Restructuring Liberal Arts College Libraries: Seven Organizational Strategies

Peggy Seiden

Discussions about digital libraries over the past decade have generally focused on content and design issues—with relatively little attention to the kinds of organizational changes that enable academic libraries and their users to take full advantage of electronic resources and services. In the mid-1980s, Pat Molholt, Patricia Battin, and John R. Sack were among a number of writers who popularized the concept of the digital library as a networked scholar’s workstation through which researchers could meet all of their information needs without leaving their office.
1 In 1989, Nancy Evans and Mark Kibbey fleshed out the concept in an article entitled “The Network Is the Library,” which described Carnegie Mellon University’s efforts to begin building the infrastructure to support such workstations.

These writers’ ideas have helped to shape our profession’s ultimate vision of a wholly digital information environment. Although such a digital future may still seem a long way off, in a few professions and disciplines (e.g., law, medicine, business, physics) this vision is closer to a reality. However, most academic librarians in the mid-1990s have taken a more conservative stance: that the overall information environment will remain distinctly heterogeneous in the foreseeable future, defined by a growing number of digital collections with a continuing demand for print materials.

The point is well taken but, given the diversity of academic library users, it bears closer scrutiny. For undergraduate students, whose information needs and research behaviors are not particularly specialized or exotic, the balance of reliance on print versus digital materials may be undergoing a significant shift. The recent proliferation of full-text article databases covering core scholarly and popular journals and the growth of the World Wide Web have combined to create a digital environment that undergraduates gravitate toward for doing research. Even when librarians and faculty try to dissuade students from overreliance on the network, many students start and end their research at the computer. For a large number of undergraduate students,
the network is the library.

This fundamental shift in students’ patterns of library use has put considerable stress on the traditional organization of library public services in recent years. In response, libraries have developed a variety of strategies. This chapter focuses on seven organizational change strategies I identified in a spring 1997 survey of the Oberlin Group, a consortium of seventy-four liberal arts college libraries across the country. Some of the discussion centers on my own institution, Skidmore College, which
Yahoo! magazine cited as among the most wired institutions of higher education in the country.

Impact of Technological Change on Public Services

Like many small colleges, Skidmore would not be considered among the early adopters of information technology. But the rate of use of technology for personal, research, and curricular needs began to increase rapidly about 1993. In part, the growth in the use of technology can be attributed to the development of resources such as the Web. Yet, Skidmore accelerated the process by establishing a Summer Faculty Institute that year. Since then, nearly 40 percent of the faculty have participated in this program, which has a broad focus on information technology applications in the curriculum and in both undergraduate-level and advanced research.

Skidmore chose to approach student computer literacy indirectly—through course-integrated applications—rather than through any specific requirement that could be met through a single course focused on computing skills. Its summer institute provides faculty the opportunity not only to learn about new technologies but also to begin redesigning their courses to take advantage of these technologies. Although it is difficult to ascertain the number of courses that use technology, demand for electronic classrooms and computer projection has far exceeded the availability of such spaces on campus. Applications in support of the curriculum include student Web sites as course projects, Web-based research, participation in Internet discussion lists or newsgroups, online bibliographic and full-text databases, commercial software, as well as courseware such as the Daedalus program for writing or Mathematica for calculus.

The level of computer experience among incoming classes is also rising dramatically. A survey of first-year students found significant increases among those who stated that they were already using e-mail, the Internet, or word processing at least once a week. For the entering class in 1996, e-mail use was sixfold higher (7% to 44%) than the entering class in 1994, Internet use tenfold higher (2% to 20%), and word processing a third higher (60% to 80%). Thus, arriving students are better prepared to take advantage of a rapidly expanding collection of digital resources on the campus network. Although Skidmore did not initially embrace CD-ROMs with the alacrity of many other academic institutions, by 1990 the library was providing full-text articles through UMI’s ProQuest Business Periodicals database. In 1993, the library joined the Lexis/Nexis academic program, which quickly became a core service (business and government are two of the college’s largest majors). Currently, students do over 5,000 Nexis searches per month (the equivalent of over one million dollars of commercial-rate search time). In 1995, the library purchased Expanded Academic Index Full-Text, which has become the usual starting point for research projects. The library has continued to build its collection of full-text journal databases through Project Muse, JSTOR, and Academic Press IDEAL. In addition, the library provides networked access to FirstSearch, a half dozen Silver Platter databases, Current Contents, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, Mathematical Reviews, and Periodicals Contents Index, and is implementing a CD-ROM server to make available previously stand-alone databases, such as America: History and Life. All in all, the library provides at least one major index/abstracting service for each academic department in the college.

The scope of the impact that these digital collections have had on undergraduate students’ information-seeking behavior was elucidated by a study conducted from 1994 to 1996. The study observed the following behavioral patterns and attitudes:

  • Undergraduate students, driven by time pressures and seduced by the convenience of “one-stop shopping,” rely increasingly on full-text databases and the Web—to the near exclusion of other valuable resources in other formats or media (notably print).
  • Students frequently start and end their research at the computer.
  • Students are either unaware of, or choose not to use, non-computer-based abstracts and indexes, thereby missing other valuable sources that fall outside either the scope or time frame of computer-based sources.
  • Students have difficulty discerning qualitative differences among various digital sources of information, a problem exacerbated by the homogeneous access through a single computer or interface.
  • Increasingly confounded by the expanse and heterogeneity of the information environment, undergraduates seek to simplify it by limiting their searches to familiar sources.
  • Most undergraduates never move beyond the novice stage; although some may become more or less expert in searching a particular database, they do not exhibit expertise in their overall information seeking.

This study reveals a significant gap between undergraduate students’ reliance on the networked environment and their true understanding of it. As the complexity of the information environment grows, their need for help in using the library effectively increases.

In light of this problem, it is not surprising that an exit survey of 1996 Skidmore seniors showed, for all areas of computer use, students feeling less comfortable with, and wanting more instruction in, library applications. However, what
is surprising is that, despite a doubling of the number of library instruction sessions from 1994 to 1996 and the concurrent development of a workshop program, students indicated that they had learned how to search chiefly in one-on-one sessions with a reference librarian. Of course, questions about how to access a database frequently turn into prolonged reference consultations. When one adds a large number of questions on e-mail, newsgroups, printer problems, and general network problems to these research-related inquiries, it becomes clear why support needs require a restructuring of library public services.

Yet, higher education is facing a time of stagnant personnel growth and few institutions are able to obtain new budget lines for additional staff. Steven W. Gilbert, director of technology projects at the American Association for Higher Education, draws an important distinction between this decade and the next one. Up to now, most colleges have done reasonably well supporting the “early adopters,”the first 10 to 15 percent of the faculty to use information technology in their teaching. Gilbert notes that the level and quality of support that was adequate for the first five percent of the faculty is probably strained dealing with 15 percent of the potential faculty-user pool and will not scale up for the next 70 percent of the faculty.
4 Thus, an information technology support crisis looms on many campuses—university and college. Median overall staffing in the Oberlin Group of liberal arts college libraries is twenty-five, with the median number of librarians nine and a half. With such modest personnel resources, how can college libraries support the technological needs of not only the relatively limited number of faculty but the student body as well? Although some libraries in the Oberlin Group continue to make do in their traditional organizational structures by tacking new responsibilities on already overburdened staff, other libraries have demonstrated considerable determination and inventiveness in redesigning their organizations, which better enables them to embrace and exploit new information technologies. The essential approach has been one of creativity, flexibility, and trial and error. These college libraries have demonstrated a willingness to try different solutions and to abandon those that are not successful—a risk taking which, however prudent and necessary, is atypical of much of higher education.

In my informal survey of the seventy-five members of the Oberlin Group, spring 1997, one third responded. These identified, collectively, seven organizational change strategies to leverage existing staff resources in support of the digital library:

  1. reorganizing or redesigning staff positions;
  2. developing cross-functional teams;
  3. modifying reference desk staffing patterns;
  4. increasing the use of undergraduate students to support information technology across campus;
  5. extending or formalizing relationships with campus computing and/or media services;
  6. collaborating with faculty to address changing information literacy needs;
  7. developing consortium relationships with other colleges.

Reorganizing or Redesigning Staff Positions

A common first step to dealing with rapid technological change is to create a specific position to deal with the new service and/or format. Such a position mitigates the stress on others to adapt the new technology single-handedly by establishing a change agent who can foster the processes of diffusion and integration within the organization as a whole. To deal with the increased need for public-service technology support, many libraries have established a position called either an electronic resources or electronic services librarian. Although now a fixture in a number of libraries within the Oberlin Group, it has rarely been the product of a new budget line. Rather, it tends to be redesigned from a former position in public services, or is part of a broader convergence of technical services and public services. For example, Earlham College redesigned a reference slot to create the information technology/reference instructional librarian position, which is responsible for Web-page development, equipment, and software support, and is a focal point for staff development in the area of information technology.

Years ago, such positions assumed near-total responsibility for reference databases. However, once the volume of electronic resources rose and the role of such resources was no longer tangential to the research process of the majority of the library’s clientele, all reference librarians have had to be responsible for supporting users of these resources. Thus, whereas a first step may involve
centralization of the new function in a redesigned position, the next step becomes
decentralization, or
distribution, of the now-manifold function among similarly redesigned reference positions. In some instances, such decentralization extends to technical responsibilities as well as to selection, support, and instruction. For example, at St. John’s/St. Benedict’s College, all public services staff maintain the CD towers. Moreover, in a number of colleges, positions outside public services have undergone a technological broadening. For example, the head of technical services at Skidmore is responsible for all processes related to electronic serials—from contract negotiation and collection management to campus publicity. Other colleges have redesigned, instead, a collection development position to be the manager for information resources, including electronic serials and databases.

Decentralizing, or distributing a technology support function to a larger pool of library staff, generally depends on the extent to which the intellectual content of a given resource (to be delegated to everyone in public services) can be separated from the underlying infrastructure.

Although academic libraries now expect a certain level of technical expertise from their reference staff, a single individual—the systems librarian—usually retains responsibility for maintaining network servers, software, and the overall configuration of the public workstation environment. Actually, some college libraries have only recently added the position of systems librarian. Because of the facile nature of turnkey library systems, they could rely on their technical services departments, with campus computing centers maintaining the infrastructure. The addition of the systems librarian position rather late in the game is a reflection of the increasing complexity of the networked environment since 1993 or so.

The progress of decentralizing responsibility for digital resources, which requires public services staff to take on a broader and more specialized workload, usually requires, in turn, a restructuring of other parts of the organization to relieve public services of some former duties. At Skidmore, the library upgraded an interlibrary loan (ILL) assistant position to a professional level (though not one requiring an M.L.S. degree) in order to free the head of public services of routine management of interlibrary loan. Oberlin College moved both ILL and government documents from reference department management. A few colleges, such as Willamette and Albion, have begun using paraprofessionals to assist in public services—a strategy for which Larry R. Oberg, library director at the former, has been a strong advocate.
5 Along the same lines, Skidmore is training circulation staff in reference databases to provide support when the reference desk is not staffed.

Developing Cross-Functional Teams

One survey respondent observed that “we seem to do a lot with committees and task forces rather than investing everything in single positions.” This statement reflects a second organizational change strategy—the development of cross-functional teams. Such teams bring together traditionally disparate processes and individual expertise within the library or from other organizations on campus. (The latter type of team, mainly involving library and computing center partnerships, is discussed in a later section.) The two most commonly mentioned “teams” by survey respondents were an electronic resources committee (chiefly to make selection and processing policies) and a Web design committee. For example, Smith College has an Electronic Resources Working Group with responsibilities for coordinating and resolving problems ranging from acquisitions and systems support to public services; and Colgate’s Electronic Products Evaluation Committee is responsible for evaluating and selecting all computer-based resources. Some colleges, however, retain a form of
decentralized responsibility that might be called the
committee-of-the-whole approach. At Skidmore, for example, recommendations for acquisition of resources (in any format or medium) are solicited from the community, and purchase decisions are made by all librarians (with the subject specialist’s input carrying extra weight). However, Skidmore chose the cross-functional team approach for its library’s Web-page development rather than to charge any single individual with that task. Its Web team (composed of the systems librarian, the head of public services, the cataloger/database maintenance librarian, the library director, the humanities/special collections librarian, and the interlibrary loan supervisor) decides the look and feel of the library’s home page, as well as its intellectual content. Two members of the team have an important liaison role in serving on the campuswide Web committee.

Modifying Reference Desk Staffing Patterns

Among the few models of restructuring staffing patterns for the reference desk, perhaps the best known is the Brandeis model, in which graduate students are trained to handle basic reference queries while referring research consultations to professional staff. Virginia Massey-Burzio in
Rethinking Reference in Academic Libraries (a workshop eventually held at three universities) wrote that this model was developed to address the practical demand brought on by electronic information technologies that challenged “our most cherished service beliefs.” She noted the salient problem of public services burnout: “being warm and friendly with long lines at a reference desk while trying to man a constantly-ringing phone and fielding questions about a paper jam is stressing out even the most saintly reference librarians.”
6 However, liberal arts college libraries have generally rejected the Brandeis model. Apart from practical considerations, such as the absence of graduate students who staff the reference desk in this model, it is a philosophical matter. For college libraries, the reference desk retains its traditional and cherished role of a
classroom, the place where librarians engage in the central function of academia—

Still, given the practical issue of growing demand on the reference desk, several of the Oberlin Group colleges are experimenting with new service patterns. To extend reference hours, Wooster College has implemented a variant of the Brandeis model—tiered services—by utilizing undergraduate assistants during certain hours to handle basic questions while referring more sophisticated problems to a back-up librarian. Wooster is now considering moving to a complete referral-based model. Other colleges noted that they have extended reference hours and moved to double staffing in order to cope with increased demands for support. Although one can project that increases in individual workload will begin to take its toll on public services librarians, few colleges have undergone major restructuring to redistribute overall workload. Most changes appear to be incremental, and many colleges still rely upon meeting these increased needs by adding part-time librarians to their reference staffs.

Undergraduate Support of Information Technology

With a local library school to facilitate double staffing of the reference desk, the sheer number of public microcomputers (seventy) in the library has necessitated the creation of additional personnel resources not only to cope with the usual technical problems but also to provide—in the future—a basic level of support for library databases.

The use of undergraduate students for elementary reference work is not an altogether new strategy. It has recently received attention because of some highly visible, successful programs—for example, at the University of Southern California, undergraduates perform “triage” in the “information commons” of the new undergraduate library.
7 Also, Gilbert has been promoting this general approach in his Teaching, Learning, and Technology Workshop (for the American Association of Higher Education). He points out that undergraduates now tend to have better skills and more knowledge about new information technology than do most faculty and staff.
8 In a networked campus environment, the use of students has a broader benefit: The development of a trained cadre can assist remote users in dorms, public workstation clusters, and classrooms. Because only a fraction of the growing numbers of digital library users will actually be on the physical premises, peer-to-peer instruction becomes increasingly important. At some campuses, each dorm has a resident support person. Initially, that position was usually created to help with network connections and basic applications but, as noted above, Skidmore envisions extending the responsibilities to cover elementary library database queries.

Nearly all of the Oberlin Group respondents to my survey indicated that they are coming to rely on undergraduates in new ways to support information technology. Apart from the library reference area, a common responsibility is Web-page and gateway maintenance. Nonetheless, greater integration of undergraduates into public services remains controversial. One college library director pinpointed a common concern in noting that “students have just enough knowledge to be dangerous.” Any solution to managing this concern depends on training, but that is not easy. Typically, students can handle basic tasks but lack sophistication in search strategies and a good enough understanding of the information environment to have an intuitive grasp of when a question should be referred to a reference librarian. Even more critical are public-service attitudes and communication styles befitting anyone in a user-support role. Only a strong student assistant preparatory program can possibly seed the campus with students adequately trained.

Undergraduates are not an unlimited resource. The pool of work-study dollars is finite and getting additional work-study hours can put the library in a tug-of-war with other units on campus. At William Paterson College, funds to pay for information assistants come from a modest student fee.
9 However, smaller colleges may not have a student body large enough to make such fees sufficient. Nor is there much enthusiasm in the mid-1990s for increasing fees in academic institutions, regardless of size. Thus, although Skidmore was able to implement an information assistant program in part because of a new financial aid allocation formula that increased the number of students receiving aid, that program was mainly feasible because the library and the computing center jointly lobbied for additional students to support information resources across campus. Had the infrastructure for such collaboration not been in place, such a program would probably not have been doable.

Partnering with Campus Computing

During the mid-1980s, when people such as Molholt and Battin were developing visions of the digital library, a number of writers suggested that the electronic era would necessitate a convergence of the library and the computing center. What became known as the “merger debate” faded in the late 1980s but resurfaced in the mid-1990s with the advent of the networked information environment.

Although the evolving digital library is not the sole driving force behind the mergers that have taken hold, it has compelled the academic library to look more closely at its relationship with the computing center. Traditionally, college libraries have enjoyed a rich collaboration with computing centers because relatively few such libraries have the know-how, staff size, or financial resources to be autonomous in the area of information technologies (as were many larger institutions in the 1970s and 1980s). Whereas early relationships at the college level tended to evolve around the implementation of integrated systems with the library playing the role of client, the development of networking and its transformation of the scholarly communication system have revitalized the potentialities for the library–computing center partnership.

Strong synergies can be realized through such partnerships, but how they actually come about is highly dependent upon the traditions and cultures of the academic institution. For the Oberlin Group, there are many different levels and styles of interaction, formal and informal. A 1995 survey of member institutions by Larry Hardesty found that fifty (two-thirds) engage in some sort of a cooperative effort with the computing center.
11 Of the twenty-five Oberlin Group institutions that responded to my survey in 1997, practically all of them reported a deepening or formalizing of those relationships, but the structures used to foster collaboration are as varied as the institutions that adopt them.

Joseph E. McCann and Roderik Gilky sketch a continuum of structural options for organizational partnering: cooperative agreements, limited partnerships with resource pooling, joint ventures with autonomous ventures created, strategic alliances, acquisitions, and mergers.
12 Within the Oberlin Group, every structural option can be found and, within a single institution, relationships can include more than one option. It is not uncommon for a college library and computing center to engage in one or more joint ventures (e.g., developing a campus Web, or supporting both a digital library and a local area network), to have a cooperative agreement (e.g., maintaining the OPAC or the CD-ROM towers), as well as for each unit to work independently in areas with no overlapping responsibilities. Oberlin Group libraries tend to adopt structures that allow them to preserve unique library services and identities while collaborating on new services and products in areas where territorial claims are less well defined.

Alliances are often built via committees, whether at the administrative or the operational level. Bates College has a broad-based administrative structure that might be called
CIO-by-committee (as opposed to the usual individual campus information officer). At Skidmore, the same approach takes the form of an information resources managers group, which meets weekly and is responsible for strategic planning and capital budgeting of all campus technology. For the Oberlin Group as a whole, the respective directors of the library and the computing center often sit on collegewide technology advisory committees or are ex officio members of each other’s advisory group. At a few institutions (Skidmore, Oberlin College, Connecticut College, Mills College), the library director participates in high-level information technology
policy making. Operational (or functional-level) initiatives, driven by opportunities or demands, are more common than strategic committees. Campuswide information systems, Web and Internet training, and other computer-related instruction were cited most by survey respondents as areas for which there are either committees or formal joint efforts. At Bates College, computing and library staff are planning joint instructional programs for first-year students and meet weekly to resolve problems related to instruction and service delivery over the campus network.

At some of the colleges, however, relationships are much less institutionalized, being more dependent on the individuals involved. There may be, for example, informal regular meetings between the heads of the two units, or the systems librarian may serve as the liaison between the units. At Skidmore, the systems librarian reports to the associate director for academic computing, though his office is in the library and his day-to-day responsibilities are dictated by the library’s needs. This arrangement was selected because the library felt that someone formally associated with academic computing would have more leverage for the library. At Denison University, the electronic publishing coordinator, though reporting to the library director, is advised by a group that includes several nonlibrary units, including the public affairs office. At Lake Forest College, where the library director oversees the computing center, one of the academic-technology specialists has an M.L.S. and works at the library reference desk as her schedule permits. As the director noted, “this helps to tie the library and the computer center together further in a small but visible way.”

The key to successful collaboration is to ensure that members of converging or collaborative units are valued for their distinctive competencies and cultural strengths. Over time (perhaps a long time), as staffs from different units share responsibilities and experiences, one can expect a shared culture to evolve. But McCann and Gilky note that, even in a fairly dynamic corporate environment, it may take up to five years to restructure an organizational culture. In the highly decentralized academy, the time it takes to develop a hybrid scholarly–technological culture may be even longer. (Sometimes what appear to be the most auspicious conditions have elements of serendipity: At one college, the coordinator of faculty computing is the wife of the systems librarian, and two technicians in the computing center are married to two support staff in the library.)

Collaborating with Faculty on Information Literacy

The growth in demand for library instruction at Skidmore closely parallels the rise and diffusion of online resources and services. Faculty have turned in ever-increasing numbers toward librarians to provide themselves and their students with pragmatic, procedurally focused instruction in library databases. As Cerise Oberman has observed, information technology has led librarians to forsake teaching concepts in favor of computer-driven protocols and procedures.
13 Although that is not a surprising trend (given the short time allowed for computer-based instruction sessions), the essential point is that such sessions are not particularly effective. Skidmore’s research on undergraduate information seeking shows that, despite a doubling of the number of course-integrated instruction sessions and numerous independent workshops, students simply are not learning how to do effective (comprehensive yet relevant) research in the networked environment.

By cramming specific procedures into the one or few sessions allotted, the library loses the opportunity to teach critical concepts related to search strategies, information structures, and retrieval outcome evaluations. Faced with mounting evidence that the typical instruction session fell short of even modest goals, Skidmore is piloting two new models of instruction. One model seeks to develop an information literacy curriculum embedded in the course sequences of particular majors. The rationale for this approach is based on the Skidmore study’s finding that students who had the most accurate model of the overall information environment and the most expert strategies for information seeking were ones who had a strong grounding in the disciplinary information structures of their major area. The other model is focused on a single course for which library instruction has been designated an integral, semester-long component. Librarians and faculty work together to develop a class Web site and explore, through a series of course assignments, the types of information resources available on a particular subject.

There are now a few movements to institutionalize computer literacy programs in college academic programs. At Kalamazoo College, the library has formalized its teaching role by setting up an Information Services Advisory Committee in which the faculty participate in planning research instruction programs. At Oberlin College, a faculty/librarian task force designed a month-long information literacy workshop for faculty to integrate information literacy skills into the curriculum. At Skidmore, the college administration has set up a joint subcommittee (from its Educational Planning and Policy Committee and its Information Resources Policy Planning Committee) to begin to look at information literacy as an institutional issue, rather than one relegated to the library. Such approaches are not altogether new in higher education, of course, but for colleges having very limited staff resources they can be risky ventures. Still, the outcomes can outweigh the time and work involved. Tom Kirk credits the instruction program at Earlham College with a general lessening of demands on the reference desk, noting that through its program which depends upon strong collaboration between teaching faculty and librarians, “students get the routine stuff without having to ask at the reference desk.”

Although librarians are co-opting teaching faculty in the area of information literacy instruction, faculty have occasionally co-opted librarians in the development of digital resources, such as course Web pages. At Colgate University, faculty who want assistance have teams from both the library and the computing center help them, with the library coordinating the activity. When faculty use Web pages or other networked resources as lecture materials, they bring the library into the classroom in a way that fundamentally transforms the students’ educational experience while furthering their understanding of the information environment.

Expanding Consortium Relationships

Most member institutions of the Oberlin Group belong to other consortia as well. Whereas consortia generally enable libraries to purchase digital resources at reduced costs and provide opportunities for staff training and continuing education, college library consortia have a special niche in facilitating different institutions to share certain staff positions. Some consortia share a catalog which resides at one institution. Costs for personnel to support the system at the host institution are then shared by other members of the consortia. This model is found at the Five Colleges (a western Massachusetts consortium comprising Amherst College, Smith College, Holyoke College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst). But these institutions are also looking beyond systems support to enhance their personnel resources. The Five Colleges have used grant funds to hire two training consultants—one specializing in multimedia technology and the other in the use of the Web—while another college consortium in Ohio is seeking funding for a shared training specialist. Also, Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin libraries received a Mellon Grant in 1997 to implement a shared catalog and develop other coordinated services. Although there are no new personnel resources associated with this grant, such shared projects allow libraries to undertake significant restructuring by leveraging expertise at individual institutions and eliminating duplication of effort.

This organizational strategy of sharing positions among colleges within commuting distance has the advantage of providing a specialized personnel resource with minimal cost. Few colleges can afford discipline-specific computing specialists, yet applications for different fields are ever increasing in complexity and the potential audience for such applications continues to expand. Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin also received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to establish a Foreign Language Computing Consortium. The grant funds four positions (one of which is for the coordinator of the program and the other positions for a coordinator at each institution). Although early adopters were often self-reliant in support of disciplinary tools, the next tier of users generally has neither the interest nor the time for such self-reliance. If support in their areas does not exist, they probably will not bother with the technology. Consortia hold distinct promise in this area.


The evolving digital library, which has become a nearly sufficient information environment for undergraduate needs, has outpaced existing organizational models for library public services. Liberal arts colleges, which have very limited personnel and financial resources, must find creative means to use existing staff more effectively. At least one of the seven organizational redesign strategies discussed in this chapter is being tried in all but a few of the institutions of those that responded to my survey. Although a small minority of the libraries are utilizing nearly all of the strategies, most of them have chosen a few that seem to fit their respective campus cultures and traditional institutional arrangements. Oftentimes, beginning with a single strategy creates opportunities and incentives to move on and explore additional ones. Overall, the Oberlin Group has demonstrated a certain risk taking which, however prudent and necessary, is atypical of much of higher education.


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