Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Crafting Identity, Collaboration, and Relevance for Academic Librarians Using Communities of Practice

Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Crafting Identity, Collaboration, and Relevance for Academic Librarians Using Communities of Practice

Article excerpt


This is not the story we meant to tell. The collaboration between the three of us, two College of Science librarians with 25 and 17 years of professional experience and a School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) graduate student nearing the end of her studies (now a Research Services Librarian at Valparaiso University), was formed as the result of the Directed Research program offered through the Indiana University SLIS program in Indianapolis. The program gives emerging professionals the opportunity to gain valuable research experience for course credit. Oakleaf recently wrote, "Community college, college, and university librarians no longer can rely on their stakeholders' belief in their importance. Rather, they must demonstrate their value." (1) Thus, the goal of our project was to demonstrate our value by uncovering the best methods for calculating the h-indices of faculty in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame. The h-index is one of the latest measures of publication impact based on citation counts. A scholar with an h-index of 5, for example, has published five papers each of which has been cited by other papers at least five times. (2) Our objectives were clearly defined by the three of us at the outset with additional support from a graduate student advisor, an Associate Professor with over 17 years of professional experience. Using the Web of Science database as a starting point, we decided it would be helpful to determine:

* Effective search strategies for finding faculty publications,

* How faculty curriculum vitae citation lists compared to the publications indexed in Web of Science,

* If Web of Science was the best database for the h-index calculation, and

* Whether it was better, for reporting purposes, to calculate the h-index at the individual or the departmental level.

The project was undertaken with the knowledge that a faculty member's h-index score is an increasingly important factor for determining tenure and promotion at the university.

This seemed like a valuable service for the faculty in the College of Science, and a way to broaden their perception of the nature of our professional services. However, we were surprised to discover the flood of curricula vita from the Department of Biological Sciences never arrived; instead we got a trickle. We soon understood our perception of what was important and valuable to the College of Science faculty might be out of alignment. Then we discovered another complication. In previous years, administrative assistants from the department had provided the individual h-indices using Web of Science. When one faculty member shrugged in response to our efforts to create a masterpiece of search-discovery and said, "Well, I expect it's good enough," we began to realize the faculty were satisfied with the results obtained by their administrative assistants. They did not need the score to be rigorous; they were not worried about whether Google Scholar would be a better tool than Web of Science. In their eyes, it seemed, the calculation was sufficient for clerical duty.

While these complications meant we could not meet our original objectives, we knew they did say something interesting about our view of ourselves as library professionals; they indicated a misalignment between the needs and interests of departmental faculty and our own. As professionals, our work should not only be relevant to the needs of our departments, it should also reflect our knowledge and experience. We began to investigate tools librarians could employ to improve relevance and change the perceptions of our services in the eyes of faculty colleagues. We conducted informal interviews with a few faculty members from the College of Science and professional academic librarians and researched the professional literature, including disciplines outside of librarianship. This led to the rediscovery of the Communities of Practice model. …

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