The Politics of Embedding: Library as Partner not Support Service

Stubley, Peter
January 2006
IATUL Annual Conference Proceedings;2006, Vol. 16, p20
Conference Proceeding
The Library that considers itself to have the best services in the world may still find itself under-appreciated or - worse still - isolated, unless it delivers those services to its customers in a pro-active manner. Moreover, unless it actively engages with the strategic directions of both the over-arching institution and its individual units - the University and its academic Departments - it risks being ignored and marginalised from the core business of the institution. For too long libraries have, with a degree of modesty and satisfaction, considered themselves as 'support services' but now is the time to launch ourselves from the shadows and into the spotlight to take equal billing with academic staff. This paper outlines steps taken and success achieved by the University of Sheffield Library since taking a more collaborative approach to working with academic departments in 2003. Under the banner of a 'New Partnership', buy-in is being achieved at a departmental level, from the Head of Department and Director of Teaching, before focusing on the needs of individual modules. An holistic view of information resource provision is being developed, in particular emphasising the Library's interest in matching information delivery to pedagogy. The emphasis is on delivering a greater proportion of materials directly to students electronically, while achieving a balance with print use in those disciplines where this is still important. The extensive use of electronic reading list software, providing links to any digital object, has revolutionised services, integrated with focused digitisation of full text, with print coursepacks and with the use of an Information Skills Module in the University's VLE, developed in such a way as to facilitate embedding into academic modules. In conclusion, the paper returns to the importance of gaining an understanding and acknowledgement from the University's senior management on the advantages of collaborative working so that the technique is recognised as strategically important for the institution: embedding at the institutional level has to be in place if embedding at the module or sub-module level is to be successful.


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