2012 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

This past week our library was  awarded the 2012 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award in the College category. Our team is all really honored and excited here. We’re looking forward to the party that we’re going to throw in celebration of it, because after all there ain’t no party like a library party. I’m also really grateful to ACRL and YBP for this recognition. This is one of those moments that makes it all worth it.

The process of writing the application involved significant effort, but was very valuable. First, it was exceedingly collaborative. Multiple people wrote sections of the narrative. We also had an all staff meeting where we took time to think about how we meet the needs and serve the mission of the college. All of our staff’s voices were represented in the final application and this made the final application that much stronger.

Second, it was valuable to think of what value we provide to students, faculty, and staff and then prove it. Our thinking was closely related to the Value of Academic Libraries Report that came out last year. Instead of thinking of inputs (how many books we own, amount of funding, etc.) we thought about outputs (the impact that we make on faculty, staff, students, and ultimately the college as an institution). We had to give evidence of that impact. That evidence came in the form of both statistical data such as information literacy assessment data and Noel-Levitz data, but it was also anecdotal and included quotes and tweets like the one below directly related to academic success.


We were all ecstatic to have won the award, but even if we hadn’t I knew that we had a great team doing some special things together and a document that we could be proud of. We’re a “small but mighty” staff and we have a lot of fun in the work that we do together. Being able to articulate that in a way that proved our value to others and brought all of our staff’s voices together was extremely rewarding.


No man is an island…anymore

The days of rugged individualism are over. Being a maverick and going your own way are outdated. We are entering an age where success is measured by how well you are able to collaborate and draw on the strengths of groups.

students collaborating

From alist on Flickr

The main reason for this is the lack of barriers for people to connect, share ideas, and mash up other peoples’ ideas.  Things like wikis, cloud computing, social-networking, etc. are making it possible, unlike ever before to work collaboratively.

We used to have to worry about coordinating everyone’s schedule. Now it’s possible to not even have to know what your co-collaborators even look like. People can work on projects in their own way and on their own time.  They use their own strengths and interests to contribute to the whole.

An example of this is Wikipedia.  Not many people care or even know about the Penny Red.  But enough people do so that you can now know what it is.  In this way very successful products are created.  In the case of Wikipedia the product is a great storehouse of shared knowledge, and a place to go for quick answers.

In the academic world it should be no different. Professors should be assigning more group work, not only the traditional research paper. We do hold that up as a standard of scholarship, but at least at our institution, we are not trying to create scholars.  We are trying to create successful citizens of this country and this world.  We are trying to prepare them for careers where they will need to be easily adaptable and be able to work as a group.

Research papers are worthwhile and fine in small doses. But we should be getting more creative with assignments.  How about one where they research and add successful edits to a Wikipedia entry?  How about creating a Common Craft like video explaining their topic in an easy to understand way?

A research paper is so personal and often only the student and professor see it.  Editing Wikipedia is beneficial for everyone and teaches collaborative, 21st century skills.