At the University of Minnesota, librarians conduct workshops on the effective use of online resources to identify possible funding sources. This is a joint effort of the university's libraries and the Office for the Vice President for Research (OVPR).
During the recent ACRL 14th National Conference in Seattle, we presented a poster to share the highlights of our grant funding workshops. In sharing those highlights again, we hope to inspire other librarians to consider similar projects.
In 2006, campus-wide planning revealed a lack of support for the identification and acquisition of external funding. In previous years, the libraries had taught a workshop on the nuances of effectively searching various subscription databases that index grant opportunities. The libraries approached the OVPR, and staff from both offices collaborated to redevelop that existing workshop. Librarians brought search skills, instructional experience, personnel to teach the sessions, and connections to each department on campus. OVPR staff brought training expertise, an overview of researchers' current needs, funds to pay for the database subscriptions, and an effective communication network.
The resulting workshop, "Grant Funding: Search Tools and Resources," premiered in 2007 with the goals of increasing awareness of the tools, teaching basic but effective search strategies, and informing researchers about the value-added services as well as idiosyncrasies of each database.
What's happening today
Each 75-minute, hands-on "Grant Funding: Search Tools and Resources" session covers:
- Navigation of internal funding resources;
- Identification of sources for awards earned recently by University of Minnesota faculty or graduate students;
- Demonstration and practice in the grants databases to which the university subscribes; and
- Creation of email alerts, when available, in each database.
OVPR posted the workshop materials online and has used its wide network to enthusiastically promote the training to faculty, staff and graduate students. Sessions have been well attended; to date, more than 300 people have participated in over 30 sessions. Among the initial attendees were grant coordinators from departments and colleges, and many commented that, despite past use of some of the tools, they still learned new skills.
When announcing the sessions to its network of directors of graduate study, the OVPR encouraged many graduate students to come to the sessions, and, so far, graduate students have comprised over 70% of session attendees. As a result, we've added sessions specifically for graduate students, and for individual departments we've conducted sessions with an emphasis on topics of special interest to graduate students.
Our collaboration meets a critical need of the shared constituency of the libraries and the Office for the Vice President for Research.
Given the continued demand from graduate students and individual departments, we recruited librarians who have taught train-the-trainer sessions to all liaison librarians. As a result, all of the University of Minnesota's liaison librarians now have this additional "tool" — teaching how to search for funding opportunities — to offer their departments or colleges.
The keys to our success
Upon reflection, we've determined that the keys to our success are:
- Putting our search skills to use wherever needed;
- Cultivating relationships with supportive campus partners, to enhance the institution's research climate;
- Sharing well-established communication networks, to more effectively promote resources and services; and
- Actively pursuing the libraries' involvement in campus strategic planning initiatives, so the libraries take an active role in both planning and implementation of information-related areas of the university's plan.
Our collaboration meets a critical need of the shared constituency of the libraries and the OVPR, supports the libraries' and university's strategic planning processes, and embeds the libraries further in the research process at the University of Minnesota. You could say that our collaboration is a win-win, all the way around.