Responses to the Changing Environment: Resilience in Libraries

Resilience when faced with a changing environment is critical not only to survival but also to the growth and development of an organization. To achieve this, we need to be willing to practice and model innovation within our organizational structures. Based on our exploration of the above intersections, we find that the scholarly communication and information literacy programs need to converge at many levels of the organization. In this next section, we use the concept of information fluency to elaborate on new directions, explore ways we can integrate the key issues of scholarly communication into our teaching, and highlight opportunities for collaboration and organizational change.

Toward Information Fluency

Concept of Information Fluency

We use the phrase information fluency in this section to describe an intended outcome of deeper collaborations among teaching and scholarly communication librarians. Our use does not imply that we feel “information fluency” is a substitute for information literacy, and we are not taking a position on such a substitution. There is a great deal of excellent writing on the topic, such as Mackey and Jacobson (2011). For the purposes of this paper, information fluency is used as a term that embraces all of the elements that are included in the theory and practice of information literacy, as well as focuses deliberate attention to the socioeconomic context of knowledge production, the legal situation regarding the intellectual property rights of authors and creators, and critical thinking about the most appropriate platforms and technologies with which to create and distribute new knowledge. Like information literacy, information fluency strives to help all learners incorporate these skills into a lifelong sensitivity to the full scope of knowledge creation, dissemination, use, and impact. The term fluency indicates a high level of skills, and ease of practicing those skills. The information fluent person has integrated technological skills, with an understanding of all aspects of finding, using, reusing, and interacting with information and knowledge in the networked digital age, and practices those skills routinely. A recent series of workshops on “Information Fluency in the Disciplines” includes many examples of projects that forward information fluency.

Our students consider themselves to be very comfortable using the technology and social media they have grown up with to locate information that they feel is “good enough” for their particular needs. In their world of instant information filtered through personalized social networks, we as academic librarians need to reassess our roles as teachers, what content we present as core, and the intended outcomes of our educational programs. In addition to working with students who come with established habits, we also need to partner with faculty to help students develop new skills and new habits that will lead them to becoming truly fluent in traversing the digital landscape so they can not only access appropriate scholarly resources but understand the production of those resources and create new resources.

Curricula for Information Fluency

Teaching about finding and using information now requires knowledge of how that information was created, who created it, who owns it, and what can be done with it. A key paradigm shift has been the move away from the type of instruction known as “point and click” to a higher level of instruction that guides students to learn not just where to find information, but to think critically about who is producing the information, the economic factors relevant to the information source, and how the restriction of access to information affects the ability to find the most significant materials to address a specific question. Regardless of job title and reporting structure, librarians are teaching in many different settings, whether working with students on creating digital projects such as video, helping them do basic XML mark-up for digitization projects, and working at information desks, as well as in the classroom. This work is more effective when the best teaching skills are brought together with the wide range of content needed to help develop the information fluent student.

To meet this goal, librarians develop programs of instruction that are more fully integrated into the curriculum and include scholarly communication topics. They influence the development of a higher level of learning related to understanding how to evaluate, select the most appropriate resource, and integrate that information into building new knowledge while appropriately acknowledging the work of others. This provides an opportunity to embrace and promote the expertise that librarians have in effective methods of teaching, in subject disciplines, and in the literacies needed for the digital environment, including visual, communication, media, and data. We must fully incorporate our understanding of the changes in scholarly communication that affect the production of art, literature, and peer-reviewed scholarly work. We must include an understanding of the factors that determine access to this work and ultimately the impact of that work. Recognizing as well as demonstrating our unique expertise in these areas should help to emphasize that we have an obligation to help students and faculty become more fluent with digital information. For example, an upper level student in the humanities might need to learn the basics of XML TEI markup because the works studied were digitized using that standard, and the student will expected to use it in graduate school.

As part of deepening our involvement with teaching in the many different settings noted above, we need to contribute to the education of students and faculty about disseminating the results of their work. We no longer are only developing collections and providing access to purchased resources, we are now able to share the intellectual and creative works of our institutions. As part of our response to the new digital environment, we must create new opportunities to make scholarly and creative works available, whether they are individual papers, journals, videos or images, or monographs, in an openly accessible manner using systems created for the purpose of sharing content to the widest possible audience via the Internet. This allows us to further educate students and faculty on the economic, as well as legislative, issues that are affecting scholarly communication. When they learn to make their own work more accessible, they also become advocates for changing the broader system, by, for example, passing student and faculty open access resolutions, and supporting legislation.

To reach the ideal of information fluency among students and faculty, librarians engaged in all levels of instruction need to teach them best practices in the use of copyrighted materials as well as materials that are freely available, and help them understand the conditions of use in licenses. Working with faculty for course materials, for example, or working with students on the appropriate use of digital images on publicly accessibly Web-pages, creates opportunities for us to use our expertise in copyright and licensing. We need to take advantage of “teachable moments” to engage in informal instruction about information in the digital age. We need to communicate about the constraints users may face in accessing and re-using information created by others, and to raise awareness of inequitable access to information globally. As we transition to an even wider variety of electronic formats with great potential for data mining and reuse of content, additional components to the information fluency curriculum will need to be developed by academic librarians, and so our work as teachers will continue to evolve as we focus on what students need for lifelong learning in the digital information environment. This work will move forward more successfully if we build collaborations among information literacy and scholarly communication librarians.

Evolutions in Pedagogy: Integrating Effective Methods into Teaching Scholarly Communication

Incorporating the changing nature of the scholarly communication system into our teaching requires all of us, regardless of job title, to learn and apply the best practices in teaching based on understanding of student learning, using good instructional design and the most appropriate teaching technologies. This approach produces the most long-lasting results, whether the setting is a first-year undergraduate seminar, a research ethics class for graduate students, or a copyright workshop for faculty. The past decade has seen an increasing focus on undergraduate research, a prime opportunity for librarians to share their expertise and educate the future generation of scholars. Efforts to improve undergraduate education continue to focus on research-based learning opportunities. Teaching librarians can build upon these opportunities by creating experiential learning opportunities for students that explore elements of the scholarly communication process. Students engaged in undergraduate research are not only using the resources that the library provides, they are creating new knowledge. The production of new knowledge is being shared in multiple venues, including research symposiums, student journals, institutional repositories, and professional conferences. Librarians can engage with students in these venues and share their knowledge of the information life cycle in formal and information educational encounters.

The changing landscape of scholarly communication, an increase in the kinds of media formats for creating and sharing information, and changing models of teaching are among the most critical reasons why we need to keep current with new ways of teaching in all our settings. We can no longer expect that only instruction librarians with special training in teaching will forward the library role in education, and librarians with experience in scholarly communication will forward the library’s role in the changing nature of scholarship. Best practices in teaching should be shared across these frequently disparate areas. All librarians regardless of job title need to learn, understand, and practice the best approaches to instruction in their many different environments.

Teaching Scholarly Communication Issues

How can librarians teach the complex issues of scholarly communication? Our knowledge of the publication and dissemination process places librarians at the heart of this discussion. As part of the undergraduate experience, students now have more in common with faculty, since they are making discoveries with firsthand knowledge and are increasingly involved in the production of new knowledge and consequently publishing in a variety of formats. By presenting publication and dissemination as part of the information cycle, librarians can help faculty, academic administrative staff, and students gain a deeper understanding of scholarly communication issues such as the economics of scholarly publishing, copyright, authors’ rights, open access, institutional repositories, and the management and preservation of scholarly work. This teaching is more effective when active learning, and other ways to fully engage the learner, are applied. Whereas being able to apply copyright law to the most common ways of working with content in higher education was once a matter of applying a set of rules, it is now necessary to help our communities apply critical thinking skills in order to integrate a more fundamental understanding of our copyright regime.

Experiential learning takes advantage of the student’­­s ability to make meaning from direct experiences by actively involving the learner in the experience while presenting opportunities for him or her to reflect on observations and understandings. The facilitating librarian can partner with faculty to create learning opportunities that enhance analytical skills while providing the opportunity to make decisions and solve problems around scholarly communication issues. Guiding students through the publication and dissemination process gives them a sense of personal investment in the process that allows for a deeper understanding of complex issues that the student can continue to apply in graduate school or professional experiences.


Sidebar: Copyright Education: Evolution from Learning Rules to Critical Thinking

In many academic institutions, a large component of copyright information transmitted to users is about the rules or guidelines established to determine the amount of material to put on course reserve. Users and library staff have come to see these guidelines as copyright law, and at the same time they do not learn about the aspects of the law they should apply, such as fair use. However, ideas about how best to apply copyright law to the use of materials in the academic environment have evolved a great deal. The ways this is taught need to evolve along with new thinking about the importance of exercising fair use and teaching students to be critical thinkers about the use and reuse of content. The Code of Best Practice for Academic and Research Libraries (ARL et al, 2012) provides a powerful impetus for organizations to apply active learning concepts to the teaching of copyright. This code can be used to teach principles and to help librarians, faculty, and students practice applying these principles to typical cases in academic libraries. Rather than “teaching the code” in a traditional lecture manner, each library department or committee whose work is affected by the code could be encouraged to discuss and present specific applications of the code to their work.


Specific Activities for Teaching Scholarly Communication Issues Using Creative Teaching Techniques and Technologies

The following are select strategies for creating learning opportunities that are applicable to teaching scholarly communication issues, either as integrated into course curricula or as part of a separate series of workshops on topics like open access and copyright:

  • create opportunities where students can gain knowledge from peers and their environment;
  • adopt the “flipped” classroom model, with more material provided to the students outside of the classroom, and more classroom time for engaging with the material;
  • construct activities that work with various learning styles, such as using immediate response via clickers;
  • develop tutorials and self-guided instruction modules;
  • create an environment where students can build upon their previous experiences and current projects, while gaining more firsthand knowledge in order to acquire and test new knowledge. Be sure to include time for exploration, thinking, and reflection;
  • librarians should be the mentor in the learning process while students are encouraged to be self-directed learners since decisions regarding scholarly communication will be made on a case-by-case basis.

Additionally, librarians can facilitate conversations about scholarly communication issues through a multi-prong approach that includes:

  • incorporating discussion of scholarly communication issues into course-integrated and one-shot sessions;
  • reaching out to formal undergraduate research programs where faculty are paired one-on-one with undergraduate students;
  • developing presentations (at varying degrees of depth) for research groups, faculty meetings, and graduate student meetings;
  • creating online instructional material aimed toward different audiences;
  • participating in the organization of campus symposiums and conferences;
  • teaching open workshops that address scholarly communication issues and marketing those sessions to campus groups;
  • partnering with your campus research board.


Sidebar: Students Learn About Publishing

Illinois Wesleyan University, a small private liberal arts college, involves students in all aspects of publishing the Undergraduate Economic Review (UER), a born-digital, open access journal that publishes excellent undergraduate research in economics from all over the world. Reviewers and editors are given an orientation to scholarly publishing, including a primer on author rights, the economics of publishing, open access, and how the UER contributes to progress in these areas. The faculty advisor, student editor-in-chief, and scholarly communication librarian work together to develop and deliver the orientation and follow-up activities.


Students’ larger Web lives lead them to broad generalizations and misunderstandings regarding issues such as copyright. Librarians should engage assessment techniques (e.g., worksheets, portfolios, rubrics) that will reveal an understanding of the issues that students face during the publication and dissemination process. Teaching librarians can also survey and interview students to gauge their evolving understanding of scholarly communication issues. Collaborating and consulting with scholarly communication librarians will help the teaching librarian to develop instructional material suited for a variety of constituencies.

Embracing effective and appropriate technologies and teaching techniques for scholarly communication issues is essential in the current changing digital information environment in which our students and faculty operate.

Opportunities for Collaboration and Changes in Organizational Structures

Librarians’ evolving roles in response to new initiatives in academic organizations were explored in our third intersection, and the benefits of greater collaboration are woven through all of the intersections. Both scholarly communication and information literacy programs thrive only when the librarians involved are actively collaborating across campus, through involvement with teaching centers, publishing and grant support offices, and close communication with deans and provosts, as well as individual faculty.

Here we propose that a key response to the changing environment includes deepening all of these collaborations and developing new roles and organizational structures within our libraries that encourage and reward such collaborations. We see changes in roles exemplified by new job titles and job descriptions, and the inclusion of scholarly communication into the guidelines for liaison librarians; for example, guidelines at the Dartmouth College Library now include statements such as “Educate and inform faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and campus administrators on issues of scholarly communication. Be a resource for issues such as scholarly communication, open access, institutional repositories, and digital collections” (Dartmouth College, 2012).

Changes in organizational structures are underway in many organizations at all levels, but they are not always well recognized. Nevertheless, they are often necessary responses to new opportunities in the digital environment. Organizational structures are evolving from our traditional structures of public services and technical services, particularly in the development of information literacy directors and scholarly communication positions.


Sidebar: Cross Campus Collaboration and Organizational Change

In the fall of 2009, faculty, staff and students at Parkland College gathered for a series of discussions about the role of scholarship at a community college and how we at Parkland demonstrate scholarship. Using Ernest Boyer’s paradigm, as outlined in Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Boyer, 1990), we easily identified many examples of scholarly and creative work on our campus. It then became obvious that Parkland had no centrally located mechanism for preserving, sharing, and showcasing all of this scholarly and creative work. In order to meet this need, in 2010 we developed an institutional repository (IR), SPARK: Scholarship at Parkland. SPARK is one of only a handful of community college IRs in the country, and has already earned both statewide and national recognition for innovation at the community college level. At Parkland College, SPARK is facilitating a deeper understanding of student success, reinforcing high expectations for student achievement, and fostering a college-wide dialogue about scholarship and scholarly communication.


Parallels between the mainstreaming of information literacy and scholarly communication in libraries serve as useful models for organizational change. In the early 1990s, the concept of scholarly communication became part of the library vernacular, coming years after information literacy developed out of bibliographic instruction as a core aspect of library responsibilities. (For a visualization of the timelines, see Palmer and Gelfland, 2011). Scholarly communication first grew out of concerns about proliferating costs of information. As libraries perceived that they were buying back at unsustainable prices the scholarly outputs of their faculty, the scholarly communication movement was born to address the range of relevant issues. Having a separate scholarly communication position may not be possible at many institutions, and even where these exist it is critical to have a strong integration with the much more established educational program at all levels. We find new models in those librarians whose responsibilities currently lie in both areas as we witness how they blend their roles and integrate scholarly communication concerns into the classroom.

The big challenge for librarians is how to capture and respond to the vitality of the intersections between information literacy and scholarly communication while accounting for disciplinary differences and larger trends. Academic library administrators are creating new structures and systems within library organizations to incorporate scholarly communication issues in much the same way that our profession transitioned from an earlier generation bibliographic instruction model to a more sophisticated information literacy model, with outcomes and assessments developed as part of the instructional design. Librarians are again expanding their roles and expectations, focusing on technologies and the affordances they offer to experienced and novice scholars, faculty and students alike. This paper asserts that the transformation of the roles of academic librarians will be most effective and most powerful when we weave together information literacy and scholarly communication, integrating the two into new services within our professional practice. In turn, organizational structures need to support this direction.

We acknowledge that academic libraries function within a wide range of types of institutions and have many different organizational structures. We recognize it may prove challenging to move beyond a sense of clear lines, division, and duality. We realize that many academic librarians, ourselves included, often start with the framework “the bulk of my work as a librarian focuses on either information literacy or scholarly communication.” Our organizational structures are still deeply grounded in divisions of public services and collections services, with scholarly communication developing from collection services and information literacy developing from public services. We assert that, as a profession, academic librarians need to move to a sense of interconnectedness, with its inherent ambiguity (for some). We not only see but encourage the view that “My work as a librarian is shifting to encompass both information literacy and scholarly communication.” While this integrated view is beginning to be adopted within the profession, it needs to become a widespread norm.


One Response to “Responses to the Changing Environment: Resilience in Libraries”

  1. I think this is a good paper on an important issue. I think the support of digital scholarship is going to be the biggest challenge being faced by institutions in the coming years. I was curious as to why there was no mention or emphasis on the need for library/IT collaboration in dealing with the intersections. Instructional technologists work with faculty and students in similar ways and on similar issues. Beyond the technical issues of supporting digital scholarship a Library/IT collaborative approach to supporting faculty and student scholarship and information literacy will yield better results. Maybe this is assumed in smaller institutions (I think it is essential) and in larger institutions there tends to be re-creation of IT capabilities within the Library. It also seems that closer partnership with faculty, through academic governance, could be made more explicit.