Academic Librarians Launch a Strategic Campaign: Association of College and Research Libraries National Conference. (Special News Report)

By Eberhart, George M. | American Libraries, June-July 2003 | Go to article overview

Academic Librarians Launch a Strategic Campaign: Association of College and Research Libraries National Conference. (Special News Report)


Eberhart, George M., American Libraries


Dogwood and redbud trees were in full bloom April 10-13 in Charlotte, North Carolina, for "Learning to Make a Difference," ACRL's 11th National Conference, as a record-breaking number of academic librarians met to discuss issues and bring ideas home. Conference Chair Larry Hardesty, director of the Austin College library in Sherman, Texas, gave the final attendance figure at the closing session as over 3,490--150 more than the 2001 record set in Denver (AL, May 2001, p. 16-18).

The division also had a record number of first-time attendees (more than 900) and ACRL scholarship awardees (eight students and 64 entry-level librarians), who were given complimentary registrations and travel stipends.

One major event was the rollout of ACRL's national public-education campaign to promote the contributions of college and research librarians. Conference registration packets contained a toolkit stuffed with strategic-marketing ideas, and an all-day preconference that encouraged attendees to conduct their own "@ your library" training sessions locally was a sellout. "The toolkit is just a taste of the full campaign," ACRL President Helen Spalding, associate director of the University of Missouri at Kansas City libraries, told American Libraries. "The entire process is a way to get to know your users and listen and respond to their needs."

ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen Davis echoed the importance of the campaign, which was developed in partnership with ALA's Campaign for America's Libraries (AL, Jan., p. 6-8). "After watching the university snack bars and cafeterias getting outsourced, academic librarians may well wonder if they will be next," she said. "This effort provides them with the tools they need to tell their story and work with faculty and administrators to show that libraries are an essential part of the learning community."

Freshmen and the library

One educator who has been sending that same message is John N. Gardner, founder of the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina, whose presentation stressed the importance of the university library to freshman students. "The first year of college is when most students choose a major, establish a typical GPA, develop good (or bad) study habits, decide whom to associate with, and learn other adult-related skills," Gardner said. "Librarians need a piece of that time-allocation system."

Gardner urged ACRL to conduct a national study of how academic librarians influence the first-year experience and "produce a major report on the topic and get it on the desks of higher-education administrators." He acknowledged the excellence of ACRL's 2000 information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, but listed some areas he thought were missing, among them learning assistance centers outside the library, developmental education, residence hall programs, tutoring for campus athletes, and school/college collaboration programs.

Copycats and Web thieves

One of the bad habits that first-year students sometimes learn is how to plagiarize, either by cutting and pasting from the Web or by purchasing prewritten essays from term-paper mills. A panel of librarians shared their experiences collaborating with faculty to combat what some call an epidemic of plagiarism on campus.

Fran Ebbers reported on a survey she helped conduct at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, in which 10% of students reported obtaining a term paper from the Internet at least once, and 24% of faculty were certain that one of their students had plagiarized. In one incident, Ebbers actually overheard two students in the library bragging about how much they had paid for their ethics papers. …

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