Faculty could take us or leave us

There’s a great Library Journal article by Meredith Schwartz on faculty views of academic libraries that breaks down librarian vs faculty opinion on library services and offers strategies for improvement.  But one particular statistic hit me hard:

The majority of faculty feel there’s no need for better communication between librarians and faculty while an overwhelming percentage of librarians think there should be better communication between.  Ouch.  Why the disparity?  Well, I think it comes down to this: what librarians do is in support of faculty, but what they do is not in support of librarians.  Faculty are part of our constituency as librarians, but we are not part of faculty’s constituency.

This data taps into one of my big anxieties as an academic librarian – that I’m bothering faculty.  It’s always in the back of my mind that I may be pestering faculty with the library’s efforts to improve information literacy or integrate library services more closely with the curriculum that invariably requires time and energy of faculty that they give voluntarily.  I always feel like they are doing us a favor and this data suggest they may feel the same way.

Recently I’ve been having discussions with my coworker about whether or not librarianship is a “service profession” and the varying degrees to which we are in service to others.  I tend to approach the profession from a service perspective, continually keeping in mind that what we do is to directly benefit a individuals of a certain constituency, but I also feel that librarians are a partner in the educational mission of the institution.

I see, and want others to see, librarians on the same level as faculty (indeed, in many academic libraries librarians are faculty), two sides of the same coin.  But it’s a struggle for academic librarians to break free from the perception held by many that we are simply book custodians and recognize the value we have in improving student learning outcomes.  And every once in a while I see something like this survey data that knocks me down a peg and makes me wonder are we just being uppity?

So what do we do with this data?  How do we apply it?  Do we take it as a sign that we need to cool it with all the faculty collaboration?  Or perhaps that we still have a lot of work to do towards changing perceptions?  I honestly don’t know.


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