My peers are not my tribe

Today I read the Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2010: Insights from U.S. Academic Library Directors.  Then I tweeted, “Reading the Ithaka Library Directors report, and am disappointed in my peer group, based on this evidence. This is not the benchmark I want.” I was asked what caught my eye, and what I do want from my peers in library administration.

Well, here’s what caught my eye.

  1. 65% of respondents either Strongly Disagree (7%) or Neither Agree Nor Disagree (58%) that their library has a well-developed strategy to meet changing user needs and research habits.
  2. Library Directors and Faculty Members have a strong difference in perception of importance of the Librarian as Teaching Facilitator — More than 90% of Library Directors believe that, vs 60% of Faculty Members.
  3. More than 90% of Library Directors declared the Teaching Facilitator role to be of great importance in 5 years (most important role), vs 80% who felt the same about our role as Buyers (4th most important role), yet 55% of Library Directors chose Online or Digital Journals as the place they would put an unanticipated 10% increase in their budgets (first priority), vs 35% who said it would go for Staff for reference and user services (third priority).
  4. Only 47% of Library Directors reported that they have all the information they need to make informed decisions about when to deaccession print journals that they have access to digitally.
  5. Nearly 100% of Library Directors indicated that “Supporting faculty instruction and student learning” is a priority in their libraries, but between 40-65% indicated that “working with instructional technologists…” and “working with faculty to incorporate digital information resources into their curricula” were priorities.
  6. 75% of Library Directors still think it’s very important that libraries be “gateway”s.

I could go on.  Instead, I’ll give my [admittedly ranty and whacked out over my lunch hour] reaction to each of the above.

  1. These are Library Directors.  The chief administrative officer of the library.  The one person tasked with vision and leadership for their institutions. NO WONDER PEOPLE THINK WE SUCK. We DO suck, as a group, if 65% of us can’t say “Yes, I have a strategic plan to meet changing user needs.”  Good god, people.
  2. We are staking our professional relevance on Information Literacy, yet 40% of faculty members don’t think that it’s an important role for libraries? See above re: absence of leadership.
  3. So, Information Literacy = our Great Big Future Goal (for which we have no strategic plan, see 1), but we would put our money, if we got more, into collections? Which is our 4th priority? The cliched statements that come to mind are plentiful, with “Put your money where your mouth is” being at the top of my list.
  5. Wait. So, we want to stake it all on Information Literacy, and so 100% of us want to be awesome supporters of teaching and learning, but 35-60% of us don’t want to partner with the people who influence teaching and learning? I MUST be reading this wrong.
  6. Dude. Accept it. That ship SAILED. In about 1998. Stop trying to swim after it.

Or, boiled down, the Twitter response (140 characters!) is that I want “benchmarks from ppl taking on the future w/purpose, not people who admittedly don’t have a strategy to meet changing needs.”


  1. The #6 is absolutely, absolutely the most astonishing bit for me. Agree 100% with your reasoning but I’d put the date at 1994 or 1995. Anybody who is hanging their hopes on being a “gateway” for access deserves to be thunked on the head.


  2. Great responses Jenica. Thank you. It seems like the results show a real disconnection between what is priority in mind and what ends up being priority in $$. How disappointing that is.
    6 is laughable…it shows how out of touch library leadership is. That is sad to me- are they looking around the world we live in? Do they not know google exists? There is a thing called the internet…ok- sorry to be snarky there- its just frustrating to work in this environment at times.


  3. Good read, and can’t agree more with most points, not least #6 re ships having departed.

    Along those lines, however, I’d ask you about point number two. You stated that we stake our professional relevancy on information literacy (which gives me pause), but peg the failure of 40% of faculty to buy into that as a failure of leadership. Is this perhaps just another ship that has sailed, i.e.- convincing faculty that we can be partners in teaching and learning? I’m overstating my skepticism/pessimism here, but my concern is that that 40% segment is only going to grow, and our influence over that development will be minimal, strong leadership or not. The reasons are myriad, I would posit, but don’t fit in a comment.


  4. I wonder if the explanation is desire to avoid conflict with faculty – so while academic library directors want to push information literacy, they don’t want to piss off faculty so they adopt faculty’s priorities(access to journals) when it comes time to budget?

    If so, that might be an issue with academic librarians in general, not unique to management.


  5. I agree with the frustration. It isn’t difficult to develop and have a plan or to perform these tasks. Why are they hired in the first place?

    I also think there is always a disconnect with management’s perception and staff perception. I don’t know how many surveys I have seen where management thinks they are a great boss where the staff think they are an idiot (Dilbert anyone?)


  6. So many ships have sailed, and so many people are still swimming. *cue age-ist-ish remarks*

    Libraries need agility. Not “need” as in “I need to get to the gym more” but as in “I need to escape this building full of zombies, or they will eat me and I will die.”

    Or worse, become another zombie.


  7. I think the battle to change faculty (and college administrative) perceptions of librarians away from “gatekeeper” and towards that of teaching/learning collaborator can (and perhaps must) be won. Of course, that means we need far more rigorous, multidisciplinary and collaborative data gathering and analysis in order to back proactive campaigns on every campus to prove that the need for curriculum/program/course-level IL integration and learning is there. That it is essential to discipline learning. And that we are the profession best equipped to collaborate with faculty and Instr. Techs to tackle it.

    Whether that can be done anytime soon, given what this survey shows about current leadership, and given, in my opinion, the shortcomings of most MLIS programs, I’m not sure…


  8. The very good discussion happening on FriendFeed points out a few things:

    1. The survey instrument and its phrasing may be skewing this data. To which I say, DEAR GOD I HOPE SO.
    2. Shit like this is why librarians hate administrators. To which I say, Well, duh. But it should make us long for good ones instead of condemning us all to a rudderless, leaderless profession.


  9. I think there are two core reasons for this:
    1. most people appointed/hired to be library directors end up being there because they have outlasted everyone at their institution or because they have experience (which they got, often, by virtue of seniority to begin with). Somewhere along the way it was *assumed* they magically picked up how to admin and manage – no training required or given! And this means that there is a cycle of bad admins in the library field, since people often learn how to manage from those around them.
    2. The last point is probably reflective of external pressures – the external funding for the library, after all, still often demands that the director proves that the library IS a gateway (electronically, sometimes, but sadly, still physically) in order to prove their relevancy and get funding. Many directors know this is an outdated way of thinking about things, but there are great dinosaurs then them to them out there.
    3. I am just grateful there are directors out there that *talk* like infolit and related matter. My director frequently talks how instruction and reference are simply not needed anymore. Internally and externally, both on campus and off.


  10. To clarify, in my lexicon,

    peer = someone in a similar professional role

    tribe = someone to whom I relate and with whom I empathize based on mutual beliefs, ideas, and desires.

    Which means that there are peers in my tribe, and members of my tribe in my peer group, and says nothing about who they are, what professional qualifications they have, or … anything at all, really.


  11. I have “sat” on commitees, trustees, yada, yada, yada…I have re-designed an “important library in New England. I have had a LOVE for libraries, since fifth grade, and yes the format of information has changed however the information has not…Libraries are the place to experience information. Noe with internet portholes for those who don’t have it at home, the library has become an access point and producer of information for the first time in herstory…


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