To gain information to help us better understand our librarian customers, Elsevier marketing colleagues recently surveyed academic librarians regarding their changing roles. From the more than 6,000 email addresses worldwide to which we sent the survey invitation, we received 441 replies.
In describing themselves, the majority of respondents indicated that they have been employed as academic librarians for 10 years or more and in positions that existed 5 years ago; primarily support their institutions or campuses as a whole rather than particular departments, faculties or schools; and work directly with library users. Further, 31.3% of respondents identified themselves as library directors, and 37% as between the ages of 50–59. “Library Director” and “50–59” thus emerged as the most frequently chosen answers to “What is your primary role?” and “What age are you?”
When looking at the survey results overall, a trend emerged: Librarians see themselves as increasingly partnering with faculty and partnering with university administrators.
Librarians focus on partnering with faculty
Respondents indicated a strong current focus on supporting faculty and a strong interest in not just supporting faculty but partnering with them on an intensified basis moving forward. Faculty emerged as a user group now getting a lot of attention from respondents; 30.7% indicated they spend 26–50% of their time with faculty. See Graph 1.
Regarding partnering with faculty, in response to “How likely is it that academic librarians will take the following roles in the next 3–5 years,” 61.8% of respondents indicated that supporting faculty in their teaching would be very likely. Also 53.7% indicated that helping faculty improve their research output and ranking would be very likely. See Graph 2.
Out of 197 responses to the open-ended question “What would you like to see as the academic librarian’s primary role in the next 3–5 years,” a significant number talked about librarians partnering with faculty in teaching and research. Such responses included:
- “Active engagement with both the teaching (learning) and research activities in the university.”
- “To work hand in glove with the faculties and to be more involved in research purposes.”
- “Partnering with faculty to improve student outcomes.”
- “A research partner for the academic staff.”
- “Greater partnership with faculty in the classroom setting.”
- “Working with faculty, graduate students as integrated partners/collaborators in teaching and research.”
Librarians focus on partnering with university administrators
In response to the question “How likely is it that academic librarians will take the following roles in the next 3–5 years,” 34.2% of respondents said it’s very likely they’ll serve as a strategic partner in supporting university administrators, and 46.3% said such a role is likely. See Graph 2.
The open-ended question “What would you like to see as the academic librarian’s primary role in the next 3–5 years” elicited a good number of comments talking about partnering with university administrators and the university overall. Such comments included:
- “Strategic partnerships with university administrators and with external institutions.”
- “I want academic librarians to be seen as academic partners with faculty and university administration to further the University's strategic directions.”
- “Be at the table when the parent organization discusses or implements new initiatives: departments, educational programs, other units that want to take on roles traditionally under the library's purview.”
- “Helping the university successfully navigate the complicated and changing world of scholarly communication.”
- “Library role as strategic partner in whole of university teaching and research endeavours.”
Regarding how librarians currently support university administrators, though 81.2% of respondents indicated they spend 0–25% of their time with this user group (see Graph 1), respondents confirmed that they provide a range of services to this user group. Per the survey results, research assistance is the service most popularly provided to university administrators. The next most popularly provided services include creating communications for use within an institution or campus (46.4% of respondents provide this service), bibliographic instruction (45.9%) and institutional performance evaluation (42.9%). See Graph 3.
And many respondents indicated providing additional services, beyond those listed in Graph 3, to university administrators. Respondents ticking “Other” in response to “In your current role, what services do you provide to university administrators,” offered comments including:
- “Budget decision support”
- “Budget documents; futures forecasting for computing”
- “Formulating policies and solving various problems”
- “Copyright consultation”
As previously noted, many (80.5%) of the respondents indicated it’s very likely or likely that, in the next 3–5 years, they’ll take the role of serving as a strategic partner in supporting university administrators.
The survey’s summary results are online
Space here doesn’t allow for more in-depth reporting of the survey results. Suffice it to say that additional survey results, including those addressing academic librarians’ use of social media tools and marketing tactics, the pressure on academic librarians to publish, and metrics being used to measure library performance, may interest you.
Certainly, we feel the survey results will help us, as we strive to offer services to help information professionals in their jobs, on the ground, day to day. We thank everyone who took the time to respond to the survey. And we invite you all to take a look at the collected data.