Creators in the Academic Library

ACRL announces the publication of Creators in the Academic Library: Instruction and Outreach, edited by Alexander C. Watkins and Rebecca Zuege Kuglitsch, and Creators in the Academic Library: Collections and Spaces, edited by Rebecca Zuege Kuglitsch and Alexander C. Watkins. These books explore how to teach specifically for creator research and deepen students’ understanding of their own practice, as well as how academic libraries can build collections, spaces, and communities that serve creators.

Learn more about Creators in the Academic Library in this series introduction by the editors, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.


The idea for these volumes arose out of our collaboration and work with creator students. Both of us began working at CU Boulder around the same time, as a science librarian and an art and architecture librarian, so we began to work together as we learned to navigate a new institution. Over time, Rebecca’s work shifted to more applied science, working with engineering students, while Alex delved deep into his work with environmental design students and studio art students. We noticed similarities in our experiences working with students whose academic paths focused on creating. Regardless of students’ disciplines, we noticed they were challenged to switch between the research practices of academic and creator communities.  While they benefited from traditional academic library support, they also had unique needs as researchers creating objects, designs, or experiences.

We discussed how engineering students, designers, and studio artists turned to the academic literature to inspire and ground creation—but they also sought information in other places. They used a wide variety of sources, such as trade literature, patents, standards, or how-to manuals. They also applied tacit knowledge gained not only from publications but also from teachers, colleagues, and peers. We began to investigate the literature of practitioner and creator students—essentially any student who was learning not only how to write within academic discourse but also to create objects, designs, and experiences. In our work, we identified a few consistent themes. Academic creator students typically

  • learn the language and practices of at least two distinct communities (e.g., academic art discourse and practicing artist discourse);
  • engage with varied source types and formats (e.g., technical standards, trade publications, GIS data, and scholarly articles in planning a civil engineering project);
  • draw from multiple disciplines (e.g., local history, ecology, human psychology, and architectural precedent in designing a building);
  • rely on tacit knowledge from peers (e.g., designers seeking inspiration from peers, consulting with colleagues on the application of a technical report); and
  • work in unique spaces (e.g., fabrication labs, makerspaces, and studios).[1]

We’ve found our work enriched by the commonalities we found among our students. While there is significant literature within disciplines on many of these communities’ unique information needs, there was very little on the crossover between them. We wanted to build a collection of ideas and strategies that would span the disciplines and showcase shared practices, sparking new ideas as librarians transfer strategies for art students to engineers and vice versa.  Our hope, as you read these books, is that no matter what kind of creator students you work with—whether they create experiences or objects, whether they create based in the sciences or based in the arts—you’ll find something to transfer to your own practice as an academic librarian.

Notes

  1. Rebecca Kuglitsch and Alexander Watkins, “From Studio Space and Makerspace to Workplace: Adapting Instruction and Outreach to Fit the Needs of Practitioners from Art to Engineering,” in Information Literacy in the Workplace, vol. 810, ed. Serap Kurbanoğlu et al., Communications in Computer and Information Science (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2018), 87–97, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74334-9_10.