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Library Philosophy and Practice 2009

ISSN 1522-0222

Getting to Know the Neighbors: Library Support for Study Abroad Programs

Virginia Connell
Moorhead, Minnesota 56560

 

Introduction

The practice of sending young people abroad to “finish” their education was common primarily among well-to-do families in the 1800's and well into the 1900's. We see examples of this practice in the fictional families that inhabit Jane Austin's novels, and we see travel play a pivotal role in the development of Henry James' character Isabel Archer, in Portrait of a Lady. Ideally, these characters aim for broadening their horizons to become citizens of the world. Though this practice of travel abroad for students in their late teens and early twenties was perhaps a little less likely to happen in the United States' early history, by the end of World War II, many people were becoming aware of the need for such travel for a larger portion of the student population (Bjerkness 2). The heart of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's “Good Neighbor Policy,” put in place in 1933, not only sought to “distance the United States from earlier interventionist policies” (US State Department), but also implied the need to understand other cultures more fully (Bjerkness 2). The huge impact of the war brought home the importance of diplomacy to many in the United States, and in recognition of that need, Senator J. William Fulbright proposed a bill in Congress that “called for the use of surplus war property to fund the ‘promotion of international good will through the exchange of students in the fields of education, culture and science'” (“Fulbright Program”). The passage of this bill, in effect, formalized study abroad for United States higher education.

What started as primarily a security concern, as a means of promoting peaceful relationships between countries, evolved over time into an economic concern, as the marketplaces of individual countries have become more intrinsically tied to each other. Students in the United States, in particular, are noted for their lack of understanding of global market issues; studies have found students able in specific disciplines, but lacking in “important cross-cultural skills” (McCarthy 68). Worse, one study found that “'only a very small proportion of American students command a level of knowledge necessary for even an adequate understanding of global situations and processes'” (Hayward qtd. in Altbach 31). With the disastrous events of September 11, 2001, the emphasis on study abroad swung back more towards educating younger citizens for security reasons (Lane 11). Presently, travel abroad programs aim to balance economic and security concerns. Goli Ameri, Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs observed:

US students recognize that our world is increasingly interdependent, and we at the US Department of State are committed to providing many of them substantive international experiences that increase mutual understanding and provide them with direct knowledge and career relevant skills. Our Fulbright and Gilman program numbers are at all time highs, and hundreds of American students receive National Security Language Initiative scholarships. (“US Study Abroad”)

US students who travel abroad not only increase their understanding of global issues, they are seen as young diplomats, representing the best of the United States' national character (Bjerkness 5) and showing “'America's respect for other cultures, a cornerstone of our public diplomacy efforts'” (Hughes qtd. in “American Students”).

Acknowledging this range of benefits of formal study abroad, colleges and universities increasingly focused on creating study abroad programs within their own institutions, thus expanding on the Fulbright Act. To support these programs within the academy, a number of institutions have developed specific curriculum goals which travel programs must meet. Ideally, these goals aim for increasing students' understanding of global systems—the ways in which countries' political and economic systems intersect. Good programs incorporate global language efforts and research on global cultures, on different countries' terrain, and on countries' market and technology strategies. Often, programs will also emphasize the soft skills of getting along with people of different backgrounds, of fostering leadership, of adapting to changes smoothly, and of communicating knowledge verbally and in writing (McCarthy 72). This set of hard and soft skills has been termed “Transnational Competence” ( Towards Transnational Competence 5), and it is viewed as far-reaching in its benefits:

International education is unique in the sphere of transborder information flow because of its significant multiplier effect, assuming that experience abroad may affect perceptions and attitudes of their fellow countrymen toward other countries and cultures. Foreign students represent a special source of international communication, because of their gate keeping function in the two- way information flow between their home country and host country. (Liu 43)

Transnational Competence is arguably even more important with the advent of the information transfer technology of the last twenty years. Though citizens of different countries can communicate more easily and more cheaply than ever before, this ease of communication increases rather than decreases the significance of better global understanding.

US Study Abroad: Current Status

In the Open Doors report released by the Institute of International Education in 2007, the numbers of US students attending classes abroad increased 8.5% from the previous year to 223,534 (“American Students”). This number is an increase from 85,000 recorded in 1994-95 (Stuart 17). The recently released Open Doors 2008 report reveals another increase of 8% to “a total of 241,791 in the 2006/07 academic year” (“US Study Abroad”). In addition to sending more students abroad, colleges and universities are increasing the global focus in their curriculum goals on campuses in the United States. Of 624 community colleges responding to a survey on this issue, forty percent report increased emphasis on international learning (McCarthy 69). There was a significant increase in the junior-year-abroad format of study in the 1980's ( Towards Transnational Competence 49), and there has also been a significant increase (a rise of 150%) in students earning credits for study abroad since 1995-96 (“American Students”). Though 241,791 may seem like a small number, given the size of student populations in undergraduate, graduate, and research institutions in the United States, the numbers are predicted to increase. Indeed, increasing the numbers has become a national goal: “In 2005 a government-appointed panel known as the Lincoln Commission recommended that a million students should be studying abroad annually by 2016, about a 400-percent increase from existing levels. In June [of 2007] the US House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing $80 million annually toward that goal” (Farrell 2). Therefore, educators at every level of the academy need to become increasingly aware of methods of supporting study abroad programs.

Since the formalization of study abroad for academic credit with the Fulbright program, different types of programs have evolved. The options include year-long, semester-long, eight-week-long, one-month-long and two-week-long trips (Rooney 1). The Open Doors 2007 report notes that “semester study now attracts 37% of those students studying abroad, while slightly more than half (52%) of US students elect short-term programs (including summer, January term and any program of less than 8 weeks) and only 5.5% spend a full academic or calendar year abroad” (“American Students”). In the 2008 report, the short-term program use increased to 55% (“US Study Abroad”). As recently as 2002, it was reported that the majority of stays were of the semester-long variety (Rooney 2). Thus, the trend toward shorter stays is up sharply in the intervening five years. This trend of shorter stays, however, may have negative effects on study, as the Open Doors 2007 report notes: “While brief sojourns and short-term programs expand the numbers of Americans studying abroad, longer programs abroad provide better opportunities for language acquisition and deeper immersion in the culture” (“American Students”; Rooney 2). In addition to differences in the lengths of study, there are variations in the structures of these programs' instruction delivery. Some programs arrange student enrollment in a university abroad, some establish branch campuses abroad for their traveling students, and some offer “discipline-specific, short-term” study tours led by faculty from the home institution (Hoffa 2). There are also numerous opportunities for internships abroad, often in teaching, in the sciences, and, especially, in business (Altbach 30).

Though the trend is toward shorter stays, it has also become increasingly apparent to the stakeholders in the area of study abroad that the programs need to become more academically rigorous. Many colleges and universities are setting out to dispel the caricature of study abroad as all sun-and-fun. Dean of Admissions Cuttino of Tufts University wryly commented, “'If a student just wants a good travel experience, we can introduce them to a good travel agent…The focus of study abroad is “study”—this should be a serious academic experience'” (qtd. in Rooney 1). Rather than see trips as venues for sight-seeing, “Now administrators and study-abroad directors want students to take academically rigorous classes, improve their foreign-language fluency, gain cultural literacy, and return home with a better understanding of the global economy” (Farrell 1). This increased emphasis on academic rigor has become a way that institutions can brand their study abroad choices as superior to those offered by for-profit enterprises (Farrell 2). This change in focus required changing the in-house attitudes about study abroad, which, as recently as 1995, included college administrators looking on it as “a kind of glorified, credit-bearing vacation” (Engle A56). After a ruling from the US Department of Education in the mid-1990's, requiring that study abroad academic credits depend on the same rigorous work that on-campus classes require (Engle A56), the tide began to turn. While some programs had offered substantial academic challenges all along, the impetus within the last ten years has been to work formally within the institution to satisfy all of the stakeholders in study abroad work. The 2003 edition of the Open Doors report recommended that “global competency” be considered by accreditation agencies evaluating college and university curriculum goals (Lane 12). In addition, more faculty members have been put in charge of the academic content of these trips; because faculty are invested in creating challenging courses as a matter of their own professional integrity, this element is crucial in increasing academic rigor in these off-campus ventures (Hoffa 2). Given the expense of travel abroad, institutions often look to outside grants to support programs, and these grant-giving entities also look for guarantees of good quality student work (McCarthy 70). Finally, with the increasing numbers of “helicopter parents” making their presence felt on campus, programs are finding the need to provide it all: academic challenge at a reasonable price with the same sorts of amenities that students have on campus (Hoffa 2). All of these forces, then, should make university policy-makers “start to accept study abroad as a vital part of contemporary higher education and undertake an institution wide examination of the goals and methods of foreign-study programs” (Engle A56).

Enhancement through Library Instruction and Access

Study abroad has presented some difficulties for scholars since its inception. Without formal agreements between universities, students typically arrived in a country with very few resource materials at their disposal. Even now, with many more formal arrangements, university and even public library access and services may be severely restricted. Students traveling to remote areas are further hampered in their studies in having no library at all. Indeed, previous incarnations of study abroad tended to be limited to field work (Geitz 85). While such data gathering is important, the result of a lack of information resources was that most Humanities disciplines, “where books are the ‘tools of the trade,' [were] best avoided—better work can be done at home” (Geitz 82). For all students to benefit fully from study abroad, library access and services are a necessity. In a list of priorities for creating a global society via study abroad, Kauffman, Martin, Weaver, and Weaver list library access and facilities first out of four specific recommendations (155-56). When study abroad project directors were surveyed, second only to development of faculty knowledge came “acquiring library and teaching materials to support curriculum development” as crucial to increasing the academic challenge of classes (McCarthy 70). While library access in situ may be available for some programs, it often remains unavailable for many programs. Even when students take classes within a country's university, library use can be limited to the physical space of the library, without the possibility of even checking out materials. In some abroad programs, local library access may be “cumbersome,” unreliable, or hampered by language differences, especially if students spend much of the semester traveling from area to area, essentially living in hotel rooms (Kauffman, Martin, Weaver, and Weaver 155-56). One writer noted, in a chapter entitled “Experiential Learning in the Developing World”:

While we may often complain bitterly about lack of funding we are really quite well off by comparison with universities in developing countries. For the most part, libraries there, to choose just one area, are woefully lacking in resources. At Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, for example, the scope of its library holdings is quite limited compared to libraries of even the smallest of American colleges. The ramifications for research possibilities are obvious. (Geitz 82)

The passage of time, however, has re-configured some of the historical obstacles to rigorous study abroad. With the advent of the internet and of new information technology tools, faculty members now have several options from which to choose to facilitate library access. Fortunately for librarians, many of the needs of Distance Education (DE) students are similar to the needs of US students studying in other countries. Previous research has shown that faculty value library services for their students who are working at a distance, and believe that library services lend “legitimacy to distance education ventures” (Hines 218). Library access is also important because DE students, like their counterparts on campus, are much more likely to choose internet sources before trying to find information in the library's databases (Jones and Dornberger 230). Given the priority to increase academic standards in study abroad, however, this tendency needs to be discouraged in favor of more reliable information obtained from the library's digital resources. Study abroad programs as well as Distance Education require “digital library support” (Bargellini and Bordoni 6). Because “Distance-learning technologies are often used to deliver part or all of [the] educational programs” associated with “offshore and branch campuses in other countries and collaborative degree programs with universities and business enterprises abroad” (Altbach 30), it is appropriate to consider some of the best practices of DE librarianship as they apply to study abroad efforts. Access to the home academic library's databases works to increase the quality of student education at a distance (Wright, Stanford and Beedle 59). Well organized, richly populated library websites and the accompanying digital resources can have a substantial impact on the success of distance education courses (Buck, Islam, and Syrkin 72). Bargellini and Bordoni note the value of two kinds of library services: “specific tools, such as an Intelligent Learning Environment and multimedia applications; and advanced methods for getting and filtering information from documents available in libraries and on the World Wide Web” (4). Others acquainted with distance education students' use of library materials have noted the value of using the library web pages to link to “point-of-use” guides and printable brochures concerning research and use of library databases (Bancroft and Lowe 19). Modifying existing library web pages or creating special web pages for specific study abroad classes could “provide students with inclusive information intended for the subject of the class in one location” (Bancroft and Lowe 20).

While planning to deliver thorough Bibliographic Instruction (BI) to students in the midst of the trip of a lifetime may be less-than-ideal timing, there are several things librarians can do to bolster the success of students' interaction with the library while they travel. For the benefit of all concerned, any library web pages that proffer library resource access should be designed with efficiency and time-saving in mind. If faculty fear that students' use of the library pages will be too time-consuming or too frustrating (an even bigger worry for faculty in the compressed schedule that most study abroad programs must adhere to), they are less likely to require their students to use them (Hines 217). Library liaisons and faculty should plan resources well in advance of the trip so that any copyright complications can be resolved (Hines 217). Librarians should continually update faculty on the status of library materials and services, both before the trip and during the trip (Hines 218). McCaffrey, Parscal and Riedel stress the importance of establishing a means of real-time communication between faculty and librarians (281) while the trip is in progress. Students working at a distance also find having access to an array of online tutorials, research guides (especially ones relating to the citation format required by the faculty leader of the trip), and printable handouts to be very important (Hines 218).

Though there are many similarities between the library needs of distance education students and study abroad students, there are some unique characteristics of students studying in another country. DE students are often intellectually and emotionally invested in the long-term approach to the degree process (and may have friends and family who can provide advice along the way); study abroad students may be abroad for as few as two weeks, though some are out of the US for as long as a year. Though they may feel they have very little support beyond their classmates and professor, study abroad students have usually had extended contact with the home institution and the home library before leaving. Because of this prior contact, study abroad students may have built up expectations about what is offered in the brick-and-mortar context (as may their parents). Because of these expectations, study abroad programs have a unique relationship to the library on the home campus. Access to the campus library through library web pages may not be enough to facilitate successful completion of study abroad assignments. Without scoped and sequenced BI beginning in students' freshman year, students who go abroad, even in their junior or senior years, are likely to be unprepared to do research properly. In some studies of DE program needs, “faculty assumed that students already knew how to use library resources and services, and didn't need instruction” (Hines 219), so there is no reason to assume that an individual faculty member will have the foresight to schedule specific BI for a particular class abroad. Though many institutions require no more library instruction than one fifty-minute session for freshmen (Wang 149), research has shown that “information literacy must occur throughout a students' academic career” (Zabel 19). If institutions want study abroad programs to be more intellectually rigorous, failing to offer scaffolding for students with sequenced BI or failing to encourage the development of a relationship with home librarians (Lillard 275) may severely limit their efforts.

At the very least, BI should be an essential element of pre-departure preparation. Many programs attempting to increase the academic rigor of classes abroad have substantial pre-trip requirements (Jones, Burden, Layne, and Stein 2). Some programs require a semester-long preparatory class on campus before travel (Bjerkness 8), while others may require a two-month preparation, “Laying the groundwork for their trip abroad by taking classes that focus on language skills, cultural awareness, and research and teamwork development” (“Models of Global Engagement” 1). Pre-departure program descriptions often include these priorities in addition to putting an emphasis on learning as much as possible about the destination country (Martin 250), but they seldom prescribe specific BI geared to aiding students only recently removed from their home campus. Because study abroad students may feel especially adrift in their research, librarians helping from a distance “should be skilled in scaffolding learning to provide ‘timely guidance and help learners in the form of encouragement, questions, and materials that lead to thinking and problem-solving processes'” (McLoughlin and Oliver qtd. in Dabbagh and Bannon-Ritland 51-52). Especially important for students involved in extended abroad stays of a semester or a year, the remote scaffolding that librarians provide “should be aimed at promoting self-directed learning, self-awareness of learning processes, and strategies (metacognition, or ‘learning to learn'…) and collaborative learning” (Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland 51-52). Having library skills before they go is dependent on students having received library instruction (Bryant, Martin, and Slay 15). In addition, librarians should be especially nurturing of the library's relationship with faculty members responsible for teaching courses to students abroad, because faculty attitudes are key: “If professors have little jurisdiction over the programs, they are often suspicious about the level of academic rigor and the relevance of such experiences to their discipline. But when an institution lets the faculty design the curriculum for courses abroad, professors frequently become dogged champions of international study” (Farrell 3). Buck, Islam and Syrkin counsel librarians who would collaborate with faculty to establish good working relationships with them as early as possible (68). Developing and polishing a class library website specific to the study abroad class is a good way to build these collaborative relationships (Buck, Islam and Syrkin 71), to keep faculty informed about library resource and service options, and to resolve copyright issues associated with materials faculty members have chosen to use for class.

Issues surrounding the use of technology are also ones to be handled carefully by librarians assisting abroad study. Because carrying print resources abroad is untenable at many levels (Wright, Stanford and Beedle 52), libraries can make use of websites, proxy servers, and other applications of technology currently used for DE students (Gorman and Miller 70). Even colleges without DE programs in place already use many of these technologies in order to reach faculty in their homes and upperclassmen in their apartments. Because these recipients of library services have grown used to these personalized services while living only a few blocks from campus (Gorman and Miller 71), they will take expectations of equivalent services with them when they travel outside of the country. But because students will not be able to correct misperceptions of library instruction or aid by easily driving over to campus at the next convenient opportunity, librarians should especially strive to meet best practices standards for virtual reference (Zanin-Yost 5), including options like chat or co-browsing. Because learners abroad will spend so much of their time receiving information sources digitally, all representatives of the academy need to reinforce to students the “high-quality library support” that is both necessary and ready to help with their studies (Gorman and Miller 82).

Anticipating and resolving technology problems that study abroad classes face is not the exclusive domain of the home campus IT department. Several things can be done by the library which will help these classes enormously. Because not all countries visited by study abroad program students will have large bandwidth options, libraries can make the resources chosen for the syllabus and other handouts available in both PDF and HTML formats (Wright, Stanford and Beedle 58). Creating a system for student feedback to be channeled directly to the library immediately might also be beneficial. For those classes requiring intensive amounts of reading (e.g., humanities courses) and for classes visiting remote areas with no or little reliable internet access, flash memory devices or CD-ROMs would be inexpensive methods of document delivery if the class has been able to take laptop computers with them. Though they are considered an older technology, CD-ROMs have proven useful in providing library tutorials and text to distant students: “CD-ROMs can add value, provide search and display capabilities, and include glosses and annotations of use to humanities students” (Gorman and Miller 77). Jones and Dornberger also note this technology's ability to appeal to different learning styles of students (232). Devices such as CD-ROMs and flash memory drives are lightweight, durable, and capable of holding a large amount of text, and either would prove an excellent enhancement to study abroad classes finding themselves in hot, humid, or remote locations (Hefzallah 130 and 133). In recent years, trips to more remote places have been on the rise (“More Foreign Students”; “US Study Abroad”). Compilation of resources on these portable technologies, including copyright certification could be facilitated by the library liaison to the study abroad class instructor (Jones and Dornberger 237). While many of these activities are labor-intensive, the satisfaction they will bring to faculty, students and librarians involved in creating a more globally aware campus would be significant.

Community of Practice: Concordia College

Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota is a small, liberal arts institution founded in 1891 (“History”). Offering seventy-eight majors and twelve pre-professional programs, Concordia's long-standing involvement in global language instruction has brought national recognition for its Language Villages, which have permanent lodgings in central Minnesota and several outreach programs in other locations (“Language Villages”). On campus, all students study at least one of the ten global languages, and over half of the students choose some form of study abroad (“About Concordia College”). Concordia is often listed in the top twenty Baccalaureate institutions by total number of students who go abroad for study (“Leading Institutions” 38).

Concordia chose to create an academically rigorous study abroad program soon after the program's inception in 1967. Initially, the program was strongly associated with the language departments, and it gave faculty members responsibility for curriculum decisions so that they could “monitor student progress,” “relate other courses in the language sequence to the abroad program,” “motivate students to become interested in language study” and “be personally involved in the students' progress abroad, both from curricular and learning standpoints” (Bjerkness 5-6). After the first few abroad ventures, faculty members concluded that students needed a pre-requisite course to iron out any social incompatibilities and to provide extensive background reading and research in order to facilitate students' understanding of the countries in which they would soon be traveling (Bjerkness 6). Concordia set up a May Seminar Office to coordinate logistics and required that abroad courses meet the approval of a faculty planning committee and the Core Committee. As part of the approval process, faculty members were required to stipulate the ways in which the courses were to meet the college's academic responsibility to the students (Bjerkness 6). Very quickly, the May Seminar program became a sequence of two courses: “a traditional four-month second-semester course on campus (most departments require one full course or four semester hours) and the experience-based five-week summer school course (all departments offer full-course credit only)” (Bjerkness 8-9). Importantly, the pre-seminar courses were held to the same standard of academic rigor as were all other classes offered on campus (Bjerkness 11). This model for “May-Sems” has continued since its founding, and in recent years, following national trends, other travel options have been added to the curriculum.

Presently, Concordia offers the traditional May Semester two-part course, a number of 10-day Exploration trip options, several summer school abroad choices, several semester-long trips, and year-long programs in several countries. The Exploration seminars are embedded in a semester-long course which “Lays the cultural and historical background” for the trip (Rodlund). The summer school abroad option offers academic credit for a month-long stay, usually associated with a university and often involving home-stays for students. As with the May-Sems, these options include Concordia faculty instructors who organize and give instruction on site. The year-long trips often involve teaching, interning or volunteering, immersion in local culture and language, and focus on Social Justice concerns, environmental issues, and community outreach (Rodlund).

The Carl B. Ylvisaker Library has contributed to the success of Concordia's study abroad programs by providing substantial library instruction. Over the last few years, librarians have focused on creating strong scaffolding throughout the students' time on campus. Their efforts begin with a “Library Launch” embedded in each Freshman Inquiry Seminar. Reaching close to 100% of students (both the Inquiry Seminar and the Library Launch are required in the students' first year on campus), this Launch combines a library orientation with the beginnings of Information Literacy instruction. In a hands-on, interactive class, students are asked to identify key library services they will be using during their years at Concordia, to find an article in the library databases, to locate a reference text, and to retrieve a monograph from the stacks. Personal contact with librarians and library staff are built into all portions of the Launch. Later in the semester, most Inquiry classes return to the library for a class-long bibliographic instruction tutorial which addresses such issues as finding scholarly resources, using more general databases, setting up a campus RefWorks account, and discussing larger issues of Information Literacy. After freshman year, a growing number of students return to the library for library instruction that is scoped and sequenced to support advancement in their major area of study. These Information Literacy classes tend to be class-specific, associated with a specific assignment, and related to the overall faculty goals for that particular major (Rux). These repeated interactions with librarians (who usually hand out their business cards to students in their assigned classes very early in a student's career) have paid off handsomely. Unlike national trends in academic libraries, the use of Concordia's Ylvisaker Library has been steadily increasing in recent history. During the 2007-08 academic year, “329,008 patrons visited” the library as compared to 311,446 from the previous academic year ( Carl B. Newsy ). Materials use was also up to 82,224, “an increase of 8,507 over 06-07” ( Carl B. Newsy ). In this part of the Midwest, this increase is unique to Concordia, as the use rate of Ylvisaker Library per capita tops University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, and Minnesota State University Moorhead combined (Hoverson).

Part of Concordia's successful approach to study abroad is attributable to a number of other value-added services that the librarians provide. All discipline departments, as well as administrative offices, have a designated library liaison. The liaison works throughout the academic year with faculty members to acquire and develop departmental library resources and to create a discipline-specific library webpage, with links to resources commonly used by the academic subject area specialists. In addition, the liaison also works with individual faculty members to develop web pages for particular classes, facilitating the completion of specific research assignments related to the course (“Library Liaison”; “Course Pages”). Liaisons also offer “Assignment Consultation,” a chance for a faculty member to meet with a librarian to discuss a specific assignment and to anticipate and defeat obstacles to the successful completion of the assignment by students (this is especially helpful when students and faculty return to campus in the fall to find new resources in the library) (“Assignment Consultation”). For faculty who wish to acquaint themselves with new resources, or who want to develop their own research skills, the library liaisons offer “Desktop Coaching,” provided when a librarian meets the faculty member privately in the faculty member's office (“Desktop Coaching”). Additionally, librarians offer individualized copyright assistance to faculty members to facilitate students' access to materials through Moodle or other class-related venues (“Got Copyright?”). Without the continual scaffolding of students' academic endeavors with increasingly sophisticated Bibliographic Instruction, and without strong liaison relationships between librarians and faculty members, many of the academic successes of the study abroad classes would not be possible.

The need for a campus that is information-rich and academically rigorous is a clear priority for Concordia:

Students may come to us more globally connected than previous generations, but we have a responsibility to help them become more globally astute. As Tom Friedman and others have written, we have yet to fully grasp how America's place in the world has changed and continues to change with the rise of countries like China and India.

How do we now position our country and our graduates to interact and compete more effectively on a global stage? At Concordia, it's about providing a well-integrated curriculum rich with international perspective and experiences. And, most importantly, we must instill in our students the desire to engage in and responsibly influence the affairs of the world. (Jolicoeur 9)

Future Research of Library Support for SA

There are several avenues of research and writing that would be beneficial to librarians seeking to know more about this area of academic library service. Because there is not much information in the library literature that addresses library support of semester abroad study, a systematic evaluation of the support libraries provide now would be in order. This research might utilize the Open Door reports that come out annually to determine which institutions to evaluate, perhaps looking separately at undergraduate, graduate, and research institutions to determine different levels of library service needs. Some useful initial questions for faculty might include:

  • What is the country to which your class will be traveling?
  • Will you have library service in the destination country?
  • Will you have internet access in the destination country?
  • Is internet access reliable?
  • Is internet access expensive?
  • Is internet access only available at certain stops on your trip?
  • What kinds of curriculum support do you need before, during, and after your trip?
  • Do you plan to use your class website portal to organize your class materials to be used while away?
  • How do you plan to make texts available to your students while abroad?
  • Do you need access to PDF and HTML documents?
  • Will you need copyright consultations for materials?
  • Do you need to take CD-ROMs or flash drives with texts already loaded onto them for remote areas?
  • Pre-departure Library Instruction:
  • Do your students know how to conduct research from a distance?
  • Do they know how to search databases and e-resources for relevant information?
  • Do they know how to use virtual reference to gain access to a librarian?
  • Do you need library tutorials to be embedded in your travel class website?
  • To gauge the current state of library support for study abroad programs, several libraries could be chosen, based on their schools' histories of student participation in travel programs, to participate in a survey of services offered. Many of the questions for faculty could be re-framed to gather information from the library side of service to students newly distanced from the home campus. Further questions might include:
  • Who initiated the library's involvement in SA preparation and support?
  • If librarians initiated involvement, how was this accomplished?
  • If faculty initiated involvement, how was the request framed?
  • What sorts of services have you provided before, during and after travel for classes going abroad?
  • Did these services exist in your library previously?
  • Did you modify any existing services to adapt to SA needs? If so, how?
  • Did you add any services for SA programs?
  • What technology-related issues or concerns are associated with SA students' use of the library?
  • How would you prioritize these?
  • How have you addressed these issues?
  • What recommendations would you have for other librarians wishing to evaluate and meet the needs of SA programs' particular reference and research challenges?

Conclusion

As more students travel to learn more about global languages, cultures, and markets, colleges and universities will be increasingly invested in the quality of what they learn. Academic libraries can be important and creative partners to the departments who send students abroad. Librarians can help both faculty and students prepare for their trip by acquiring and promoting scholarly resources devoted to descriptions of the destination country's political history, cultural influence, and economic standing. While students are away from campus, libraries can function as a virtual resource of reliable information, point-of-need instruction, and research reinforcement for assigned readings and writing. When students return to their home campus, the library can provide resources that will allow them to put their travels into the larger context of their further education and their future careers. By working in collaborative relationships with faculty, librarians can contribute to the ultimate success of the increasing emphasis on global issues on American campuses, and, in doing so, help newer generations of students “finish” their education.

Works Cited

“About Concordia College.” About. Concordia College. 11 Nov. 2008 http://www.cord.edu/about1.php.

Altbach, Philip G. “Perspectives on International Higher Education.” Change (May-Jun. 2002): 29-31. Academic OneFile. Gale Cengage. University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. 31 Aug. 2008.

“American Students Studying Abroad at Record Levels: Up 8.5%.” Open Doors 2007. 12 Nov. 2007. Institute of International Education. 8 Nov. 2008 http://opendoors.iienetwork.org/?p=113744.

Bancroft, Donna and Susan Lowe. “Helping Users Help Themselves: Evaluating the Off-Campus Library Services Website.” The Twelfth Off-Campus Library Services Conference Proceedings. Co-published simultaneously in Journal of Library Administration 45.1/2 (2006): 17-35.

Bargellini, Maria Laura and Luciana Bordini. “The Role of the Library in a New Learning Scenario.” The Electronic Library 19.3 (2001): 1-9. Proquest. University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. 31 Aug. 2008 http://proquest.umi.com.

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