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Through the Art of Grant-Seeking, Academic Libraries Connect Funding Needs with Potential Funders

Dec 01, 2010

Today’s academic environment can be both competitive and collaborative, and nowhere is this truer than in the area of grantsmanship. Faculty are increasingly judged at hiring, tenure and promotion time by the amount of grant revenue they generate for research efforts.

Undergraduate students are seeking scholarships, and graduate students need fellowship funds to pay for tuition, field research and dissertation support. University staff increasingly rely on grant monies to seed innovative programs, spaces and services. In recognition of the growing importance of grant dollars in academe, many faculty across the curriculum are requiring students to learn the art of proposal writing and identify potential grantmakers.

With increasing funding needs throughout universities, how can academic libraries be a resource in the grant-getting process, become a valuable part of their parent institutions’ grant-getting infrastructure, and develop partnerships and relationships with key research and development players across campus? There are many ways in which academic libraries can become integral to our grant-seeking constituents, including academic libraries themselves.

Academic libraries play diverse grant-related roles

Along a continuum in the grant-seeking process, the campus library plays many roles. Many libraries purchase and provide access to grant-seeking tools such as databases. Next, the library can develop its own Web or print-based pathfinder tools to assist users in their search for grants. Webographies such as those found among Jon Harrison’s resources at Michigan State (Harrison, 2009) or my own selector pages (Downing, Doepker & Bonnet, 2009) are examples of such pathfinder tools.

More proactive on the continuum is using such locally and commercially produced tools to reach out to constituents across campus to provide instruction and support for their grant-seeking and funding needs.

Next, libraries are increasingly collaborating on grant-based projects or actually becoming grant-seekers. Collaborative projects allow librarians to get in-depth experience throughout the grant-seeking process and develop close relationships with constituents for grant-seeking and other information needs.

And finally, for maximum user interaction and impact, libraries get involved in campuswide groups that set research policies and maintain and grow the grantseeking infrastructure. Through these contacts, libraries are positioned not only to develop deep and consequential relationships spanning their entire institutions, but to help guide campuswide policies and directions.

Nurturing key relationships is important to successful grant-seeking

Every campus has a variety of key players in the grant-seeking business. Within the larger campus community, there are distinct groups of individuals needing grantseeking support and willing to collaborate on getting grants. Also there are offices and individuals that create the infrastructure for grant-seeking and that are wonderful conduits through which to offer library-based grant-seeking services. Librarians should develop and nurture relationships with these individuals and offices.

Helping with grant-seeking benefits library constituents and libraries themselves

The academic library serves as a central information resource for all campus constituents, and is well positioned to provide information to connect funding needs with potential funders. Because of its important and central role, the academic library can help meet funding needs across an institution and also meet its own funding needs. Taking a leadership role in grant-getting can help the academic library better serve its constituents and strengthen its own position.