Academic Library Outreach: Beyond the Campus Walls

Academic Library Outreach: Beyond the Campus Walls

Academic Library Outreach: Beyond the Campus Walls

Academic Library Outreach: Beyond the Campus Walls

Synopsis

Traditionally, academic library outreach has meant reaching out to the campus community, providing services to faculty and students. Many universities and colleges, however, now have a new or renewed emphasis on outreach beyond the campus, seeking to ensure their institutions' relevance to the community at large. How can and do academic libraries participate in this type of outreach? What types of collaborations or partnerships are academic libraries forming with schools, public libraries, or community groups? How do academic librarians partner with faculty or campus departments on their community projects? What role does service-learning play? Nancy Courtney has assembled a sampling of approaches, from the innovative to the tried-and-true, each written in the voice of its strongest champion.

Excerpt

Nancy Courtney

Outreach is in the eyes of the beholder. Librarians seem to have difficulty agreeing on a definition of outreach, but, like good art, they know it when they see (or create) it. Many would agree that it means reaching out to those outside the library, but opinions differ on specifically to whom. Some would say to the community or to our users or to our clientele. Despite the assertions of many writers of articles describing outreach efforts, most academic librarians assume that outreach is meant for their own campus communities, specifically faculty and students. In fact, outreach is frequently defined more as a form of public relations (again with the “public” limited to the campus) or general raising of awareness of library resources and services. In this context, the library is certain of whom it wants to reach, and the questions are ones of methodology (brochures, newsletters, librarian office hours, chat reference, etc.) and measures of success (usually more use of services— higher gate counts, reference transactions, bibliographic instruction classes, etc.). In their study of academic library outreach position announcements, Boff, Singer, and Stearns (2006, 139) identified three broad categories of outreach positions: distance education, multicultural services, and what they called “specialized outreach” or “outreach to unique communities that require specialized collections or services.” The first two categories were aimed at services to a clientele of registered students and faculty and represented the bulk of the sample. The specialized category did include positions whose responsibilities were aimed at external communities but was limited to only twenty position announcements in a thirty-year period.

Once the concept of outreach is limited to external audiences, the question turns to what is being offered. Access to library resources on-site is the most basic service and often is the extent of outreach. Most academic libraries, both public and private, allow unaffiliated users access to their library buildings and, with it, access to . . .

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