Thursday, April 17, 2014

National Library Week: The State of America's Libraries Report

The State of America's Libraries Report is issued annually during National Library Week "to inform the public about important trends and key issues facing America's libraries." (The State of America's Libraries Report: A Report from the American Library Association.)

Of particular interest to us in the Darling Library of Hope International University is the section on Academic Libraries.
It is interesting that although our mission is unique to our community, our issues are shared throughout the nation.

The pressure on higher education to focus on assessment of learning outcomes and graduation rates forces academic libraries to demonstrate value by providing tangible evidence that they contribute to student learning. This is a challenge for the majority of universities that do not require a for credit course on information literacy in the curriculum. How do libraries show that what they do matters to academic success?

According to this year's report,
"Librarians have their work cut out for them. John H. Pryor of the Higher Education Research Institute surveyed incoming first-year college students in the fall of 2011 and found that 60 percent do not evaluate the quality or reliability of information, 75 percent do not know how to find research articles and resources, and 44 percent do not know how to integrate knowledge from different sources. ('The American Freshman: National Norms, Fall 2011' PDF)

In fact, most students in higher education don’t consider the campus library website a must for success. The Educause Center for Applied Research collaborated with 195 institutions in 2012 to ask more than 100,000 students a range of questions, including: “When it comes to your success as an undergraduate, what is the one website or online resource you couldn’t live without?” The most frequently cited sources were Google (33 percent) and Blackboard (16 percent), while only 5 percent went with the college or university library website. ('ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and InformationTechnology, 2012' PDF)

Employers feel differently. According to a Project Information Literacy research report, employers are less than satisfied with the information-seeking behavior of today’s college graduates. Unlike college, a sense of urgency often pervades the workplace, where personal contacts often reap more useful results than online searches. Employers are dissatisfied with graduates who settle for finding answers quickly online rather than using both online and traditional methods to conduct comprehensive research. ('Learning Curve: How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace' PDF)

Academic libraries clearly have an important role to play. A study by David Schwieder and Lisa Hinchliffe that analyzed National Center for Education Statistics datasets found that academic libraries at four-year colleges and universities can make a broad, empirically grounded claim of providing value to their institutions. High retention and graduation rates were positively linked to a number of library variables, especially library hours and the amount spent on serial publications. ('NCES Datasets and Library Value: An Exploratory Study of 2008 Data”)'

The report goes on to say that Academic libraries are "rising to the challenge, working to transform services" and assume new roles. This is evident at the Darling Library at Hope. The titles of our professional librarians have not changed in over fifteen years, but how we fill our roles change continuously and significantly in order to continue to fulfill our mission "to serve the information and research needs of the Hope International University community."

Our collection of print books (65,000) has not grown significantly while our ebook collections have increased to nearly twice the number (120,000) books on the shelves. Our online resources include ejournals, ebooks, indexes, and full-text article databases and more.

Beyond that, we also provide reference and instruction services online. We have had a librarian "embedded" in Strategies for Success (the first course that online undergraduate students take) since 2010. Our website is designed with both online and on-ground students in mind. We use LibGuides to provide a variety online Subject and Research guides. LibAnswers is available 24/7 for various levels of online reference help including a Frequently Asked Question database and contacting our librarians.

On ground, approximately 50% of the library's floor space is dedicated to technology. But Interlibrary Loans of physical books have increased about 300% over a year's time, indicating the print is not dead.

Our systems and technical services have changed in too many ways to recount here along with the types of skills required to manage these areas.

When was the last time you looked at what your library has to offer? If it hasn't been in 2014, take a look. You will probably find something new.

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