September 26, 2013

Partnering for Student Success

Achieving Impact

In recent memory, we have seen academic libraries shift from being spaces for storing collections to spaces for people and activity. Whereas libraries of the past dedicated 50-65% of their space to stacks and shelving and 25-35% to user spaces, new libraries are flipping those proportions and sometimes even more aggressively reducing collections space, to 15-25% of the total building.

There are many drivers towards this flip, namely shifts in how students work and learn and increased access to online resources. Students no longer just read, write, or study alone at a desk. They also collaborate with their peers in all group sizes, create multimedia projects, make 3D prototypes, practice presentations, analyze and visualize data sets, and much more. These activities require more space, as well as more services and staff to manage the spaces, troubleshoot the tools, and develop students’ skills. So overall, libraries are supporting a wider range of learning and working activities, and the activities that happen in between (such as grabbing a coffee or taking a break). Libraries are also comfortable with the idea that more staff and services are needed to make these spaces successful

In our current work, we are seeing this range of activities widen even more. If libraries are dedicated to helping students learn, conduct research, and be successful academically, then it makes sense to connect with other groups with similar missions. So, libraries are bringing in academic partners, such as writing centers, tutoring, and academic advising, to provide a more holistic and less fragmented student learning experience.

As an example, a student visits the library for a consultation with a research librarian to find sources for his / her paper, but upon reviewing the student’s work, the librarian recognizes that what the student really needs first is a stronger thesis statement. The student needs a consultation at the writing center! At this point, what can the librarian do? On many campuses, the librarian may tell the student about the writing center, point out the window to the writing center’s location and relay its opening hours, or possibly and even better, make an appointment for the student. In many cases, simply referring the student to a partner service, but not making the connection, is not effective — students forget to, can’t find the place, don’t know how to make an appointment, can’t find the right time in their schedule, or run into some other barrier. If partner services were more integrated with the library – physically and/or organizationally – this critical connection is more likely to be made.

There are many ways for libraries and academic services to structure their partnership. From our audit of library partnerships, there are six key models, which vary in (1) how much dedicated space a partner has in the library and (2) how organizationally integrated the partner is within the library. From the most dedicated space and organizational integration to least, the models are:

1. EMBEDDED: All partner spaces are located in the library and retain a distinct identity, and staff are integrated organizationally within the library.

Example: University of Utah Press (UUP) @ Marriott Library (an informative article written by the Associate Dean on the benefits of this partnership can be found here)

2. COLLABORATIVE: Campus partners provide complementary services in an integrated manner, which could include library services as well. To the user, these services are “one,” but behind the scenes are delivered by multiple units.

Example: Research, Writing, and Information Technology Center (RWIT) @ Dartmouth College’s Baker-Berry Library: collaboration among the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, the Library, and Academic Computing to provide student peer tutoring for papers, research, and multimedia.

3. CO-LOCATED: All front- and back-of-house spaces are located in the library, but partners remain separate organizationally.

Example: At the University of British Columbia’s Barber Learning Center: (1) Dedicated study, social, and office spaces for their first-year interdisciplinary programs Arts One, Science One, and Coordinated Arts Programs; (2) Labs and offices for the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies; and (3) Offices and other facilities for the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT)

4. STOREFRONT: The key service point is in the library, but offices / back-of-house spaces are elsewhere.

Example: At the University of Connecticut’s Homer Commers in Babbidge Library: (1) Quantitative Learning Center (part of the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning); (2) Digital Learning Center, with dedicated workstations in the Commons; (3) Learning Center (part of the Language and Cultural Center); and (4) Writing Center

5. SATELLITE: There is dedicated space in the library for selected services and/or hours, but the partner’s key service point is elsewhere.

Example: Drop-in consultations with the Writing Center @ Ohio University’s Alden Library

6. VISITING: Services are delivered during scheduled hours in the library, in space shared with other partners or users.

Example:: At the University of Pennsylvania’s Weigle Information Commons: (1) Weingarten Learning Resources Center for time and project management, (2) Marks Family Writing Center for appointment-only sessions, (3) Communication Within the Curriculum (CWiC) for public speaking skills

It’s important to note that one library can include multiple models of partnership. For example, Ohio University’s Alden Library includes a collaborative model with the Academic Advancement Center, co-locates with the Graduate Writing & Research Center and Faculty Commons, and provides satellite space for the Writing Center.

There is no *one* correct way to partner – picking the correct model or models should be based on variables such as organizational readiness, alignment of mission or strategic plans, degree to which services overlap or are distinct, current location and utilization of services, perceived student need / desire, and availability of space. Just as not all libraries have the latest visualization studios or maker spaces, not all libraries need to include partners. However, it is definitely something to consider.

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