Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

University of Arizona Application

The University of Arizona, a public, land-grant, research and educational institution, is dedicated to preparing students for an increasingly diverse and technological world and to improving the quality of life for the people of Arizona and the Nation. The University provides distinguished undergraduate, graduate, and professional education; excels in basic and applied research and creative achievement; and integrates these activities and achievements of regional, national, and international significance into everyday life.

University of Arizona Library Mission Statement

The University of Arizona Library is dedicated to meeting the diverse information, curricular and research needs of students, faculty, staff and affiliated customers. In an environment of free and open inquiry and with a commitment to excellence, the Library participates in the scholarly communication process to promote life-long learning skills and continuous educational achievement.


Making the campus better by being flexible, innovative and forward thinking. This is a primary goal of the University of Arizona Library. The Library has organized services and activities to positively respond to the educational and research endeavors of the University of Arizona. From extending hours to implementing total quality tools, the University of Arizona Library has been able to support the university's mission to "prepare students for an increasingly diverse and technological world and to improving the quality of life for the people of Arizona and the Nation."

Blackwell and ACRL provide an excellent opportunity for libraries to reflect on standards and outcomes. The University of Arizona Library has reviewed the award criteria and is pleased to submit this application for the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award. This document will identify the many services and outcomes at the University of Arizona Library that meet the criteria associated with the award. Indeed, the University of Arizona Library a responsive organization that enhances the university's complex mission of teaching and research.

ACRL Criteria: Creativity and innovation in meeting needs of the academic community

Issue: Students identified a need for increased library hours.
Actions: The Library worked with student leaders, the Provost office and reallocated resources.

  • The Main Library is now open 24 hours, four days a week. Book stacks and computers are available during these hours, as well.
  • There is an average of 280 users in the library during each extended hour day (12:30 to 7:30 AM)
  • Student feedback indicates that this is one of the most crucial services the Library provides.
  • Three of the Library's six branches also increased their hours.

Issue: In 1992 students and faculty identified as inadequate Interlibrary Loan, Reserve Books and Shelving services.
Actions: These areas were the focus of process improvement activities, which examined reducnies in work, the adequacy of work schedules and the needs of users.
Library staff gathered and analyzed data and discussed with users ways the Library could improve services.

  • Wait times for Interlibrary Loan materials have been cut from six weeks to three weeks.
  • Faculty using reserve for courses will have materials available in 24-36 hours, previously it took up to three weeks.
  • The shelving turnaround time has been reduced from 80 hours to four. UA shelving process and tools have been benchmarked by the University of Virginia, Texas A & M, and University of California at San Diego.
  • Between 1994-96: $283,000 was saved through these process improvement studies in the handling of reserves, interlibrary loan and shelving.
  • Process Improvement results were recognized at the state (Governor's Award for Excellence) and at the university level.

Issue: Remote access to library materials has been identified as a need by university library users.
Actions: The Library instituted Electronic Reserves, added electronic databases, mounted an online exhibition on this community's founding families.

  • In its first year of operation, 1998, only 30 courses were on Electronic Reserves, now there are over 500. Students are communicating with faculty the importance of this service.
  • Students have access to needed reserve materials, continually.
  • Library web exhibits have been looked at more than 400,000 times this past year.
  • In 1995 the University of Arizona had 1,664 full text items, now there are 6,772, an increase of 307%.

Issue: Focus groups and use statistics demonstrated that customers were frustrated with the UA's Library web page because they could not find needed information.
Actions: The UA Library created a cross-functional Access Team that conducted several usability studies, mostly with undergraduates. The team examined how students learn and navigate the Library's gateway. Library staff discovered students were confused by library terminology and students need a variety of tools to navigate, including visual clues.

  • A new Library web site has been designed to support users unfamiliar with library terminology and practices. It includes simple to use "tips" for enhancing their use of the library and "How to Find" menus.
  • The new Gateway allows increased access to the Library's homepage. Two million "hits" this past year and less toggling between pages, an indication that users are not lost.
  • The team's work and changes resulted in a nomination for the Governor's Award for Excellence.

Issue: The University of Arizona has been concerned about retention especially between the freshman and sophomore years.
Actions: The University of Arizona plans on a new campus center, the Integrated Learning Center. This unique space will consolidate teaching and services for first year students. The Integrated Learning Center will be connected to the Library through an Information Commons. At the Information Commons students can learn technological and information literacy skills.

In preparation for this new facility the Library instituted a "Prototype Information Commons." Situated in the reference rooms in the Main and Science Engineering Library, high-end computers are strategically placed to encourage collaboration and with ready access to library staff. The "Commons" staff instructs on computer and information literacy skills.


  • Informal instruction on software and information literacy issues occurs, on average, 569 times a month.
  • The Prototype Information Commons is the most popular destination of after hours customers. It was used 11,822 times during the Spring semester (January through May) between the hours of 12:30 to 7:30 AM.
  • Data at the Commons has allowed the Library to identify software tools needed by students. Therefore, the Library has increased its purchase and training of graphics and web tools.

ACRL Criteria: Leadership in developing and implementing exemplary programs that other libraries can emulate.

Issue: In 1992 and in preparation for the new century and the changing demands of library users, the UA Library asked itself how could the customer become the focus of work.
Actions: After gathering data, the Library reorganized into flattened team based organization. Two thirds of the Library staff participated in the design of new work. The UA Library's team based organization provides for flexibility, collaboration and the opportunity to provide innovative services.


  • An increased value on data collecting, fiscal responsibility, learning; resulting in better processes and increased savings.
  • A cross-functional team of librarians and staff gather local and national trends as well as library resources to write the strategic annual plan. The strategic plan allows individuals and teams to critically assess customer concerns.
  • Individual staff evaluations are based on efforts and successes to measure and improve customer service. Thus, greatly increasing contact with customers to ensure continual feedback on services.
  • Individuals are also evaluated on how well their performance goals are aligned with the Library's and the University's missions.
  • An increased presence on campus. In addition to holding office hours in residence halls, gyms and computer labs, librarians have taken on teaching and leadership roles to increase the student body's information literacy.

Issue: The Board of Regents, the state legislature and university administration has placed greater emphasis on cost effective programs and budget accountability.
Actions: Tools like process improvement, effective meetings, program management and conflict resolution have been taught to UA Library staff.

  • Outsourcing the cataloging and physical processing of 25% of the monographs received each year. This has resulted in the saving and reallocation of $180,000 and a reduction of time between receipt and shelving of books from six weeks to four days. Recently this has been reduced to 24 hours.
  • $107,000 reallocated by streamlining book-ordering procedures. Time for orders leaving the Library was reduced from 40 hours to 24 hours. Money saved has been used to improve salaries.
  • $308,451 was saved through a process improvement study in Technical Services and the reassignment of five positions to other critical work areas, including the newly established Digital Library Initiatives Group, and an increase in the number of librarians in our Undergraduate Services Team
  • Restructuring of the Materials Access Team resulting in savings of $81,000 and allowing for a broader sharing of team functions, expanded support in the branch libraries, and increased library hours.

Issue: Information costs are rising while state budgets are decreasing.
Actions: Library staff developed partnerships with state universities to maximize their buying power. As well, the Library staff began to perform "information advocacy" as part of their job duties.

  • Through consortia buying with the state's universities the UA has saved $2 million in 1999-2000
  • In 1998 the University of Arizona Library became a founding member of SPARC, which advocates re-introducing competition into scholarly communications and the accelerated delivery of information to users. The University of Arizona's professor Michael Rosenzweig became one of SPARC's first partners. Professor Rosenzweig is now successfully publishing a new journal, Evolutionary Ecology Review, with support form SPARC, the Association of Research Libraries, and UA librarians. The current journal is one third of the cost of Dr. Rosenzweig's previous journal, published through a commercial enterprise.
  • The Library created a new position, copyright and intellectual property librarian. This position educates library staff and campus faculty on how to protect copyright and advises on intellectual property issues.

Issue: Many faculty members, frustrated because undergraduate students lacked thorough research skills, requested that the University of Arizona Library scale up its information literacy program.
Actions: In 1997/98 an online tutorial to teach library and information skills was created at the University of Arizona. Research Information Online (RIO) is a step-by-step- tutorial that assists students in the research and writing process. The cross-functional team designing RIO, used focus groups with faculty and students, literature searches, and benchmarking (including the University of Washington, Purdue and UC-Berkeley). Also, customers tested a pilot program. The team identified core competencies on information literacy and held workshops to teach the integration of technology into the classroom

  • In 1999/00, its third year of operation, RIO was used 20,000 times.
  • The University of California at Chico has adapted RIO for its own campus needs.
  • RIO won an ACRL innovation award.

Issue: Research shows that students of color are more likely to stay in college and use the Library if they do not experience isolation.
Actions: The Library's Peer Information Counseling Program (PIC) is now in its' tenth year at the University of Arizona Library. This program employs minority students to work at the Library's reference desk and to participate in educational outreach programs at the University's cultural centers.

  • Each PIC student works on the reference desk. They also present library research skills to the Math and Science Learning Center, African American Cultural Center, Chicano-Hispano Resource Center, Math and Science Learning Center, TRIO, Filipino American Students Association, Minority Student Services and Global Student Programs. PIC students contribute and maintain web pages for the Hispanic and Native American Cultural Centers.
  • The university's minority retention is increasing. Many successful campus wide programs are contributing to its success, the Library's PIC program is one of them.
  • Marisa Durate's letter of support, enclosed, describes the power of the PIC program from one who has participated in it.

Issue: Having a diverse staff is part of the library's strategic goals, as well as a core value.
Actions: The Library's commitment to diversity is embodied in the position of Assistant to the Dean for Diversity, Recruitment and Staff Development. This individual is responsible for enlarging the number of minority applicants and supporting ways for all staff to learn about and value a diverse work place.


  • University of Arizona Library has the campus' most outstanding record for minority hires. Seventeen percent of the library faculty and 33% of the staff are individuals of color.
  • An average of six programs a year bring staff to together to hear from minority employees and gay and lesbian colleagues.
  • Racism and institutionalized racism are addressed in new staff orientation.

Issue: Technology presents a unique tool to address issues of diversity.
Actions: The Library sponsors online exhibits that promote the history and experiences of Tucson's from various ethnic backgrounds and acknowledges our multi-cultural heritage.

  • The Library's online exhibit Through Our Parent's Eyes, the story of this community told by its diverse founders, won the city of Tucson's, Diverse City Award for Excellence.
  • The Library's web exhibits on Tucson's diverse community were viewed at more than 400,000 times this past year.

Substantial and productive relationships with classroom faculty and students.

Issue: Librarians play a key role in graduating life long learners.
Actions: By partnering with faculty and increasing their teaching role, librarians are building information literacy into course curriculum.

  • In 1996, there were less than 30 partnerships; today there are 113. That is, a librarian is closely involved in classes and information literacy is built into course curriculum.
  • Librarians have created web pages that support course curricula.

Issue: Information issues and technological opportunities demand that librarians support more actively faculty research.
Actions: Over the past eight years the Library has concentrated on becoming effective partners in research and education with faculty members.


  • The UA Library is co-publishing, with Entomology professor, Henry Hagedorn a new journal entitled The Journal of Insect Science. The publication debut will be January 2001. This peer reviewed electronic journal will improve scholarly communication while reducing the costs of access. Begun with a subsidy from the Library, it will be supported in the long term by partnerships the Library will develop with other academic institutions.
  • The Library received an NSF $550,000 grant in conjunction with Entomology Professor David Maddison to expand a unique database called the Tree of Life database. The Tree of Life is a collection of over 1,600 World Wide Web pages containing information about the diversity of life. These pages are housed on twenty computers in four countries, and are authored by biologists from around the world. The Tree of Life is the platform for a number of courses in the biological sciences. It is a reference tree, research tool and curriculum resource. The Library is providing server and metadata support that will ensure the database is user friendly.
  • Making the backfiles of the Journal of Range Management available, as well as faculty databases and curricular notes on range management. This database, accessible to the general public and the library, provides reference service for national and local users. This collaboration involves the National Agriculture Library, the College of Agriculture Office of Arid Lands, and the Society for Range Management.
  • The "National Congregations Data Set Project".

In this project the Library is working with Dr. Mark Chaves, faculty member in the Sociology Department. Dr. Chaves surveyed of 1200 congregations in the United States. He examined a wide variety of issues associated with churches, synagogues and other religious organizations. The survey questions and scope could have been daunting, but UA librarians have streamlined the materials for easy researching. This database, created by UA librarians, is mounted on library computers and unifies unique and sometimes disparate pieces of information.

Professor Chaves states, "The library was essential because of their commitment to learning how to do something like this--a commitment that was evident both in coming up with the resources and also in managing the process so that steady progress was made. Without the library's commitment and energy this project would not have happened or, at least, it would not have happened so efficiently and quickly."

Summary: A university library does not exist in isolation. Rather it is an integral part of a large, complicated and essential community. The University of Arizona Library has listened to its constituents and has become the leaders our campus needs us to be. Teams, a culture of assessment, and an emphasis on outcomes have allowed the Library to respond positively to the demands of its institutions. It is why we are pleased to submit this letter of nomination.