Working with Chief Academic Officers and the Council of Independent Colleges

Editor’s Note: The is the first in an occasional series of post highlighting ACRL’s liaison relationships with higher education groups. This post by Susan Barnes Whyte discusses the Council of Independent Colleges.

ACRL has had a liaison to the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) for the past 12 years. Larry Hardesty, Founding Director of the College Library Directors’ Mentor Program and consultant, created this relationship and paved the way for a successful collaboration between the two professional organizations. Tom Kirk, Emeritus Library Director and Coordinator of Information Services at Earlham College, served in this capacity from 2005-2008, and I am the current liaison.

The Council of Independent Colleges is comprised of over 500 private colleges in the United States. Institutions belong to this organization which hosts various institutes for presidents, chief academic officers, departmental chairs and other such events. There is no librarians group within the CIC. The CIC has been a magnificent supporter of college libraries and their changing role in the academy. In the first decade of this century the CIC had a grant from the Hewlett Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon foundation to do workshops on “Transforming the Library in the 21st Century.” About 65 colleges participated, sending teams of librarians, faculty and deans. Currently the CIC is in its second year of hosting workshops on information fluency in the disciplines, specifically the humanities — more on this a bit later.

The role of the ACRL liaison to the CIC has focused primarily on the liaison attending the annual Institute for Chief Academic Officers each fall. The liaison has presented a session at this event and hosted a breakfast meeting or some other such event. Over the years, the presentations have focused on topics such as demystifying the academic library budget, information literacy, assessment, faculty and librarian collaborative work, and information commons, to name a few. Each Chief Academic Officers program has a focus, so often the ACRL liaison has worked within that particular area of concern. The Fall 2009 ACRL program focused on “Advancing the Library and Information Technology Program in Tough Financial Times” and featured, in addition to Whyte myself, Irving Wiswall, Chief Technology Officer for Linfield College and William C. Deeds, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Morningside College.

The CAO Institute is a wonderful opportunity for deans, provosts and vice-presidents to talk pragmatically about issues currently staring them in the eyes. The ACRL liaison thereby can talk with many deans about current library issues and also hear about the concerns at this high level of institutional leadership. The ACRL liaison reports back to ACRL through the Liaison Coordinating Committee and also reconnects with the College Library Section Executive Board so that communication happens back and forth between academic librarians at small colleges and dean/provosts.

In addition to attending the CAO Institute, I participated, along with Tom Kirk and other academics, in the first of several planned information fluency in the disciplines workshops. The first one, held last March in an unusually cold New Orleans, focused on information fluency within literature. Teams of librarians, faculty and deans or provosts attended this three-day workshop that featured Richard Lanham, Professor of English Emeritus, UCLA, and Susan Perry, Senior Advisor at the Mellon Foundation. This same workshop will repeat spring 2011 and another one will be held that is focused upon history. Successful partnerships in literature from Furman University, Augustana College, and Dickinson College, were featured in New Orleans as participants had work time to focus upon their institutional plans for information fluency in literature. Tom Kirk and I presented a session on how to make information fluency a priority when planning the college library budget, or, in other words, how do you effectively make information fluency a priority in a resource-stretched library?

The role of the ACRL liaison to the Council of Independent Colleges is invigorating and challenging. ACRL is fortunate to have had such a long supportive relationship with the CIC.

– Susan Barnes Whyte