ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award
Earlham College Application
November 27, 2000
Maureen Sullivan, Chair
Excellence in Academic Libraries Award
Association of College & Research Libraries
50 East Huron Street
Chicago, IL 60611-2795
Dear Maureen Sullivan:
Teaching and learning is at the heart of the Earlham College educational community. The value of the Earlham libraries' program is the way in which it has transformed the educational program, the teaching of individual faculty and the learning of students. For the libraries of Earlham College to be effective, they must contribute to the teaching and learning goals of the institution especially by helping the faculty to prepare students for a life of learning. Today's library program got its start some thirty-eight years ago when Evan Farber was the new library director. He realized that Earlham students were being asked to write papers that required library research but without any sense of how to go about doing the research. Using a very direct approach, Evan contacted a faculty member and asked if he could meet with the class to provide research assistance. At the time this direct course-related instruction was revolutionary.
Over the succeeding thirty-eight years, library staff and classroom faculty have worked together to build a program that assists students with their research assignments and develops students' skills as self-initiated learners. Ultimately Earlham students leave the institution with information literacy and other skills that assist them in being lifelong learners.
Librarians systematically carry on conversations with classroom faculty, from the time the faculty are appointed to their positions, about the libraries' instruction program and collections, and the role they can play in the new faculty member's teaching. The conversation continues as faculty members involve their students in independent research assignments. Each semester individual librarians are assigned to contact a group of specific faculty members to learn about course plans for the semester. Whether this leads to librarians' active involvement in the course will depend on the nature of the assignment, the types of information resources students are expected to use, and the previous experiences of students.
Early in a new faculty member's Earlham career or when a faculty member wants to create a new assignment, the librarian and faculty member work together to design an effective assignment. The faculty member has a set of goals which he or she wants to achieve with the assignment. A librarian tests the assignment, looking for the types of resources and skills students will need to complete it. At the same time the librarian and faculty member check to be sure library materials are available and to purchase those that are needed. Testing the assignment often leads to revisions both in the initial trial and in subsequent years as the faculty member and librarian gain experience with the assignment.
The librarians usually conduct one or more class sessions which both demonstrate and give students practice in using the research tools and learning information literacy skills. The librarians also create research guides for the assignments. In the past few years the library staff has worked diligently to integrate electronic resources with print resources as part of the instructional program. In the current program, the research guides are posted on the web, in the library's "Virtual Reserve Room," and provide an integrated listing of research tools (print and electronic) with links to those which are electronic. Last year the librarians generated ninety-three of these "Virtual Reserve Room" research guides.
While Earlham's bibliographic instruction/information literacy program is not universally used by the faculty, it is pervasively present in the curriculum. The library's thorough involvement in the general education program assures that all students use library resources in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and receive instruction in the use of these resources. In a study of the level of exposure of our students to bibliographic instruction we found that members of the class of 1993, who had taken an average thirty-one courses at the college, had an average of seventeen courses that included library assignments. Of those seventeen courses the class of 1993 received library instruction in twelve of those courses (Penhale, Taylor, and Kirk, 1997).
Today the level of instruction reported in the 1993 survey continues. However, there have been significant changes in that instruction. We are now doing less instruction in departments where the above study showed we were providing too much exposure. Inevitably there is some redundancy in this level of instruction. However, the focused nature of the instruction helps the library staff minimize duplication. Each instruction session or series of sessions focuses on the information resources and how to use them for the specific course assignment. Rarely does the instruction introduce resources or teach information literacy skills and concepts except, as they are specifically useful to the assignment. Furthermore the previous experiences of students are taken into account and basic tools (e.g., library catalog) are not reintroduced. The review of basic sources that does occur is done in the context of teaching advanced or specialized techniques appropriate to the specific assignment. Finally in today's world of rapidly changing information access techniques and expanding electronic resources, refresher instruction allows the librarians to keep our students appraised of changes and new resources as they become available.
The instruction program is the libraries' top priority and its quality has a significant impact on the curriculum and the institution broadly. To illustrate that impact, I have enclosed a list of the many outcomes, i.e., ways in which the library serves the institution. This impressive total involvement in the life of the College is evidence of the recognition, by members of the community, of the value and quality of the library's program, its library faculty and staff.
I have also enclosed a section of the North Central Association's "Report of a Visit to Earlham College" of 1993 which comments on the library. We were pleased that the Report confirmed our own self- assessment.
The Report points to the centrality of the library to the Earlham community and comments positively on the bibliographic instruction program and the newly renovated building. The Report also commented on future plans and concerns. I am pleased to report that we have acted favorably on all of the Report's comments. Earlham is a member, and a leader, in the development of the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI). The on-line catalog was implemented in 1994 and shortly thereafter the circulation, acquisitions, cataloging and serials modules were added. We have implemented a web interface for the catalog and are now including our on-line full-text journals. PALNI is more than a shared on-line system. With Earlham's leadership, the consortium jointly purchases on-line databases and participates actively in statewide consortial activities such as on-line database projects and a document delivery service. As a result, the library has an active interlibrary loan program that supplements the on- campus collections. The library's ability to fill requests is greatly accelerated by interlibrary loan agreements and the delivery service.
The 1993 North Central Report also raised a concern about the centrality of Evan Farber to the Earlham library program and what impact his imminent retirement might have on the program's future. However, Susan Krehbiel Taylor wrote in her 1991 study of Earlham's instruction program "The program is so well-established that change in personnel would not threaten the program's existence; bibliographic instruction is integral to the teaching-learning process at Earlham." Taylor's comments turned out to be an accurate prediction. Not only Evan Farber, but three other librarians central to the program's success have retired since 1993. New staff are in place, and as the letters from faculty attest, and current students confirm, the program continues to develop effectively.
I can also happily report that the library's material budget has been restored from the decline in the years prior to the 1993 Report. Library director, Tom Kirk, in his annual budget request for this coming year, which we discussed a few days ago, acknowledges that the combination of budget increases and newly established gift funds over the past five years have returned the library's materials budget to a buying power comparable to the level before the decline. The evidence of library use which is generated by the successful integration of the library into the curriculum helps make a convincing case to the College administration. Tom has pointed out that, contrary to trends elsewhere in the country, book circulation has increased over the past few years. He attributes that in part to the faculty's clear articulation of assignment expectations and the librarians' ability to make target book selections in support of those assignment expectations.
Finally the North Central Report looked to the future and encouraged the library, and the College more generally, to fully utilize computer technology and networking to deliver information and services. The Earlham libraries have embraced the use of computer technology and networking. I will only list some of the accomplishments of the past five years. However, in addition to the implementation of PALNI, the campus is now completely networked with wiring to campus residence halls, faculty offices, selected classrooms and a series of public labs. The College provides publicly accessible microcomputers to students at the rate of one computer for every nine students. The library provides a wide variety of on-line databases provided through vendors such as FirstSearch, EBSCOhost, SilverPlatter, Academic Universe, Dialog, and full-text files of periodicals over the campus network from sites beyond campus. Furthermore, the library has developed a robust set of web pages to facilitate access to electronic resources and to provide patron support in use of the library's collections. Last year the library, through PALNI, implemented a web-based catalog and implemented a proxy server capability that makes Earlham's electronic resources accessible by faculty and students at off-campus locations. The close working relationship of Computing Services and the Library has allowed us to support the libraries' technology needs.
Going back and reviewing the North Central Report has been very rewarding for me. Development of the bibliographic instruction/information literacy program has continued through the staff transition and has adapted well to the changing curriculum, new faculty and the increased presence of electronic information resources. Looking at the development of other facets of the library, which are important to effective service, in light of that 1993 Report's recommendations, confirms my judgment that Earlham continues to develop and adapt its highly effective library program.
The value of the Earlham libraries' program is the way in which it has transformed the educational program, the teaching of individual faculty and the learning of students. Those affected are best able to testify to the impact of the program. We have therefore asked a group of faculty, alumni and current students to reflect on their experience in the libraries' program and to share their insights. They are testimony to how the libraries' program of instruction is critical to the College's successful achievement of one of its general education goals:
Earlham aims to graduate students who possess skills to gather and evaluate information from many sources including print and electronic media.
Earlham Library Program Outcomes
Creativity and innovation in meeting the needs of our academic community
Earlham graduates rate their library experience highly
Earlham alumni survey results indicate that alumni feel very positively about their library experience at Earlham. On a four-point scale, 90% of the respondents indicate they felt positively or very positively towards those experiences. Furthermore, 77% who attended graduate or professional school felt their library research experiences better prepared them for graduate or professional school than their classmates, while 34% of the other felt they were better prepared than their colleagues in the work environment as a result of past library research assignments. Consistently, graduating seniors report a high level of satisfaction with the quality of the Earlham libraries and their program. This is documented in the 1998 Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium Senior Survey where more Earlham students (93% versus 62%) were very satisfied or generally satisfied with the library compared with a national peer group.
Earlham undergraduates with strong bibliographic research skills succeed in graduate school
Students studying the sciences at Earlham make extensive use of the library's journal collection. The faculty and the library staff have put into place an extensive course-integrated bibliographic instruction program teaching students how to access the scientific literature. This supports the students' term paper assignments and independent research projects-the type of work that contributes to the success of Earlham alumni in graduate school. In the 1998 Baccalaureate Origins Report ranking institutions according to the ratio of PhD's granted to bachelors awarded, Earlham ranked 21st in the Science and Engineering category among all institutions of higher learning, 12th among other small undergraduate colleges for overall Science and Engineering, 6th in the Life Sciences, and 5th in the Geosciences.
Assessment programs are used to refine the work of the library staff
The libraries have a model assessment program that it has used to guide the development of their services. This program was described in a 1999 paper presented at the ACRL Detroit Conference and is available on the web. Entitled, "Library Program Assessment," the paper describes, in part, the many facets of the libraries' assessment program: student focus groups, surveys of faculty, students and alumni.
The results of those surveys and focus groups have been used to enhance existing programs and to demonstrate the need for new programs. For instance, as a result of regularly administering a test to first-year students, the library staff has a better understanding of incoming students' experience with using libraries and electronic resources. The test results guide the librarians' design of instruction in first-year courses.
Earlham students and faculty have improved access to information through the library's electronic reference area and the library's website
In the reference area of the library, the library staff developed the first on-campus facility where video projection of computer images made it possible for students, faculty, and librarians to use the World Wide Web and other digital resources for classroom demonstrations.
Beyond the classroom experience, students can access the libraries' website from any location where a computer is available and find the library instruction materials for their course assignments in the "Virtual Reserve Room."
Students and faculty utilize electronic resources provided through the library's website from both on-campus and off-campus locations. Even those resources, such as subscription databases or electronic journals, which are restricted to Earlham College users, are available off-campus through a proxy server.
Japanese students at Earlham, a substantial community given Earlham's long-standing Japan Studies program, are able to read Japanese web resources and e-mail translated through CJK-language software installed on computers in the library reference area.
Scholars and genealogists at large are able to utilize unique Earlham resources through the library's website
The Friends Collection and College Archives area of the libraries' website extends access to unique materials held by Earlham of particular interest to Quaker history scholars and genealogists. The libraries receive an average of 15 such research queries per month via our email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Specific features of the Friends Collection and College Archives area of the website include: a searchable index of obituaries in the Quaker periodicals, The American Friend, 1894-1960; annotated listings of all manuscript collections held by Earlham: listings for the original records of regional Yearly Meetings; and the Josiah Parker Papers, a digitized collection of 42 scanned letters (Completion date: January 2001), with transcripts and contextual apparatus, representing Quaker life in North Carolina, Ohio, and Indiana, the anti-slavery activities of North Carolina Friends, and the work of Friends in helping free people of color move north to Indiana.
Faculty members revise long-standing assignments and create new assignments with librarian's help
As well as working with faculty members on an individual basis, the library staff has conducted workshops ranging from one hour to a half-day in length in order to alert faculty to new resources, particularly new electronic resources. As a result of these efforts, the faculty has revised course assignments to incorporate these new technologies. For instance, a sociology course on social movements now includes an assignment that asks students to use the websites of organizations as primary source material. Entire language courses have been organized around websites listed in our "Virtual Reserve Room." Faculty members also develop new assignments such as an assignment utilizing Internet resources on pastoral care developed by a faculty member of the Earlham School of Religion.
Faculty members consider bibliographic instruction to be integral to the students' use of the library in fulfilling course assignments
The library analyzed the use of the facility in the entire college curriculum offered during a four-year period (see "A Method of Measuring the Reach of a Bibliographic Instruction Program" presented at 8th National ACRL Conference in 1997.) This analysis showed a high level of library use throughout the four-year college curriculum. Students in the 1993 graduating class used the library in 51% of the courses offered. Faculty members requested bibliographic instruction in support of much of this course work: 67% of the courses requiring the use of the library also included bibliographic instruction.
The work of Earlham art students is available for community wide appreciation as a result of the "Library Senior Art Purchase Award"
Since 1973, the library has sponsored a competition of artwork by Earlham seniors in which the winning entry is purchased and put on permanent display in the library. The success of this program in rewarding excellence in visual arts and bringing it to the attention of community members and college visitors has recently resulted in the creation of a new award sponsored by the college President, the "President's Art Purchase Award," which began in the spring of 2000.
Leadership in developing and implementing exemplary programs that other libraries can emulate
Earlham in the literature
Earlham College's bibliographic instruction program has been of interest to librarians throughout its history. Numerous articles about it have been written by Earlham authors and by librarians from other institutions. Earlham's program continues to be of interest up to the present - in the 1990's alone, articles featuring some aspect of Earlham's library program have been cited at least 30 times.
Earlham librarians in support of other library programs
Extensive interest in Earlham's bibliographic instruction program also resulted in several decades of workshops for librarians and teaching faculty presented by invitation at colleges and universities across the country. In the 1990's, librarians from other colleges and universities continued to express an interest in learning about Earlham's bibliographic instruction program and campus visits to Earlham have been the major means by which Earlham staff have responded to these requests.
Substantial and productive relationships with classroom faculty and students
Librarians are involved in the academic lives of Earlham students from the outset of their college experience
Entering first-year Earlham students may elect to participate in the Wilderness Program, a month-long hiking or canoeing program preceding the fall semester. This program introduces students to the ethos of the Earlham community and helps them develop independent and group skills. Several librarians have co-led this program with other teaching faculty.
Librarians are included in the college system of academic advising and are assigned first-year students to advise.
A librarian is presently one of the team teachers in Humanities, the fall semester course required of all first-year students, a course that serves in many ways as the students' introduction to the intellectual life of the college.
One librarian participates as a teacher for a section of the Earlham Scholars' Colloquium, a first-year enrichment course, which involves regular reading of the New York Times and weekly discussions of issues raised by selected articles.
Throughout their college experience, students continue to interact with librarians beyond the realm of the library
Librarians have co-led with teaching faculty semester-abroad programs in Kenya and England, and one is soon to co-lead a program to Martinique.
A librarian holds a half-time appointment in the Art Department where she teaches weaving.
Librarians have joined with students in several collaborative research projects on international textile traditions, and on Quaker and Earlham history.
Librarians supervised three students carrying out an independent study project on library science.
An unusually high number of students go on to careers in library or information science
The College Alumni/Development Office, in cooperation with the Library, maintains a record of Earlham Alumnus who are working in the library and or information science field. Alumni groups meet regularly at ALA and ACRL conferences.
Librarians serve in leadership positions in the wider college community
A librarian is currently serving as "Clerk of the Faculty," a one-to-two-year appointed position as the head of the Faculty Meeting, the main governing body of the faculty at our Quaker college. This position could be equated to the Chair of the Faculty Senate at other types of educational institutions.
A librarian served a five-year term on the Faculty Affairs Committee, an elected position that makes recommendations to the President on hiring, renewal, and tenuring of teaching faculty.
A librarian is currently serving as Convener (Chair) of the Art Department, where she holds a half-time teaching appointment.
The faculty in designing the governance system has placed a librarian, ex officio, on the Curricular Policy Committee to ensure library involvement in approval of new courses and programs.
All librarians serve with other teaching and administrative faculty on the governance committees of the college.