Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Community Service Trends in Academic Librarianship

Academic journal article Collaborative Librarianship

A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Community Service Trends in Academic Librarianship

Article excerpt


Community service is an important aspect of academic libraries, often used as means of enhancing tenure and promotion portfolios (1). Some academic librarians participate in service through university-organized outreach activities, while others independently pursue community service that has personal significance. (2) Anthony Listing Antonio, Helen S. Astin, and Christine M. Cress identify, "Nearly 80 percent of all faculty say that they engage in some sort of service or volunteer activity." (3) Furthermore, they find "lower-ranking faculty members generally demonstrate the highest levels of commitment to community service activities." (4) This report on faculty, including librarians, supports the notion that active engagement with the community in academic settings is valued as a movement to not only academically excel but to go beyond the academic service model to improve society as a whole. To date, no targeted research has been conducted exclusively on an academic librarian's, faculty or non-faculty status, choice to engage in community outreach. Other issues to consider are an institution's promotion and tenure requirements as they relate to community service, as well as the institution's support for such endeavors.

Review of Literature

There is limited research on the academic librarian's participation in community service activities. As librarianship is service-oriented, many argue that the profession includes the necessity of being civic-minded and taking responsibility for the "common good." (5) Being a civic-minded professional has been defined as "...the philosophy that the educated have a responsibility ... for the public good." (6) As illustrated in a civic-mindedness study among academic librarians, "47% percent of respondents were current volunteers, and 97% gave money to charitable causes." (7)

The value of an academic librarian's participation in community service outreach is defended in the literature. (8) Pamela Louderback urges, "we must engage in community relationship building and define community outreach as one of the library's priorities in its services and overall mission." (9) Iona R. Malanchuk and Marilyn N. Ochoa argue for the academic librarian as a promoter of outreach in literacy education: "... because of their obvious public service orientation, academic librarians are especially well qualified to participate in community outreach programs such as literacy programs for children and youth." (10) Emphasizing the value of community service to librarians who already have faculty status, they assert that "participation in engagement and outreach programs helps address community needs but also provides career development incentives."

In a case study of community service initiatives of librarians at Mississippi State University (MSU) Robert E. Wolverton, Jr. and April K. Heiselt emphasize that librarianship is "a vocation based on service to the community." (11) At MSU, community outreach serves a dual purpose, satisfying the service element as well as the research component of librarian job expectations. MSU's promotion and tenure documents outline four types of service: professional, library, university, and library-related community service. (12) However, the authors acknowledge the diverse definitions of service among post-secondary institutions stating: "community service activities can be defined differently depending on the institution, and the level of impact they have on a library faculty member's evaluation for promotion and tenure can also vary." (13)

Lisa Romano's 2015 review of promotion and tenure documents examines 18 promotion and tenure documents and identified that there is a lack of "...definition of service even though service is listed as a requirement for promotion and/or tenure" (14) and that "the concept of 'service' is broad and subject to interpretation." (15) Further research is necessary to provide a clearer representation of community service in the profession and a librarian's motivations for undertaking service initiatives. …

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