2019 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award Winners Announced

2019 Excellence in Academic Libraries winners

ACRL announces the recipients of the 2019 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award – Swarthmore College Libraries, Swarthmore, Pa.; The College of Western Idaho Library, Nampa, Idaho; and Case Western Reserve University Kelvin Smith Library, Cleveland, Ohio. Sponsored by ACRL and GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO, the award recognizes the staff of a college, community college, and university library for programs that deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution.

“I am delighted that ACRL can highlight the many amazing accomplishments of academic libraries through this award,” said ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen K. Davis. “This year’s winners demonstrate a clear commitment to student success, a creative and inventive mindset that results in innovative programs, and engagement with the local and campus communities. Receiving an Excellence in Academic Libraries Award is a tribute to each library and its staff for outstanding services, programs, and leadership.”

Swarthmore College LibrarySwarthmore College Libraries, winner in the college category, impressed the award committee with its integration of social justice into library services.

“The social justice theme that infused all of the work presented in Swarthmore College’s materials made them a standout, exemplifying their team approach and thoughtful integration of values,” said Irene M.H. Herold, chair of the 2019 Excellence in Academic Libraries Committee and librarian of the college at the College of Wooster. “Their work with the National Security Archive creating research internships which included filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests; workshops bringing book artists in conversation with local Syrian and Iraqi individuals resettled to the area; and commitment to sustainability and an open approach to education for impact as demonstrated by actions to make texts affordable and featuring faculty who published in open access publications are just a few of the many highlighted activities that demonstrated how Swarthmore College Libraries did not just meet, but exceeded the award criteria.”

One of the library’s major programs, Swarthmore Projects for Educational Exploration and Development (SPEED), is an intensive student summer practicum in collaboration with the college’s Information Technology Services department that pairs students experienced in computer science with projects proposed by faculty and staff. Students receive real-world development experience, faculty and staff benefit from dedicated development time, and as part of the 2018 program, students had the opportunity to present their work in lightning talks at campus-sponsored events. SPEED offers Swarthmore students a sense of ownership and proficiency in their projects, as well as a reflective experience and an opportunity to engage with the community.

“We are thrilled to receive this recognition of the fantastic work of the Swarthmore College Libraries staff,” said Peggy Seiden, college librarian at Swarthmore College. “Together we continue to realize our dreams for what this library can be for our community – inclusive, risk taking, innovative. This is a snapshot of a beautiful moment.”

College of Western Idaho LibraryThe College of Western Idaho Library (CWI), winner of this year’s award in the community college category, was chosen for its creative innovation.

“The College of Western Idaho is a college and library that did not exist ten years ago. Now, this library provides a model of best practice for what can be accomplished with creativity, will power, and goodwill,” noted Herold. “In a decentralized campus, the library was innovative in looking at how to function and provide communal space to support student and campus needs as a library, maker hub, and mobile classroom. Of their many noteworthy activities, the inclusion of student employees in implicit bias training, the development of a chatbot named ‘Patronus,’ and micro-credentialing initiative stood out. They provide service with respect and dignity. As noted by a student response from the library’s 2018 annual survey, ‘The library to be honest is freaking amazing.’”

The CWI Library has made micro-credentialing a major initiative since launching its Information Literacy Badging Program in Blackboard in January 2017. The badges, online modules with multimodal instructional content, simple webpages, and librarian-produced videos, are available to all faculty and credit students. Upon completion of the program, participants receive a “Research Basics Meta-Badge.” The badging program has extended the library’s reach across campus, and inspired other departments and institutions, including neighboring Boise State University, to develop similar initiatives.

“We are humbled and thrilled by this recognition from our academic library colleagues,” said Kim Reed, director of library services at CWI. “This award shows it’s not things, such as a big endowment or a state-of-the-art facility, but rather people who make a library great. As a young community college library, our most valuable asset is our talented, collaborative, innovative team of staff who consistently rise above everyday demands to guide our students towards greater academic and career success. The College of Western Idaho Library’s greatness derives directly from our amazing staff.”

Case Western Reserve University LibraryCase Western Reserve University’s Kelvin Smith Library, winner in the university category, was selected for its collaborative approach to problem solving.

“The Kelvin Smith Library partners to solve community problems and applies what they do to solve problems within their own community,” said Herold. “As quoted in their nomination, ‘Research can be used for the advocacy of communities experiencing disruption and inequality,’ and the library is a shining model of this.

“Noteworthy among numerous reported activities were the Freedman Fellowship for Digital Scholarship program, using space assessment data to make changes in support of student success, and its National Personal Librarian Conference,” Herold continued. “The library not only embodies their strategic plan goals of ‘research,’ ‘learn,’ and ‘experience’ in everything they do, but also is user feedback driven to ‘continuously redesign the library to ensure that new generations of students continue to respond positively so that they see the library as being their library.’”

The Freedman Student Fellowship for Digital Scholarship program supports full-time faculty with integrating new digital tools and technology into their research. Since its inception in 2010, the program has awarded over $90,000 to more than 50 faculty members for a wide range of projects, including a sexual assault kit initiative using ArcGIS visual mapping software to plot assault data, undergraduate student research on race and education in Cleveland Heights, and 3D imaging of artifacts from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to increase their accessibility through a virtual reality experience.

“We are elated to receive this important recognition of the collaborative achievements of our highly motivated and creative staff, who work tirelessly to ensure student success, advance research, and provide a conducive environment to stimulate a love of learning,” said Arnold Hirshon, associate provost and university librarian at Case Western Reserve University. “Our culture is one of unceasing reinvention, with a commitment to continuous exploration, experimentation, systematic program development, and rigorous assessment. Being the recipients of the ACRL award inspires us to persevere in our never-ending pursuit to provide pioneering, vibrant, and highly user-centric programs, services, and facilities for our university community.”

Each winning library will receive $3,000 and a plaque, to be presented at an award ceremony held on each recipient’s campus.

Additional information on the award, along with a list of past winners, is available in the awards section of the ACRL website.

About ACRL

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for academic libraries and library workers. Representing more than 10,000 individuals and libraries, ACRL (a division of the American Library Association) develops programs, products, and services to help those working in academic and research libraries learn, innovate, and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL is on the web at acrl.org, Facebook at facebook.com/ala.acrl, and Twitter at @ala_acrl.

About GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO

GOBI® Library Solutions from EBSCO offers over 15 million print and e-books to academic, research and special libraries worldwide. From streamlining workflows to partnering with library staff, GOBI Library Solutions is committed to providing the best solution for libraries’ acquisition, collection development and technical service needs. For more than 40 years, the mission has remained same—to partner with libraries in providing access to the broadest selection of scholarly content available. For more information, visit the GOBI Library Solutions website at: gobi.ebsco.com.