Libraries Faculty Fellows Evolve Into Advocates
August 7, 2018
In January 2018, the Drexel Libraries launched its first Libraries faculty fellows program, an idea that arose while looking for alternate ways to extend the Libraries’ human capacity to advance its refreshed strategic initiatives.
Although the program ended in June, this inaugural group of Libraries fellows has already volunteered to continue their focused projects and have asked to form a cohort of Libraries Advocates. What an amazing and unexpected outcome of our winter/spring pilot!
For the pilot, four Drexel faculty members were appointed and worked through the spring on the following projects:
- Lloyd Ackert, PhD, Associate Teaching Professor of History, gauged receptivity among Drexel faculty to adopt open textbooks and greater use of the Libraries’ licensed resources in course assignments, toward lowering student out-of-pocket costs to access reading materials.
- Lorraine Richards Bornn, PhD, Assistant Professor of Informatics, assessed the Libraries’ resources and procedures and validate the approach to switch from a print to an electronic archive, focusing on its records management responsibilities for dissertations and theses.
- Joy Phillips, PhD, Associate Clinical Professor, School of Education, explored an idea to leverage library resources and expertise to develop an extracurricular course or other form of training to build competitiveness for young scholars through effective dissemination of research.
- Chris Sales, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, helped improve research data management support offered and coordinated by the Drexel Libraries by engaging select faculty in an assessment of the evolution of researcher practices and support services.
In July, the Libraries faculty fellows reviewed with each other and the Dean of Libraries their experiences, identified benefits and limitations of the program, and recommended continuation of engaging faculty as fellows to help the Libraries achieve its strategic directions and to promote its resources and services. Several common insights emerged from the group’s experiences, articulated by the following comments:
- Interactions with the Libraries staff “behind the scene” were fascinating and helped fellows understand the environment for projects and recognize the “extremely impressive knowledge” librarians have, something that that is not known by most faculty.
- Faculty don’t always know what they don’t know. “I did a lot of research to ‘get up to speed,’ but I learned a lot.” Faculty across campus “speak different languages.” Many are unaware of the requirements libraries face in ensuring access to licensed and archived materials.
- Use of fellows is a “brilliant and new mechanism,” according to two who had worked with other libraries as “fellows” for use of collections for their own research and in various advisory roles.
- Centering the projects around the Libraries’ strategic directions raised real connections across individual fellows’ work. Good connections gained “will be helpful to work with others on campus” for other topics as well.
- Short term of engagement is both attractive and a limitation. There is a big learning curve up front, so a short term works well to explore an idea, but might need more time to also implement a pilot. It is easier to manage a short engagement than taking time from other duties for a full year commitment.
These ‘great experiences’ offered personal growth for all. Faculty noted their fellowship appointments in tenure packets, annual evaluation reports and teaching promotion portfolios. One fellow was particularly proud that his department chair recognized the fellowship within the College as a competitive award.
Recommendations for future fellowships began with a strong endorsement to continue the program. Bringing fellows together as a cohort throughout the appointment is recommended not only to further inform individual projects and increase campus networking, but also to motivate fellows to meet set timelines for completing the work. The group asked to continue their involvement with their projects; and furthermore, to serve as a cohort of advocates for the Libraries, brought together regularly with future fellows and perhaps other advisors.
Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries, concluded that this commitment of support from a group of faculty colleagues with heavy teaching and research demands is the most rewarding outcome of the project for the Libraries. The application of disciplinary research and teaching expertise to help address our initiatives has exceeded expectations for increasing the Libraries’ human capacity to improve services and resources. But the desire to continue support of the Libraries through such engagement over time is not only well appreciated, it helps position the value of the Libraries within the academic community.