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Working together: librarian-faculty partnerships.


Partnerships between librarians and teaching faculty can help infuse information literacy skills more effectively into the curriculum. Information literacy continues to be of critical importance to librarians; many of the outreach efforts to establish partnerships throughout the academy have been initiated by librarians. Teaching faculty who initiate connections with librarians will help facilitate the mutual goal of teaching students to be lifelong learners. Networking opportunities and examples of assignments based on information literacy outcomes are discussed.


Information literacy is of critical importance to the library profession. Historically, librarians have initiated outreach to teaching faculty in order to promote and establish the concept in the curriculum. Extensive research about information literacy has been conducted and continues in the library field, and it tends to be a library-led initiative throughout the academy. When the value of information literacy pedagogy is acknowledged officially and unofficially by both administration and teaching faculty, it is easier to integrate the standards into the curriculum. Collaboration with librarians benefits teaching faculty in several ways, for example, by meeting the demands of higher education assessment requirements, using new technology to find information, and helping to take a preventative stance to reduce student plagiarism.

Information literacy is a concept generated by the library profession. Historically, information literacy has neither been integrated into a discipline's curriculum nor actively taught within courses because it was assumed that most students would naturally become critical thinkers by the end of their academic experience. In the 1970s librarians began to develop and promote an integrated program for academia by tailoring library instruction sessions into courses (Rockman, 2004, p. 4). Ilene Rockman, manager of the Information Competence Initiative in the California State University System, states that the importance of information literacy to higher education is simple: students are entering college and university without basic research and information competency skills (p. 9).

Paul Zurkowski is credited with creating the information literacy concept in a 1974 report to the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. This federal agency was created for the library and information user and not the library profession. Later, professional organizations like the American Library Association began to develop the information literacy concept in 1989 with its definition: "To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information" (American Library Association). In 2000, the Association of College & Research Libraries issued Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education; the standards were subsequently endorsed by the American Association of Higher Education.

Information literacy is a worldwide concept that has been accepted and promoted by both English and non-English speaking countries (National Forum on Information Literacy). In the United States, several accreditation boards, such as the American Chemical Society and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, have incorporated information literacy standards into their evaluative criteria. We can conclude that "information literacy is one of the liberal arts (along with reading, writing, computational, and thinking skills) essential for career preparation, professional development, lifelong learning, and civic participation in a democracy" (Thompson, 2002, p. 225).

Culture and Collaboration

It is easier in some university campus cultures than in others to create lasting librarian-faculty partnerships in order to embed information literacy into the curriculum. Difficulties do exist, and some key factors will be discussed in this section. As teaching moves from production to outcomes-based assessment and our society lives with information anxiety and overload, some basic instruction goals of academic librarians have changed. The value of information, with an accompanying complexity in retrieval and evaluation of this information, has increased dramatically in the computer age. Reliance on the physical library building as the place to get information has shifted to an increasing reliance on virtual resources. This shift has helped obscure the critical intermediary role of the librarian between information retrieval, the library user, and the information need.

Librarians are part of the academy but are distinct from teaching faculty even in institutions where they have faculty status. Librarians usually have to work a standard work week in the library, unlike teaching faculty who have greater flexibility in arranging their schedule. Additionally, librarians may be associated with the clerical functions of libraries rather than their less visible intellectual activities. These perceived differences are not a barrier to collaboration if all are aware of the mutual concerns of both librarians and teaching faculty, and all are cognizant of how librarian expertise intersects with the curriculum. Studies in the 1980s and 1990s found that while faculty generally support the need for library instruction, only a small minority believed that it was their task to provide the instruction (Neely, 2002, p. 55, 62). The prevailing school of thought among teaching faculty was that students should learn library research skills on their own, over time, even though studies of graduate students have reported student frustration and dissatisfaction with this process (Neely, p. 42). However, faculty experience will probably support the outcome of a 1994 University of California Berkeley self-rated library skills survey that showed only 7% of students rated their library skills as poor, but 63% scored poor-to-failing, and only 2% of scores could be considered expert (Neely, p. 66).

Much of the recent library literature encourages librarians to "rethink their role and to build partnerships with faculty" (Ducas & Michaud-Oystryk, 2004, p. 335). Many of these studies end with an admonishment to librarians that they must take the initiative to seek out collaboration opportunities throughout the campus community. The studies also report that some teaching faculty would prefer that librarians continue along traditional lines (such as collecting materials and providing reference services), and that there is "a sharp contrast between the librarians' willingness to collaborate and the faculty's lack of interesf" (Ducas & Michaud-Oystryk, p. 347). This may be because, as Christensen, Stombler, and Thaxton state in their 2004 article about librarian-faculty relations, "in the eyes of faculty, librarians do not appear to play a central role in faculty teaching or research ... [and] see librarians as a resource ... for gaining access to materials, not as experts who may play a central role in the preparation and execution of a research project" (p. 118). This may also be because, as librarians are constantly reminded in library literature, teaching faculty might not be aware of what librarians do (Reeves, Nishimuta, McMillan, & Godin, 2003, p. 61).

Conversely, as librarianship moves toward a more consultant-based model where librarians are sharing their expertise of the information field with their teaching faculty colleagues, some faculty are increasingly willing to collaborate (Donham & Green, 2004; Frank, Raschke, Wood, & Yang, 2001). It seems that overall, attitudes toward the role of the librarian in the educational process are changing due to librarian-led outreach (with the exception of faculty in the pure and applied sciences). The literature reports that "when faculty interact with librarians, librarians have a very positive and considerable impact on both faculty and students" (Ducas & Michaud-Oystryk, p. 72). When partnerships are established, faculty tend to have "high expectations [of] the integral role they see librarians playing in the educational process" (Ducas & Michaud-Oystryk, 2003, p. 73). Still, teaching faculty can play a greater role in establishing information literacy partnerships. It is crucial to note that when the onus to collaborate rests almost solely on librarian shoulders, even when they are highly visible members of the campus community, librarian expertise can be drastically underutilized and undervalued. The primary responsibility for change cannot rest solely within the library profession or universities will continue to graduate some students who have not learned basic research and information competency skills. It is important that teaching faculty know what librarians do and know what expertise they have to offer faculty in the classroom and beyond.


There are many avenues to collaboration. One of the more common approaches is the appointment of a specific library liaison to the department or discipline. New teaching faculty and adjunct lecturers especially should be informed of this. Librarians also perform assessment, research, and reference within those subject specialties. The partnership between Porras Hein and Miller is a specific example of intensive collaboration between a teaching faculty member and a librarian. This section outlines some specific, practical ideas where librarians and teaching faculty might network.

Formal Opportunities

There are a variety of formal events on campus that can help foster librarian-faculty partnerships. Opportunities to meet colleagues and also discover issues and trends within the library or department are invaluable:

* Commencement

* All-faculty Convocations

* New Faculty / Part-Time Faculty Orientations

* University committees and governance organizations such as the Academic Senate

* Departmental faculty meetings

* One-on-one meetings

* Tours of the library for new faculty or entire departments

* Academic advisement for students / student clubs

* University-sponsored travel and teaching abroad opportunities

Informal Opportunities

Situations will vary from campus to campus, but the following are examples based on opportunities at California State University Fullerton:

Faculty Brown Bags--These are lunchtime meetings, many of which are aimed to help smooth the new faculty member's transition to campus life.

Faculty Development Center--Faculty and librarians might also network by taking advantage of various professional development programs (such as software training and grant writing workshops) where there is opportunity to get-to-know each other as fellow "students." Another example is the Teaching and Learning Academy Certificate program where librarians and teaching faculty discuss major issues concerning teaching and learning.

Coffee--Meeting a like-minded friend for coffee can lead to project building and valuable information exchange that might not readily occur in any other formal or informal setting. Importantly, Wade Kotter stated in 1999 that collaborations built on friendship are not likely to survive external pressure, so "... librarian-faculty relationships must not stop with mere friendship; they must also foster the development of a common educational philosophy" (p. 295).

Campus social events--Attend softball or football games, film nights and theater productions, lectures by visiting professors, fitness programs, museum and cultural events.

What the Library / Librarian Has to Offer to Teaching Faculty

Building on what professors teach and expect, library instruction typically extends beyond the basic topics of the catalog and indexes to include plagiarism, citation skills, resource evaluation and search techniques. With the exception of introductory classes, faculty would undoubtedly prefer to devote class time to their subject. Thompson states that there are three curricular changes of which teaching faculty need to be aware:

the concept of information literacy is broader than traditional library instruction; accreditation agencies are increasingly calling for information competencies to be built into the curriculum; and as a result, teaching faculty are asked to collaborate with librarians to include these skills in the course (p. 236). Some examples of librarian expertise include:

* Consultant in the research process

* Team-teaching

* Perspective about what other university libraries and how other disciplines on the home campus and other campuses are collaborating in assignments, research, integrating information literacy into the curriculum

* Assistance in assessment and in using assessment tools

* Expertise in issues surrounding plagiarism

As accreditation boards increasingly require information literacy elements in the curriculum, faculty might want to check whether information literacy is part of the formal school mission statement, departmental guidelines, or individual course syllabi. If not, the collaboration process can begin by opening discussions with librarians. Jill Jenson's 2004 article It's the Information Age is a great starting point for any teaching faculty member wanting to get some ideas on integrating information skills into the classroom and assignments.

Information Literacy Opportunities

The following are general examples of collaboration opportunities beyond traditional instruction sessions that librarians provide or participate in at the university level:

* Teach for-credit, multi-session library courses

* Teach first-year student programs, Freshmen seminars, Honors student services

* Teach information literacy workshops for faculty

* Creating a discipline or population-specific center in the library (e.g. the Chicano Resource Center)

* Develop and present specialized new-student orientations in specific disciplines (e.g. Nursing or Distance Education)

* Develop and support digital tools such as the TILT information literacy Web tutorial at and the Assignment Calculator created by the University of Minnesota, available at

* Develop and integrate tutorials, research guides, and other learning objects into course software such as WebCT and Blackboard

Assignments and Activities

Below are some examples of commonly-used student assignments or activities that are based upon the ACRL Information Literacy Standards. California State University Fullerton has provided examples of fully-developed assignments in various disciplines at

Standard One--The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed: Turns in a thesis statement with key terms and concepts identified in order to organize their approach to research. Determines overall timeline for gathering resources.

Standard Two--The information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently: Lists appropriate resources (such as databases, Web sites, books, etc.) to be used for information retrieval and turns the list in to the instructor for review. The instructor can set a minimum resource requirement to include two or more books, one Web site, and three peer-reviewed articles. Turns in an annotated bibliography of works consulted, with minimum resource requirements to include an encyclopedia, newspaper, and a scholarly article.

Standard Three--The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system: Evaluates two Web sites for usefulness, and turn in a list of "good" and "bad" sites based on criteria such as currency and bias. Participates in an in-class or virtual debate on a current pro / con topic; retrieves relevant information using both print-based and online resources.

Standard Four--The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose: Reflects on successes, failures, and alternative strategies by submitting a research notebook, a list of research questions to be reviewed by the instructor or peers. Also, this can be done by having in-class discussion or online chat. Finds an article in a popular magazine or newspaper that references a research study.

Finds the referenced research article using the appropriate article database. Includes a paragraph discussing the process.

Standard Five--The information literate student understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally: Attends a citation workshop or other similar library instruction workshops to help students cite correctly & avoid plagiarism. Participates in faculty-led chat in Blackboard or WebCT to discuss Netiquette.


Librarian-faculty partnerships produce many positive results. In addition to sharing the workload, the broader dissemination of departmental, instructional, and professional goals means that the library will provide better support to the discipline when selecting books and journals, in instruction, and in reference assistance. The more often teaching faculty are aware of librarian interests and expertise, and vice-versa, the more likely fruitful collaboration will develop. Librarian-faculty partnerships could be greater, and if teaching faculty and librarians take an active role in establishing and maintaining information partnerships we can reach our mutual goal of creating lifelong learners.


American Library Association (1989). Presidential committee on information literacy: final report. Retrieved 8-23-04

Association of College & Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved 8-23-04,

Christiansen, L. Stombler, M., & Thaxton, L. (2004). A report on librarian-faculty relations from a sociological perspective. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 30, 116-121.

Donham, J. & Green, C. W. (2004). Perspectives on ... Developing a culture of collaboration: Librarian as consultant. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 30, 314-321.

Ducas, A. M. & Michaud-Oystryk, N. (2004). Toward a new venture: Building a stronger partnership with faculty. College & Research Libraries, 65, 334-348.

Ducas, A. M. & Michaud-Oystryk, N. (2003). Toward a new enterprise: Capitalizing on the faculty/Librarian partnership. College & Research Libraries, 64, 55-74.

Frank, D. G., Raschke, G. K., Wood, J., & Yang, J. Z. (2001). Information consulting: The key to success in academic libraries. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 27, 90-96.

Hardesty, L. (1995). Faculty culture and bibliographic instruction: An exploratory analysis. Library Trends, 44, 339-367.

Jenson, J. D. (2004). It's the information age, so where's the information? Why our students can't find it and what we can do to help. College Teaching, 52, 107-112

Kotter, W. R. (1999). Bridging the great divide: Improving relations between librarian and classroom faculty. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 25,294-303.

National Forum on Information Literacy. Information: International programs and projects. Retrieved August 23, 2004 from

Neely, T. (2002). Sociological and psychological aspects of information literacy in higher education. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.

Porras Hein, N. & Miller, B. A. (in press). Quien Soy? Finding my place in history: personalizing learning through faculty / librarian collaboration. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education.

Reeves, L., Nishimuta, C., McMillan, J., & Godin, C. (2003). Faculty outreach: A win-win proposition. Reference Librarian, 82, 57-68.

Rockman, I. (and associates). (2004). Integrating information literacy into the higher education curriculum: Practical models for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Thompson, G. B. (2002). Information literacy accreditation mandates: What they mean for faculty and librarian. Library Trends, 51, 218-241.

Zurkowski, P. G. (1974). The information service environment relationships and priorities. Washington, DC: National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences.

Collette M. Davis, California State University Fullerton

Rosemary McGill, California State University Fullerton

Davis, M.L.I.S., is the Education Librarian, and McGill, M.L.I.S., is the Reference and Access Services Librarian.
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Author:McGill, Rosemary
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2004
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