Faculty and librarians agree: support for faculty research is among the key missions of the academic library. According to “Bridging the Librarian-Faculty Gap in the Academic Library,” a recent report produced by Library Journal and Gale, a global provider of library resources and part of Cengage Learning, 84% of faculty and 79% of academic librarians believe that it is “essential” or “very essential” to provide these services to the faculty on campus.

Given the strength of this response, we wanted to further investigate what the report had to say about this important function of the academic library. Below, we take a deeper dive into the report’s findings on this topic, and we also offer some recommendations that can help you make the most of the research services available to you as faculty member.

Academic library services and support: Essential to the faculty research process

The great majority of all faculty (89%) regard library resources as essential to their own research. (By discipline, the highest percentage of faculty who agreed with this statement came from the Humanities, at 94%; the lowest percentage, 81%, came from among the Science/Technology/Math faculty.)

What’s more, the campus library serves as a critical hub for faculty research. As noted at the start of this post, 84% of faculty members ranked support for faculty research as an important aspect of the library’s role on campus. Looking more closely at faculty responses, 34% said that faculty research support is an “essential” service, and 50% say it’s “very essential.”

Do academic librarians correspondingly see this as a key aspect of their job? According to this survey, they do: 31% said that support for faculty research was “essential,” and 49% said it was “very essential,” to the library’s role on campus.

According to most of the faculty respondents, the college library also plays an important role after the research is completed and the articles are written. Of them, 61% said that “Adding faculty articles to the digital repository” is an “essential or very essential” service. (Half of the academic librarians gave the same ratings to this statement.)

Taking these numbers into account, we can see that, on the whole, faculty and academic in agreement about importance of library services as they relate to faculty research. But are they satisfied with the level of service the library can provide?

Satisfaction with the library’s service and support of faculty research

Most faculty give a positive grade to their campus libraries. When asked, “What grade would you give your campus library with regard to how well it supports your needs?,” 39% gave the library an overall “A,” and 40% gave the library a “B.”

Again, this represents overall satisfaction with the library, but when faculty are specifically asked about the level of service they receive in support of their research, numbers indicate that they are fairly satisfied. Of the faculty, 30% said that their library’s support was “average,” 34% said “above average,” and 23% said “excellent.”

Librarians gave their service slightly higher marks than did the faculty; 35% rated their support of faculty research as “average,” 34% as “above average,” and 26% as “excellent.”

A lack of pertinent resources—or general support for the library from the institution—may have bearing on these findings. As one faculty member noted in the report, “Our library does an excellent job with the extremely limited resources they have; our problem is that the university does not support the library to the extent necessary. Our library does not support my research specialty at all and I would have to have access to a research institution to do functional research in my field.”

Librarians echoed this statement; one commented, “Our library strives to provide the necessary research materials to support faculty and student research. Due to severe budget cuts the last seven years, we’ve had difficulty in achieving this goal.”

Despite these challenges, academic librarians do strive to help faculty achieve their research goals, and regularly fulfill this aspect of their mission. Below, we explore many of the types of services available to researchers, and how you can take advantage of them.

Library services that support faculty scholarship

You may be a seasoned expert at finding and using your library’s research services. However, if you’re new to the research process, or if you’re embarking on the research process at a new institution, consider taking these steps to find the help you need:

  • Learn more about the research services available through your library. Most libraries include a section about these research services on the “Faculty Support” page of their website. You may discover that they offer many more services than you’d expect! In addition to “standard” offerings such as interlibrary loan and citation management, we’ve seen libraries that offer services for copyright and permissions, data management, media production, electronic document delivery, specialized databases for faculty use, automated alerts about new publications in your areas of interest, and more. Your library may also offer research consultation, or workshops directed towards the specific research needs of faculty members. You may even be able to reserve a carrel or study room that’s set aside for faculty use.
  • Enlist the help of a subject specialist or library faculty liaison. Most research libraries have these subject-area experts on staff, who can help you in your search through the specialized resources available from the library for your discipline. Set up an appointment with the subject librarian to get one-on-one assistance with your query or project. In fact, set up a regular appointment, at least twice a year, with your subject specialist so you can collaborate on your research and classroom needs. Your librarian wants to hear from you. One of the biggest complaints of librarians is that they feel faculty are too busy to meet with them, and they need and value your feedback for purchasing decisions.
  • Ready to publish or distribute your findings? Ask your librarian about the institutional repository; this service enables colleges and universities to collect, archive, and disseminate the research work produced by faculty (and, in some instances, graduate students as well). You may find much more than journal articles here; many institutional repositories hold theses and dissertations, posters, conference proceedings, grant proposals, data sets, photographs and slides, and more. (The scope of the repository may vary by institution; review your library’s policy and ask your librarian for assistance.)

 

What is your experience regarding faculty research in your college library? If you’re a faculty member, do you receive the level of support you need? If you’re an academic librarian, do you believe you’re able to fulfill the needs of your institution’s faculty? Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

Download the complete report by Library Journal and Gale: “Bridging the Librarian-Faculty Gap in the Academic Library