The Library’s Role in the Academy: Governance
By Margaret Brown-Salazar, Diablo Valley College
When you think of an academic library, what comes to mind? For many people, their impression of the library is that it acquires, organizes, manages, and distributes library resources in support of the curriculum. Of course, we perform all those tasks, but ask us about our jobs and we are likely to say, “we teach.” As academic librarians, we see ourselves as faculty, on equal footing with all faculty on campus. At Diablo Valley College (DVC), our work in the library is shaped by our instructional concerns for underrepresented populations on campus, our role as information literacy leaders, our teaching collaborations with faculty for student success, and our “on the fly” instruction at the reference desk.
In Fall 2020, DVC, under the purview of its president, assessed its organizational structure with an eye towards realignment. The rationale was “to more clearly illustrate pathways of study and degrees for students, facilitate collaboration between student services and instruction, provide equity at the dean and vice president levels, and to provide sustainable leadership growth.” 1 One of the president’s proposals was to move the library from Instruction (Academic Affairs) to Student Services, and the proposal was sent to the campus community for comment.
In the library, our instinctive response was to ask, how does this best serve our students? We believed that remaining within Instruction increased our ability to impact student success and ensured our essential input, access and engagement in the planning and implementation of college and statewide teaching and learning initiatives such as Guided Pathways and AB705. This positioning within Instruction allows the library to be fully integrated into the initiatives’ design and policy development.
We see our primary role as instructors. Examining our mission, the library clearly states its alignment with the teaching and learning mission of the college. Librarians provide instruction by designing and/or teaching:
- Credit-bearing courses (both as stand-alone and part of learning communities);
- Course-specific library workshops, in collaboration with classroom faculty;
- Research skills on-demand instruction at the Reference Desk;
- Research skills by appointment in one-on-one research consultations; and
- Via instructional modules and videos for integration in CANVAS.
Preparing to articulate a formal response to the president's proposal, the DVC Librarians, who have built strong and collaborative relationships with discipline faculty, reached out to their peers for feedback on the proposal and were encouraged by the responses. Faculty responded with overwhelming support, sharing their deep understanding of our role as instructional collaborators. A sampling of their responses include:
“To move the library out of instruction “would distract from its true goals and charges = to teach students.” –Rayshell Clapper, Professor of English
"I support keeping the Library under instruction as we (social sciences) depend upon our collaboration in teaching with Library faculty.” –Albert Ponce, Professor of Political Science
“Our instructional librarians not only provide instructional support, they also provide pedagogical guidance that keeps us current with concerns related to equity and student success.” –Lisa Orta, Professor of English
“The Library’s curriculum, its role as a research center and source of academic information, its deep symbolic and real role as a pillar of democracy, its disciplinary relationship to instructional faculty, and the services provided to faculty, students and staff, all fit squarely within Instruction.” –Matthew Powell, Professor of History
While reviewing the literature, we discovered the 2019 Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) position paper titled “The Role of the Library Faculty in the California Community College.” ASCCC recommends colleges “incorporate and reinforce information literacy and competency standards in institutional, program, and student learning outcomes.” This paper articulates a foundation that libraries, with their expertise in information literacy, most effectively operate within the designation of Instruction/Academic Affairs. In addition, we located a survey from 2015 titled, “Should the Library Report to Academic Affairs or Student Services?” conducted via the Community & Junior College Libraries listserv. The survey examined this question at a national level. “The respondents overwhelmingly recommended ... Academic Affairs.” Their primary reasons were the library’s contribution to the teaching and learning outcomes of the institution and the perceived status that is reflected by the department that the library reports to.
To better understand how this information correlates to practices in CA Community College Libraries, DVC Librarians created and conducted a survey via email that ran between October 26, 2020 – November 1, 2020. Of the 116 community college libraries surveyed, we received 75 responses [65 % response rate]. Consistent with our research findings, the results showed 86 % of the libraries report to academic affairs, 7 % report to Student Services and 7 % report to other departments.
Moreover, respondents affirmed the library’s instructional role. As one respondent said, “virtually everything we do in the library is driven by the curricular and instructional needs of the college.”
On November 3, 2020, the library submitted a formal position statement to the DVC Academic Senate strongly advocating that the library stay within the current structure, reporting to Instruction. In December 2020, the Senate endorsed the library’s position. In February 2021, the president ratified the library’s position.
As evidenced in the report “Academic Library Impact on Student Learning and Success: Findings from Assessment in Action (AiA) Team Projects,” we know that our work in the library leads to student success. “Several AiA projects document that library instruction improves students’ achievement of institutional core competencies and general education outcomes. The project findings demonstrate different ways that information literacy contributes to inquiry-based and problem-solving learning, including effective identification and use of information, critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and civic engagement.” With the DVC Library integrated into Instruction, we best achieve our primary goal, instructional collaboration for student success.
The DVC Librarians are grateful to our faculty and administration for their advocacy. Furthermore, we appreciate and value the support we received from our colleagues in the CA Community College System who participated in our survey.
1. President Susan Lamb, email message to the college, September 8, 2020.↩