ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

Austin Community College Application


Voters of the Austin Independent School District established Austin Community College in December 1972. In fall 1973, 2363 students registered, but for years the school grew at an exponential rate. Faced with financial hardships for years, ACC did not acquire any real estate until 1983, but survived by sharing facilities with the school district. Presently, ACC maintains six full-time campuses with an enrollment of over 25,00 credit students. As is typical for community colleges, our students are a very diverse group in terms of age, ethnicity, and preparation for college. Over 75% are part-time students, balancing school and work. Twenty-five percent take classes in workforce areas, including applied technology, business systems, advanced technology (computer, electronic, engineering design graphics, and other high tech areas) and health sciences.

College credit students have successful transfer rates to the University of Texas and other local four-year institutions. Almost 7% of students are enrolled in distance education courses.


To meet the very real needs of our students with very limited resources, ACC librarians have created innovative strategies.

Organization: For years, the organization climate of Library Services has encouraged individual initiative, trying things out, and has not focused on blame if projects fail. We have a long history under the leadership of our two directors, W. Lee Hisle and Julie Todaro, of evaluating what works and what doesn’t and revising continuously. We have succeeded because there has been little bureaucratic meddling and because the focus has been on results. In the early 1990s, we held a retreat for librarians and a focus group created a new structure expanding the authority of committees. This year, we went through another reorganization process, after input from all librarians, that further empowered individuals to make decisions. We are monitoring the pros and cons of this new arrangement and will continue to make changes as indicated.

Mission and Planning: Library Services created the first mission statements and strategic plans at ACC. We did a Strategic Plan for 1992-1997 and another for 1998-2002. Each time we revised our mission statement. Since the first plan in 1992, personal, departmental and committee goals have had to be directly tied to library goals and objectives. Individuals and committees were evaluated on how well they met these goals. Library annual reports are based on these goals. In the late 1990s when the College became interested in strategic planning and creating a comprehensive master plan, Library Services participated actively in its development. Library goals now also relate to the College Strategic Priorities and Master Plan.

Creative collections: Concerned about students with limited reading skills, we worked with developmental studies faculty and adult education faculty to build up a collection of appropriate works. Bibliographers purchase materials that are supposed to be at lower reading levels. We use computer software to check each of these books for reading level. Those that are appropriate are marked with a sticker to indicate the easier level and then interfiled with the regular collection, to avoid the stigma of a separate remedial collection. Students in these classes are told by their instructors to look for the books with the stickers, but other students are unaware of the significance of the stickers. We began picture file and a slide collections for our commercial and fine art students, a medical models collection for health sciences students, a technical report collection for our technical writing classes, and pamphlet files for local issues. Since the College initially showed no interest in collecting materials for a College archives, we began that collection as well.

Connections: For our largest “creative collection,” library staff worked with child development classroom faculty, the college administration, the City of Austin, and other grant funders to create and expand an exciting new resource for parents and childcare providers. In 1992, the City of Austin committed $600,000 over a three-year period to establish a resource center. Austin Community College's Child Development Department submitted a grant proposal to create the Connections Resource Center, which received City approval. Connections opened its doors in January 1993. The Center has since become a national model of excellence in providing broad-based services for parents and childcare providers, creatively, effectively, and efficiently.

Connections offers training, provides consultation services, checks out books, audiovisuals and toys, provides information resources (TeleParent and TeleTeacher lines, a job bank, newsletters and directories, etc.), and has facilities equipped with a laminator, a diecut machine and low cost/free materials for patron use. Over the years, Connections has been able to acquire two vans to take materials directly to childcare centers in low-income areas. Julie Todaro has served on the advisory board and helped the nonprofit group obtain grants. Other library staff have helped the Connections staff select and process materials, develop a toy cataloging system, set up circulation systems and procedures, produce reports, and offer reference service. Connections has piggybacked on the Library Services automation system for circulation and their online catalog up until the past summer, when, with our advice, they were able to acquire a system on their own.

Free services: Library Services has always covered the cost of paper copies from microform for our students. When we moved to full text periodicals online and the increased amount of printing from the network printers, we studied the issue intensively and determined that we could continue to cover these costs as well as a service to our students. They may print up to 15 sheets a day for free; if they print more the honor system asks them to pay $.10 per sheet. In the 1980s when we relied on Dialog and other database vendors, we did not charge students for searches. Next to the copier and printer areas, we have a supply table with pencil sharpeners, hole punches, staplers, paper cutters, paper clips and other items for student use. Students can check out graphing, as well as regular calculators. We have large collections of dictionaries, thesauri, and writing manuals for checkout. We offered the first open access computer centers at the college. We set aside room in our libraries for quiet study areas, since all available space elsewhere was used for classrooms or offices, and students did not have a quiet place to study.

Responding to opportunities: When we expanded the Rio Grande library, we were stuck with an entry hallway and a set of steps to nowhere. We promptly named the hall “The Hall of Walls” and converted it to an exhibit space. We show the art of students, faculty, local and Texas artists, as well as library exhibits in the space. We carpeted the stairs and added cushions to make an informal area for students. Commercial art students created a beautiful mural (its on our home page) for the Ridgeview library. When we moved to a new library, the space was designed around the mural (and the mural was featured on a
Choice cover). For the newest campus in 1999, even with limited space and funds, we designed a library with prominent and extensive (for us) computer pit and adjacent joint use computer classrooms. We are currently expanding Pinnacle, another small library. The student lounge had been on the same floor. Now the library will have a coffee lounge area. We have made a practice of using changes – a new online catalog, an expansion, etc. as the focus for special events – open house, art opening, or faculty workshop – to market our services and make the college community more aware of our services.

Library Instruction: Library Services has had an active formal library instruction program since the early 1980s, when library instruction projects were integrated into all English Composition I and Chemistry I classes. Over the years, class-integrated and class-related programs have expanded into many areas, including Accounting, Biotechnology, Business, Developmental Reading, Developmental Writing, English Composition II, Environmental Science, Government, and Psychology classes. While these efforts were worthwhile, during FY 98-99-00, ACC librarians have been trying to meet the twin challenge of expanding electronic sources and remote users.

In the past five years the library instruction program has been revised to build an innovative and effective library instruction program that meets the needs of 21st century learners. With the expansion of electronic resources at ACC and the increased number of students at remote locations, ACC librarians saw the need to review and revise the library instruction program and devise new methods of reaching students and faculty. The need to teach information literacy and searching electronic resources seemed paramount, as was reaching remote users with instruction. In recent years, we have changed the focus of instruction, increased instruction for faculty, and greatly expanded our web presence to better meet these needs.

New Focus for Student Instruction

General Research: In FY 98, Library Services developed a new PowerPoint presentation, CyberResearch, for faculty and students. Since then, the presentation has been continually revised to become Research 2000 in 1999 and Smart Search in 2000. We offer presentations each semester at six campuses, using both a PowerPoint presentation and live online searching. Presentations are marketed via email invitations, flyer distribution, letters to targeted faculty, the library newsletter, ACC newsletters and student newspaper, brochures, and banners located in non-library locations. We welcome attendance by entire classes, individual students, and faculty. On completion of the presentation we hand out attendance certificates. Many faculty offer extra credit for attendance.

Integrated Instruction: The Chemistry 1411 and English Composition I course-integrated instruction programs (continuous revisions for 20 years) have now been revised to incorporate both information literacy and electronic resources. For example, in the English assignment, students must find three sources to support their papers. The assignment worksheet (revised each semester) includes using different sources for different topics; the advantages, disadvantages and hints for using different types of sources; search techniques; documentation; and forms.

For Chemistry 1411, lab students view a PowerPoint and online demonstration by a librarian and then work through exercises using online and print sources to locate answers to specific questions.

New Focus for Faculty Development

In FY 99, Library Services targeted providing support for faculty, with the areas of technology and information literacy as major goals. Librarians and instructional technology staff gave 97 technology-related workshops or presentations to 782 faculty and staff, spoke to 10 instructional task forces (145 faculty), oriented new full-time faculty, and presented Research 2000 to 23 faculty. In addition, we began staffing an information table at College Assemblies, increased our targeted emails and letters to faculty and continued to publish student and faculty editions of the library newsletter.

Two other important library instruction activities for faculty were begun in FY 99.

Electronic Information Literacy: Library Services staff developed a three-hour “Electronic Information Literacy” (EIL) online tutorial for adjunct faculty. The College used this tutorial to train over 700 part-time faculty members (and - through a directive from the ACC College President - reward those with successful completion with a stipend).

Information Literacy: Librarians also made a presentation to the Deans and Associate Vice Presidents on Information Literacy, the first step toward integration of these skills college-wide. In September 1999, the Academic Affairs Council appointed the ACC Ad-hoc Committee on Information Literacy to study issues with a librarian as co-chair. An Interim Progress Report was issued with preliminary findings and recommendations and a final report is due in FY 01. Librarians did an Information Literacy presentation to 120 faculty members at the last Faculty Development Day in August and are scheduled to do another at the next in January 2001.

This fall, librarians delivered a new workshop (approved for faculty development hours) for English Composition I faculty. It covered web evaluation, hands-on searching, and information on cyber-cheating and plagiarism.

Move to Web Environment

Preparing for Web: Beginning in FY94-95, under the leadership of W. Lee Hisle, Library Services became the primary mover and shaker in technology at the College. Cable was planted, Internet and library automation servers were connected, and planning began to replace terminals with PCs and to provide web access to the library site. Over the next few years, we devised a computer replacement plan, replaced all public terminals with PCs, acquired a new web-based library automation system, continued to upgrade the library server and network, all to support his vision of the library site as a gateway to continually expanding electronic resources.

In FY 97-98, Library Services focused on a goal of training all library staff on the core competencies they would need to deal with the coming electronic environment. Workshops on “Basic Computer Skills,” Windows, Word, Excel, email, the new library automation system, PowerPoint and web page development were presented.

Web resources: Through information literacy and web development skills training for our staff we expanded our website as a gateway for electronic resources, designed to meet the needs of on-campus and remote users. Support for remote users includes: proxy server database access, remote access research handout, special web pages and services for off-campus students, off-campus delivery of library material, and toll-free and email reference. Currently, our homepage at links to our services, catalog, reserves, periodical databases, the Internet, reference sources, and “research help.” We now have 77 “Recommended Subject Links” designed by librarians at We provide extensive information through “Get Research Help” ( on online research and reference. The Study Guides and Online Tutorials page ( offers study guides, documentation guides, tutorials, and service guides for different populations.

Info Game: We are especially proud of our newest tutorial for students, “The Info Game,”, which was developed in summer 2000 and is being piloted in five classes this fall. Similar to a 1950s game show, it provides information on the Internet, focusing topics, using search engines and subscription databases, and evaluating information. "Rounds” are followed by quizzes scored online. Evaluations include pretests, posttests, and student comments. Librarians use rubrics to evaluate resulting papers.


Austin Community College (ACC) Library Services has maintained a leadership role in the college, in the local community, in the state and at the national levels for over 25 years. In addition to leading in the library and information science arena, staff members have also placed the college in the forefront of instructional design and technology, and have confronted other issues in higher education such as faculty development, accreditation, faculty assessment and information literacy.

From 1973 to 1984, ACC's library services were integrated with instructional technology (I.T.), but were primarily individually campus based. Although always considered as "one college," the first, second and then third ACC campuses operated relatively independently. The library and instruction technology and development areas were the college leaders in introducing integrated, consistent services to better serve students, faculty and staff. During these years, the librarians began to explore relationships with classroom faculty for user education assignments. ACC librarians in these years were members of both state and national associations, served on committees and presented papers.

Advisory leader, Dr. W. Lee Hisle, Director, then Dean of Learning Resource Services, (now Library Services) from mid 1985 to January 2000, consolidated the LRS structure and began to accelerate the leadership activities.

ACC Internal Leadership

The library and instructional technology professionals have taken a variety of leadership roles internally. They include:

  • Committee membership and leadership in Southern Association accreditation committees by faculty librarians, IT professional and classified staff.
  • LS staff as presenters of faculty development activities on library and I.T. issues as well as curriculum content, teaching and learning methodology, critical thinking and information literacy.
  • Membership on committees to assess faculty and staff evaluation processes and design of alternative assessment such as portfolio.
  • Membership on faculty and professional/technical hiring committees.
  • Membership on college committees such as student retention, sabbatical, campus management, college-wide technology and councils such as academic council and administrative leadership teams
  • LS professionals were instrumental in establishing the college network.
  • LS was the first area of the college (in 1985) to define units mission statement and to establish goals and objectives for services and operations.
  • Partnered with distance learning in support of distance learning students and in training for distance education faculty.
  • Designed and offered an online technology course in the College’s continuing education program.
  • Staff sabbaticals resulted in research on automated systems for choosing system features and user education.

ACC LS Local Community Leadership

Library Services has been a leader in a large number of community-based projects that have spotlighted the college. They include:

  • Partnership with local K-12 (and now public libraries and university) on user education/information literacy training and support for ACC students in area non-community college library environments.

  • Designing and providing support and technological innovations for Connection Resource Center for childcare providers and parents (more in "Creativity" section). This program is the only one of its kind in the country and has received local, statewide and national recognition.

  • LS Dean served as Chair of Texas Standards for School Libraries Committee, whose goal was to create standards of Texas 6000 school libraries.

  • LS professionals serve on a number of library, library-related and non-library-related governing and advisory boards including city-wide telecommunications, a city recreation center board, a Free-Net Board, an advisory board for the public library and a foundation board.

  • LS provides downlinks for library and information science teleconferences from Chicago and D.C. in partnership with the state library. These are offered free to area professionals.

  • LS is a partner in a local telecommunity grant to offer PC and web training to area community members and to assist in the design of a community portal for the best possible access to information.

State Leadership

LS professionals are very involved in state-wide activities. They include:

  • Officer, chair, and past chair of Texas Library Association (TLA) Reference and Library Instruction Round Tables.
  • Service on TLA Executive board, activity on public relations committee, board member of College and University Division (ACRL Chapter) and design and membership on state leadership institute.

  • Dean of LS is currently TLA (8,000 membership) President and several LS members have served or are serving on the President's program committee, the TLA publications committee and TLA LIRT.

  • LS staff are actively in the TLA Legislative Day and Dean is Co-chair of local arrangements.

  • LS staff serve on committees and are active in many other state and regional associations including the Texas State Historical Association, the area environmental information group, area technology user groups, state and regional medical and Health Sciences groups, and the regional ASIS group.

  • LS librarians have served on statewide z39.50 working groups and on TexShare (statewide resource sharing group).

  • LS professionals are active in Texas Junior College Teachers Association and have chaired the LS group and have been speakers at TJCTA programs.

  • LS professionals have applied for and received statewide grants for creating statewide products from Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (Currently applying for money to design a portal for users for the Virtual Library of Texas to support the Virtual College of Texas.)

  • LS professionals have been active in NISOD, community college, and higher education conferences on staff and organizational development for faculty. They have attended and presented programs on information literacy and portfolio assessment of classroom faculty.

  • LS professionals contribute to publications. Past-Dean Hisle was on the Editorial Board of the
    Texas Library Journal and a regular contributor. Present Dean Todaro is a regular contributor to the statewide publication.

  • The Dean of LS is a founding member of the Texas Book Festival - a project of Laura Bush, First Lady of Texas. The Festival just celebrated its 5th year and has raised over a million dollars for grant funds for resources for Texas Public Libraries. Several LS staff participate each year on book festival committees and as volunteers for the event.


National leadership activities have been a long tradition of Acc professionals. Over the years, LS professionals have presented papers and workshops at:

  • ALA,
  • NISOD,
  • League of Innovation,
  • ACRL stand alone conferences,
  • PLA conferences,
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children,
  • Educause,
  • a variety of telecommunity and distance learning conferences, and
  • other I.T. and technology conferences.
  • LS professionals have served on national standards committees including the design of ALA's first standards for distance learning.
  • LS professionals serve on national program planning for ALA officials:
    • ALA President Nancy Kranich's program planning,
    • ACRL President Betsy Wilson's program planning,
    • ALA Pat Schuman's campaign and design and teaching of 400 group facilitators and recorders, and
    • ACRL Institute for Information Literacy for Cerise Oberman.
  • LS professionals serve on many ALA committees including chair of OLPR, ACRL, CJCLS, and LAMA as well as LIRT and Reference committees.
  • LS professionals regularly contribute to national publications including:
    • LAMA Journal,
    • C&RL,
    • C&RL News, and
    • Haworth Community & Junior College Libraries.
  • LS Dean currently chairs ALA President Nancy Kranich's Information Literacy Partnerships Initiative.
  • LS Health Science librarians are nationally recognized in their discipline, regularly present at state, regional and national conferences, and are certified by the Medical Library Association as health information professionals. In addition, the Head Librarian in this area is a member of ALA COA team for assessing medical/health sciences education on accreditation teams.

Relationship With Classroom Faculty And Students

Library Services has enjoyed close and productive relations with faculty and students.

Satisfaction Survey results: We have a history of consistently getting top rankings in satisfaction surveys of ACC employees and students. For example, Library Services received the highest satisfaction rating in the internal survey of both faculty and students for the latest Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation process in 1992. The latest ACC Student Satisfaction Questionnaire (1997) ranked 22 support services on convenience, helping students meet their goals, service provided, treatment by staff, and overall satisfaction. Library Services had the highest satisfaction and lowest dissatisfaction scores in all areas. Overall, 79% of students were satisfied with our services and only 4%were dissatisfied. In the most recent ACC Employee Satisfaction Survey, conducted in spring 2000, we ranked highest of the 27 offices covered in ratings of service by percent satisfied (89%) and well as lowest in percent dissatisfied (3.8%).

SACS Reaffirmation Committee Commendations: In the latest Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Report for ACC, the committee commended the library twice. First, for “understanding of and commitment to the spirit of the institutional effectiveness process in the Learning Resource Services area” and secondly, for “effort and dedication to ensure the role of the library faculty in the instructional process of the college, specifically their initiative, innovation, and services to the students and teaching faculty of ACC.” The report noted that students reached by course-integrated library instruction had risen from 200 students in FY 82 to over 9400 in FY92.

Grants from College: Librarians have been successful in receiving Mini-grants from the College. These grants are reviewed and authorized by a college-wide committee. Beginning in the 1980s, librarians and faculty have worked together on Mini-grant projects to improve teaching and learning. Initially, librarians, English and counseling faculty worked on three successive grants to create, expand and update the Study Guides, a series of 18 guides to assist students in research, writing, and test taking. More recent Mini-grants have been used to revise library instruction in chemistry, develop instruction for biotechnology classes, and create the Info Game web tutorial. All Mini-grants must contain evaluation/assessment components. Library Services Mini-grants have consistently received high marks from focus groups, evaluation forms and surveys.

College-wide service: Librarians are faculty at ACC in name and are accepted as so by teaching faculty. Relations are collegial. We were responsible for the creation of the College-wide Technology Committee. We have reserved seats on it and other important college-wide committees such as the Curriculum and Instruction Committee. Library Faculty regularly serve on the Faculty Senate and one librarian, Cary Sowell, has been president of the Senate. Bibliographers keep in close contact with faculty in their areas, email them new materials information, post new materials lists on their web pages, and work with faculty to develop their recommended subject web links pages. Librarians have always had a professional relationship with classroom faculty concerning student assignments and actively advise faculty on improving assignments that involve research. Specified librarians regularly do research for Board members, the College Administration, Task Forces, and other faculty members.

Reference: Those at the reference desk provide the library with a human face. Since community college students are often hesitant to ask for help and often expect to fail, librarians are selected who will make students comfortable and who will stay with them throughout the process until they are successful. ACC libraries are small and stress excellent and intensive one-on-one help. Reference desks are placed prominently in high traffic areas. We greet entering students, roam around the workstations, and ask departing students if they have found “everything” they need.

Librarians have faculty status and their reference hours are considered the equivalent of classroom faculty’s teaching load. This indicates the importance placed on this duty. Only librarians work the desk, the desks are staffed the entire time the library is open including Friday nights and weekends, except for 4-6 low-use hours a week at the three larger campuses (usually between 7-8 in the morning). Those of us who have worked at larger institutions find work here satisfying because we can walk the students through the entire process. The highly varied abilities our students bring to library research make interpersonal skills a priority for reference librarians. Many staff development events stress these skills. For more a numeric, less anecdotal example of reference transactions, the Rio Grande library averaged 4.8 questions per FTE student in FY 99 and 3.3 questions in FY 00.

Library instruction: Austin Community College Library Services has a long history of successful integrated library instruction for students, faculty and staff. When W. Lee Hisle became RGC director in 1980, he gained college support to send four faculty members and three librarians to Earlham College. This group began the first course-integrated library instruction programs at ACC. We have continued worked closely with individual faculty members, departments and task forces to devise and revise instruction. We have always have used focus groups, detailed surveys and formal evaluations to improve our programs and provide extensive faculty/student input. Along with reference, library instruction is the heart of our relationship with faculty and students. For each of the last three years, we have reached approximately 20,000 students a year with our instruction program.

Effectiveness Indicators

  • Sustained length of library instruction program (20 years and growing)
  • Wide and expanding range of disciplines (English, sciences, social sciences, business) and instructional modes (print, web-based, course-integrated, workshops, tutorials, guides) in library instruction program
  • Proactive response to the electronic age and needs of 21st century learners
  • Internal information literacy initiative expanded to college-wide initiative
  • Numbers of students instructed annually (circa 20,000)
  • Numbers of faculty instructed annually (circa 1,000)
  • Adjunct faculty numbers successful on Electronic Information Literacy Project
  • Librarians are leaders at the local, state and national level
  • Strong commitment to and support of professional and staff development
  • Over 125 outside sites link to our web site
  • Over 1.5 million electronic library visits in FY 00 (homepage, online catalog, recommended subject links and electronic database searches)
  • LS projects consistently funded as ACC grant projects and evaluated positively
  • Library consistently rated first in employee and student college-wide surveys on user satisfaction
  • Library one of only three areas at ACC receiving SACS commendations