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Report uncovers best library practice

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A new report sets out recommendations for academic libraries to enhance their working relationships with academic teaching and research staff. The six-month research project by the LISU research group at Loughborough University and commissioned by SAGE looked at three geographic areas; the USA, UK and Scandinavia.

The findings indicated that there is no systematic evidence of the value of academic libraries for teaching and research staff. Despite this, librarians noted that they receive positive feedback about the support the library provides, but there is a perception that academic staff do not really know how to use all that the library can offer.

The report outlines three key issues identified by librarians as being central to working together with faculty. These are: value measurement and perception; working together with researchers and teachers; and raising awareness about library products and services. The report sets out examples of best practice and makes a series of recommendations for libraries and university management to improve the perceived value of academic libraries with teaching and research staff.

It highlights the need for individual libraries to develop teaching skills. According to the report, embedded teaching and co-teaching are extremely valued by teaching staff, who can observe the benefits in the quality of the assignments they receive from students. Communication was also viewed as key. This includes building an increased understanding of marketing skills, as well as greater personal relationships with teaching and research departments. In addition, confidence in librarianship skills and the motivation of library staff to take on these new roles was seen as vital to success.

The report also advises that library managers support staff in acquiring new teaching skills, and reviewing resource allocation to enable librarians more proactive contact time with research and teaching staff. It also advises the systematic collection of evidence of value, suggesting that this be a specific responsibility for a senior member of library staff.

The findings were based on eight case studies: in the USA at Purdue University; Towson University; University of Utah; and Wake Forest University; in the UK at  the University of Nottingham and University of Sussex; and in Scandinavia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and; Oslo and Akerhus University College, Norway. Additionally a survey was undertaken by 630 librarians in the same regions to compare findings.