Academic journal article College Student Journal

Getting Started as Distance Learning Librarian

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Getting Started as Distance Learning Librarian

Article excerpt

Many colleges and universities are developing distance education options for their current and future students. Library support is vital to the success of this clientele. Academic libraries that do not have Distance Learning Librarians will have to create these types of positions. This article illustrates the experience of one librarian in beginning such a position.


As more universities begin offering degree programs via the World Wide Web services for their students will have to keep pace if the quality and validity of these degree programs are to be maintained. In striving for this integrity, libraries will have to make considerable efforts to make library research materials available to their off-campus students. In accomplishing this, librarians dedicated to assisting distance students and faculty members will be needed to address the issues related to bringing libraries to remote users. What will these librarians need to be? The will likely need to be, as Abbas (cited in Sloan, 1998, p.122) concluded:

* Gateways to the future and past.

* Teachers.

* Knowledge managers/workers.

* Organizers of networked resources.

* Advocates for information policy development.

* Community partners.

* "Sifters" of information resources.

* Collaborators with technology resource providers.

* Technicians and individual information consultants.

While it is crucial that distance learning librarians fulfill some, if not all, of the roles on the list above, it will also be important for them to be good planners of services. In fact, some distance librarians will actually have to be the start-up librarians for their positions. Recognizing this, the question arises, "How does one launch this type of a position at a university library that has never had one before?" To examine this question, I will relate my experiences in starting such a position as I review literature related to distance librarianship. In doing so, this document may serve as an example to others who would like to begin such a position at their college or university.

Setting Goals

Designing a beginning for a distance librarian starts with reasonable goals that fit within the university's mission and ACRL Guidelines for Distance Library Services. In doing this at the Memorial Library at Minnesota State University, Mankato, I started with the following goals (these goals were for the academic year 2004-2005):

* Design a Distance Learning Web Site to assist distance learners in using electronic resources independently. This page will:

** Provide access to the MSU Memorial Library Online Catalog as well as to resources provided by World-CAT.

** Provide access to the Library's online subscription databases, many of which can be accessed remotely by students off campus who need the full-text of scholarly research articles for the research papers.

** Provide information about how to connect to information from off campus locations.

** Provide access to interlibrary loan and document delivery services.

** Contain helpful advice on locating library research materials.

* Collaborate with faculty who work with distance learners to be sure their students are aware of, and use, library resources effectively.

* Work with the Dean of Extended Learning and the Distance Learning Task Force to identify relevant issues in serving the distance learning community and recommend or implement solutions in order to serve this community well.

* Provide reference service for distance students and faculty as needed.

* Provide instruction for distance students individually or in groups as requested.

Developing a Strategy

With the above goals in mind it was necessary to formulate a plan that would assist in achieving them. To do this, I developed the following strategy:

* Recommend for purchase software required to produce online resources for distance students including but not limited to:

** Macromedia Dreamweaver. …

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