional programs. And we have come to expect that individual librarians will be valued contributors to committees on technology planning, scholarly communication, and the library component of accreditation. But what about substantive involvement with the array of committees and projects that do not have “information services” flashing out in red neon lights? Librarians can bring a well-honed set of skills to the table as well as insights from diverse experiences with complex workplace settings, which are of great value to the business of the university yet less frequently recognized. These kinds of collaborations are rarely addressed in our own professional literature.

More than a portfolio of knowledge that applies only to the processes of library science, librarians have both direct involvement with many other campus services (as “users”), as well as integrative, analytical, assessment, and management abilities that contribute to effective teams and planning in such areas as:

  • • Strategic planning

  • • Human resources (for example, work/family support, flex time, job sharing, ergonomics, and labor relations)

  • • Institutional review boards

  • • Accreditation preparation (beyond merely the library component)

  • • Academic program review [End Page 463]

  • • Institutional research

  • • Campus space master plans

  • • Student affairs and residential life

  • • Enterprise systems implementation (such as finance, HR, and advancement)

  • • Sustainability initiatives

  • • Community/alumni relations

These topics are the focus of endless articles in the literature of higher education, yet only occasionally are such pieces written by librarians or do they articulate a process wherein librarians play a role. Certainly, we can point to campuses where there are examples of librarians working in these areas, but those cases have not generated writings that demonstrate new syntheses that help in the ongoing transformation of higher education. We need to get away from simple stereotypes or semantic blinders that make it difficult to look beyond the “library” in order to see the librarians themselves. Libraries are large, multifaceted organizations that require staff with an up-to-date understanding of most of the above topics; yet, because such topics are not intrinsically related to the provision of information and research services, they are not thought to be areas in which librarians excel. It is libraries that were among the first departments on campus, for example, to be in a position to offer flex time, compressed workweeks, and work-from-home options; and librarians had to work out all of the policies and workflows to support these opportunities. The work that librarians have been doing for over 30 years to implement multi-module automated systems with intricate relational data structures, decision rules, and authentication controls is directly relevant to the enterprise application software installations that notoriously stymie many campuses. “Informatics” is increasingly the buzzword for the tools and organizational work needed in data-intensive research. Carried out in high-end science and technical labs, this work is viewed as new and arcane but, in fact, uses concepts long embedded in librarianship.

Librarians dutifully fulfill the obligations of good campus citizens, serving on many committees on university matters from food service to the United Way, simply because the project requires representation from every campus unit. But what about the potential for writing and research that derives from looking at important university issues with a librarian’s eye? Whether in large universities or small colleges, whether front-line professionals or senior managers, librarians are constantly occupied with resource allocation, project management, assessment, taxonomy, outreach, and the design of services. They interact with every conceivable external constituency and confront a staggering range of policy, ethical, communication, negotiation, and personnel challenges. The opportunity for “translational” approaches—mapping these skills to institutional needs—looms large. Conversely, when this applicability is ignored or trivialized, a university loses the full potential of its human talent pool, a risk we should not take at a time when economic constraints mean that the workforce is shrinking. [End Page 464]

The editors of portal would like to encourage librarians to develop articles identifying the elements of “other” campus...


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