Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Academic Libraries and Non-Academic Departments: A Survey and Case Studies on Liaising outside the Box

Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

Academic Libraries and Non-Academic Departments: A Survey and Case Studies on Liaising outside the Box

Article excerpt


Partnering with non-academic departments allows academic libraries to create new programming ideas and reach more students. According to the results of a national survey, academic librarians at institutions of all sizes are partnering with many different types of non-academic departments. These partnerships offer efficiencies through shared cost and staffing and offer additional benefits to all groups involved. This article identifies the non-academic departments that these libraries are partnering with, highlights potential events to raise awareness of services, and describes ways in which these partnerships help engage with students.

Keywords: collaboration, partnerships, campus partners, liaisons, academic support services, outreach, academic libraries


Academic libraries are increasingly working with non-academic departments on their campuses to form partnerships that benefit both groups. In order to find out how and why academic libraries are collaborating with non-academic departments, the authors surveyed librarians across the United States. Libraries of varying sizes are partnering with non-academic departments; these partnerships create new ways to offer and promote services to students, and in many cases, help to save time and money. In this article, the authors examine the types of partnerships that libraries are creating with their campus communities across the country and present the findings from their survey.

While it is clear from the literature that libraries are partnering with non-academic departments to create programs and support students through co-curricular activities, most of the literature refers only to collaborations in very narrow instances such as one-time partnerships for single events or within the construct of an information or learning commons. This article attempts to broadly identify current academic library partners, what types of programming and activities come from these partnerships with non-academic departments, and why libraries value those partnerships.

Recently, colleges and universities have been moving support services into campus libraries for multiple reasons, but regardless of co-location, libraries are positioned to leverage partnerships to aid student retention. (1) Libraries are establishing partnerships with student health and wellness divisions, counseling centers, writing centers, career services, and advising centers, among others. Sometimes these partnerships are based on physical proximity of services points, sometimes they are based on existing librarian liaison relationships, and sometimes they stem from librarian expertise.

Reasons for Collaboration

Collaborations between libraries and non-academic departments may begin for a variety of reasons. In some libraries, partnerships begin with solid planning and forethought in order to reach a broader audience with students. Libraries may partner with non-academic departments in these circumstances to utilize referrals and co-location to raise awareness of available services for both partners. (2) In related circumstances, partnerships are often born from identifying student needs and a desire to align the library to new strategic goals. (3)

Libraries are viewed as neutral spaces or a "third place" on college campuses. Introducing the concept of the third place in The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg identifies the first and second places as home and work respectively. (4) Although these places are not regularly discussed in library literature directly, if campuses are a microcosm of the models Oldenburg is examining, these might map to residential spaces like dorms or Greek housing (first place) and classrooms, academic departments, and lab spaces (second place). (5) Third places are neutral ground where patrons can gather with social equality. (6) Libraries are unaffiliated with specific departments, offer equity of access, and are open on the traditionally off-hours, making them ideal partners for student support services. …

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