Reimagining outreach to faculty: A tale of two Florida academic libraries
January 15, 2019
By Barbara G. Tierney, Linda K. Colding
Librarian outreach to faculty is critical for raising faculty awareness and understanding of library services and collections
This article is the first of a two-part series highlighting outreach activities at two universities: University of Central Florida, which has 68,000 students and 1,900 faculty, and Florida Gulf Coast University, which has 15,000 students and 526 faculty. This article focuses on faculty outreach; the second will focus on student outreach.
University of Central Florida and library background
University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second largest public university, enrolling over 68,000 students and offering 92 bachelor’s degrees, 83 master’s degrees, and 31 doctoral programs. UCF Libraries supports a subject librarian service model that offers faculty “one-stop librarians” to support their teaching and research activities. Twelve subject librarians and eight campus librarians, across seven campuses, cover 65 subject areas. Librarians reach out to their assigned faculty via traditional strategies (new faculty orientations, e-newsletters, course-related instruction and research guides, and congratulatory notes) as well as offers of assistance with textbook alternatives, research-intensive courses, faculty cluster hires, research and grant support, and curriculum-integrated library programming.
In 2015, a group of subject librarians and instructional designers formed a “textbook alternatives team” to promote high-quality open educational resources (OERs) and library-sourced content to help reduce the cost of required course materials for UCF students. UCF subject and campus librarians reached out to their faculty to see if they were interested in providing free or low-cost materials to students by adopting an existing open text or replacing a traditional textbook with copyright-compliant OER materials or library-sourced content. From summer 2016 to fall 2018, this outreach initiative impacted 122 faculty, 274 course sections and 12,314 students. The total potential savings for students was over $1,000,000.
In spring 2018, UCF rolled-out a research-intensive (RI) course initiative that invited faculty to redesign their existing courses to fit a RI profile, which emphasizes critical thinking, academic communication and research skills. Subject librarians reached out to the RI instructors-in-training to suggest strategies for redesigning courses, provide face-to-face or online instruction, and create customized research guides for each course.
Faculty cluster hires
In 2014, UCF began a series of faculty cluster hires (i.e. hiring multiple scholars into one or more academic departments based on their shared interdisciplinary research) to foster the development of interdisciplinary academic teams focused on solving complex societal problems. UCF subject librarians reached out to the academic departments supporting each of these clusters and offered to identify library resources for each topic. Subject librarians also reached out to the cluster hiring teams and offered to participate in campus interviews and order customized resources for each new hire as he/she came aboard.
Research and grants
When the nursing librarian reached out to UCF’s School of Nursing researchers, research coordinator assistants, and the UCF Office of Research and Commercialization (ORC) to offer his assistance in identifying library resources that supported research and grant writing, he was invited to create a “Research Funder Toolkit.” The resource that he created is now hosted on websites for the College of Nursing, ORC, and UCF Libraries (guides.ucf.edu/funder_tool_kits(opens in new tab/window)).
This partnership led the way for other subject librarians to reach out to the research coordinator assistants in colleges and academic departments all over campus to invite them to “meet and greet” events with subject librarians at the main library. This allows librarians and research coordinator assistants to strategize on joint research endeavors.
Curriculum-integrated library programming
From 2017 to 2019, subject librarians collaborated with faculty to present engaging, curriculum-integrated library programs. The titles included “Total Eclipse of the Sun,” “Observe the Moon,” “Explore Mars,” “ Lunar Eclipse,” “Earth Day,” “ Sea Turtle Walk,” “Dia de los Muertos,” “WomanFest,” and “Libraries Bridging the Gap Between Innovation and Entrepreneurship.” To ensure high attendance at these programs, the subject librarians invited selected faculty to bring their entire class to the programs.
Florida Gulf Coast University and library background
Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is a teaching university with 80 percent of its classes taught by full-time faculty. There are 58 undergraduate programs, 26 graduate programs, and five doctoral programs, with just over 15,000 total students. The Reference, Research, and Instruction (RRI) department is home to seven subject librarians, a department head who also serves as a subject librarian to one program, and an instructional support specialist. Subject librarians conduct the bulk of outreach to faculty as well as students.
Communication with faculty
The subject librarians use a variety of methods to reach out to faculty. Newsletters are created and distributed in both print and electronic formats. These newsletters update teaching faculty about library services, databases, and other resources available for their own or their students’ research. Some subject librarians attend their academic department meetings to provide this information. Other faculty communication includes congratulatory notes and emails for promotion. This personal touch forms friendships and lasting bonds.
The subject librarians attend the New Faculty Orientation prior to each fall semester and give a presentation about library services and resources. The librarians are invited to lunch, where they are able to mingle and network with their new faculty. As these working partnerships progress, subject librarians find it easier to reach out to faculty to provide instruction and create course-related material for face-to-face and online courses. Every FGCU course has an online account through Canvas, FGGU’s learning management system. General and course-specific research guides are developed and automatically embedded in each Canvas account. The faculty member has the option to turn the guide off, but this rarely happens.
The FGCU Author Series
The Reference, Research, and Instruction department originated the FGCU Author Series. Each month, a recent book authored by FGCU faculty or staff is featured with an accompanying poster on the FGCU authors bookshelf. The author and book are also featured on the library’s website and social media accounts and honored at an annual event hosted by the library dean. In addition to the FGCU president and provost, previous award winners, fellow faculty, and library faculty and staff attend. Now in its fourth year, this event is a time to celebrate the publishing accomplishments of the FGCU faculty.
The FGCU subject librarians are not the only library staff reaching out to faculty. Through the library’s Customer Services department, faculty can use the Library Express Document Service to pick up and deliver their library books, including those in the FGCU Library’s collection and materials obtained from interlibrary loan and uBorrow. Not only has this goodwill gesture brought nothing but positive comments, it has not lost a single book.
In addition, a space called The Study @ the Library is an area for faculty and graduate students to engage in collaborative research and writing. Faculty are welcome to meet with their graduate students for group research and writing projects or advising. The space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Librarian outreach to faculty is critical for raising faculty awareness and understanding of library services and collections. Whether the outreach strategy entails printed or electronic communications, face-to-face or virtual meetings, presentations or programs, successful outreach adds to the library’s “return on investment” and “value of libraries” metrics and allows the library to move beyond its physical spaces to engage with its users wherever they are.