Faculty Attitudes Toward Collaboration with Librarians
Dr. Atif Yousef
University libraries play a vital role in supporting their parent institutions to achieve their objectives effectively. Librarians and faculty members are both involved in teaching students how to make use of the information resources available in their campus library. Collaboration between faculty and librarians is essential to enhance students learning and research, and help them develop their information competencies.
A key element of effective collaboration is knowledge of the attitudes of both groups. The literature provides a lot of studies that have been carried out on librarians' attitudes toward collaboration. However, few studies have been conducted on faculty attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians. Having more information about this issue would help us create better understanding of their partnership in supporting the library functions and activities. Hollander et al. (2004) concludes that,
Librarians and teaching faculty have many mutual goals and concerns. Both want students to develop a greater understanding of and respect for books, journals, and other intellectual property. Both want to enhance student literacy, particularly information literacy, and help students become writers, problem solvers, critical thinkers, and self-directed, lifelong learners. Lastly, both want to build the social and learning community on campus.
To best serve the needs of faculty, university librarians need to understand the opinions of these users. On the other hand, faculty members are expected to cooperate with the university librarians in different ways. They can help in selecting relevant information sources. Their opinions about the services provided to them and their students are also appreciated. Librarians and academics are becoming increasingly aware of the need to collaborate in various areas, such as information literacy, collection development and user services. A number of authors, (cf., for example, Knapp, 1956; Feldman and Sciammarella (2000), Rader (2001), Lippincott, 2002; Wijayasundara, 2008) stress the importance of collaboration between academics and librarians.
On the other hand some authors give a negative picture on collaboration between both sides. Hardesty (1995) refers lack of faculty members' collaboration to their culture. He says, "faculty members who hold on to the values of faculty culture (a feeling of lack of time; emphasis on content, professional autonomy and academic freedom; de-emphasis on the applied and the process of learning; and resistance to change) are not interested in “bright ideas” from librarians about bibliographic instruction."
The findings of Christiansen, et al. (2004) confirmed the research done by librarians on the topic of librarian-faculty relations in that, "Librarian-faculty relations have long been a significant component of the profession of librarians. For faculty, however, librarian-faculty relations are of little or no concern." There has been some controversy over whether faculty members perceive collaboration with librarians as necessary or not.
The purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes of faculty members in Zarka Private University toward collaboration with the librarians working in their campus Library. It also intended to determine from the faculty’s perspective whether they believe collaboration with the librarians is necessary, and with which areas and types of the library services. The overall profile of faculty members' attitudes toward collaborating with the university library would help in the construction of a clear and solid librarian-faculty partnership.
This study was conducted with teaching faculty at Zarka Private University in Jordan. Zarka Private University (2009) is structured into eight faculties containing a total of 18 departments that are responsible for undergraduate teaching. The eight faculties are: Faculty of Science and Information Technology, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Faculty of Allied Medical Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Shari'a, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Law, and Faculty of Nursing. About 6000 undergraduate students joined the eight faculties (at the time of the study) taught by 237 faculty members.
Zarka Private University Library (ZPUL) provides about 61776 printed books and 805 printed journals. Also available are online databases (OCLC, ACM, IEEE, DIALOG, Springer, EBSCO, e-Books (15000). The library provides 79 work stations for accessing electronic library resources. The majority of these PCs are available in three computerized teaching labs. Other materials such as cassettes, Video tapes, CDs, Disks are also available. A number of 24 employees look after the library.
ZPUL usually gives orientation tours and workshops for students and interested users from the local community. Several lectures and workshops are usually given to faculty members in various occasions such as new faculty orientation. Interested faculty members can also attend short presentations given by the University Librarians for their own personal growth. There is usually a faculty member representing his/ her faculty in the Library Committee. He/she acts as a liaison officer between the two sides. Being the chairman of the Library Committee for about seven years, the researcher noticed that some faculty members visited the library frequently, and had good relations with the librarians; while others were rarely seen in the library, and reluctant to liaise with the library on behalf of their faculties. This observation urged the researcher to investigate their attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians.
The main purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes of faculty members of ZPU toward collaboration with the university librarians. This study seeks to provide insight into the following questions:
1- What is the overall profile of faculty members' attitudes toward cooperating with the university librarians?
2- What areas of collaboration are faculty members interested in, and which areas they are not?
3- Is there a difference in the faculty members' attitudes pertinent to gender, academic qualifications, academic rank, type of college, and academic experience?
Significance of the Study
This study is expected to have the following significance regarding the faculty- librarian partnership.
In addition, The results and recommendations of this study are expected to lead to further investigation in this area.
The literature on collaboration between faculty members and librarians or libraries covers a variety of topics, such as, information literacy, collection development, and library services. Effective involvement of faculty members in the teaching-learning process requires understanding of their attitudes toward collaboration with the university librarians.
Some of the studies that covered this topic tackle collaboration between the two sides in general. Ducas and Michaud-Oystryk (2003) for example, conducted a survey at the University of Manitoba to explore librarian-faculty interaction. The study results showed that faculty highly rate the librarians' role in the university and endorse a greater level of interaction. Their study covered five areas of collaboration. The faculty rated them as follows in descending order of importance: information services, collection, information technology, research, and teaching/ instruction. Schulte & Sherwill- Navarro (2009) investigated how nursing faculty defined and perceived collaboration with a librarian in order to quantify anecdotal evidence of their perceptions and gain improved understanding of how librarians can approach future collaborations with nursing faculty. The results of this study seem to indicate that perhaps nursing faculty in this sample are open to these collaborations in spite of their relatively traditional perceptions of librarians.
Other studies covered specific topics that require collaboration between the two parties, such as information literacy, teaching and research, design of courses and curriculum development. Students are in great need of information literacy skills, the teaching of which requires the joint efforts of faculty members and librarians. According to Godwin (2005) "Academic staff are the key to influencing student acceptance of information literacy. Therefore librarians need to concentrate on academic perceptions and interest in information literacy."
In fact, there is a need for studies which may explore the role of collaboration between the two parties in the success of programs related to information literacy or bibliographic instruction.
In their study Manuel, Molly and Beck (2003) raised a question, "Why do some faculty members frequently use library instruction [LI], while others just don’t bother?" They found that:
While many faculty members are quite committed to teaching well and to the well-being of their students, they are not always well positioned to view students’ education in the broad context, beyond the confines of their discipline, and they can easily be overwhelmed by the various, not completely reconcilable, reform efforts prevalent on today’s campuses.
Badke (2005) pointed out that "While there is much discussion today about information literacy, proper implementation of it within university campuses is still a struggle, often due to the fact that librarians and teaching faculty have different “cultures” that create different priorities". Hrycaj & Rosso (2007) believe that library instruction approaches involving faculty and librarian collaboration must still be pursued through all avenues, from the efforts of individual librarians to institution-wide initiatives. Moreover, the study indicates the need to use different techniques to get reliable evidence of the faculty attitudes.
Some authors, like Touchard (2003) noted that faculty members express a general lack of interest in library instruction because it takes time away from their classes and believe research should be taught in other classes. Mc Guinness (2006) reports findings from a recent Irish-based study into faculty-librarian collaboration for information literacy (IL) development. Qualitative analysis of comments made by Sociology and Civil Engineering academics shows how entrenched beliefs and perceptions may adversely affect the potential for collaboration, and prevent the inclusion of information literacy in undergraduate curricula.
On the other hand some authors value the role of librarians in this regard. Lapidus (2009), for example, conducted a study to determine the impact of the teaching collaboration between faculty and librarians in instructing pharmacy students on herbal medicines. The results of the surveys showed that "the number of students who felt they were able to select the best print and electronic resources for finding herbal information increased to 100% from 50 and 60 correspondingly. This indicated a significant change in students' perceived knowledge of information sources in the field of herbal medicine, as well as overall progress in information literacy and problem-solving skills."
Isenburg (2004) conducted a study to determine from the faculty’s perspective what levels of bibliographic instruction are currently being provided to their students. The survey shows that faculty say that they do provide some research instruction, that the quality of student research could be improved, and that their students should be familiar with a number of library resources. Findings also suggest that librarian-led bibliographic instruction sessions can improve the quality of student research.
Design or evaluation of courses for information literacy is a relevant area of collaboration. Nelson, Jon Bradley et al. (2008) carried a study to determine faculty attitudes toward a professional seminar course for pharmacy students. This study found that serving as a facilitator in a professional seminar course generated scholarly work among faculty members at MSOP. Most faculty members had overall positive attitudes toward the course.
Both Faculty members and librarians are expected to help students to be familiar with library resources relevant to the offered courses. Schonfeld & Guthrie (2006) conducted a study to understand the attitudes and behaviors of higher education faculty members regarding online resources, the library, and related topic. Collection development and evaluation of the resources also require cooperation between the two sides. Oseghale (2008) indicates that 'one of the ways to ensure that the collection is in harmony with the curriculum is to seek the views of faculty about the collection, through regular assessment of faculty opinion about library collections and services."
Another area of collaboration is the design of information literacy courses. Mc Guinness (2007) critically reviews the strategies that have been adopted by librarians to secure academic support for curriculum-integrated information literacy (IL) instruction, and suggests that librarians should seek out the means to effect a more wide ranging change in the academic culture, where IL is recognized as a core educational value. Such suggestions require understanding the attitudes of faculty members.
Bielema et al. (2005) discuss their experience in designing a new distance education course with an emphasis on student group work. Collaborative effort among the University of Missouri St. Louis Libraries and faculty was established, and the process resulted in a more individualized service experience for library users, and the problems of course construction, using the Blackboard course management system, were shared and solved with new efficiency.
Barratt, et al (2009) conducted a study which describes a collaborative research project between two composition instructors and two librarians that analyzed citation patterns among students in the First-year Composition Program at the University of Georgia. The authors conclude that neither library nor composition instruction alone yields the strongest student writing but that close collaboration between the two in both creating the assignment and delivering instruction is essential to supporting good student writing and research.
The literature review indicates that there were several points of debate about the issue of collaboration between faculty members and librarians. While several studies demonstrate a lack of consensus between the two groups; others emphasize that both parties do have positive attitudes toward collaboration. The literature also indicates that this issue has been investigated in certain areas of collaboration. Further study is needed to fully explore this topic, and get an overall assessment of faculty opinion about collaboration.
This study presents the results of a survey of faculty members regarding their attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians. The investigation included the degree to which they had positive or negative attitudes toward collaboration; and the degree to which their attitudes were influenced by selected independent variables.
Population and Sample
The population of the study consisted of two hundred and thirty seven male and female faculty members in Zarka Private University during the summer semester of 2008/2009. The questionnaire was sent to all 237 faculty members. A response rate of 48% produced a total of 114 responses from the faculty members. Their demographic variables are shown in Table 1.
Table: 1. Demographics of Faculty Members (n =114)
Instrumentation and Procedure
In order to gather information from faculty members, the researcher designed a twenty-two item attitudinal questionnaire to determine the opinions of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians. The instrument was based on a combination of previous literature and the researcher's own experience as a librarian and a faculty member.
Their answers to the statements would help the librarians and administrators in the University to understand what the faculty members want and to what extent they are ready for enhancing collaboration with the university librarians.
The five-point Likert-scaled items asked respondents to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with statements about collaboration with the librarians. It should be clear that faculty members are not directly involved in activities related to some statements, but their efforts may help the librarians in some way or another in carrying out their tasks.
Each of these statements contained one potential opinion which belonged to one of the following three, but overlapping areas:
1. Collection development and related topics (items: 1 through 11)
2. User services and related topics (items: 12, 16, 17, 18, 22)
3. Information Literacy (including library instruction) (items: 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, and 21)
The first section of the survey requested demographic information including gender, faculty, academic qualifications, academic rank, and former academic (teaching) experience.
The second section included the attitudinal statements. All of them were worded positively. The survey used a Likert-type rating scale with 5 agree-or-disagree response choices: Strongly Agree (SA), Agree (A), Neutral (N), Disagree (D), and Strongly Disagree (SD). These choices are scored 5-1 respectively. A high score indicates a positive attitude, whereas a low score indicates a negative attitude. The questionnaire also included two open-ended questions to solicit any suggested statements, or information and any relevant comments.
Validity and Reliability
Following the initial construction of the questionnaire, the researcher established its logical validity on the basis of judgments sought from ten specialists in the fields of Library and Information Science, and Measurement and Evaluation. Referees were requested to express their opinions and comments on the clarity and relevance of the questionnaire statements. Based on their judgment, the researcher made the suggested modifications.
In order to measure the overall reliability of the statements, internal consistency with its Cronbach’s alpha was used. Internal consistency was achieved as the summed items were reliable with alpha score 0.796. This score is greater than 0.6, a level that is generally considered good and acceptable for such studies.
Limitations of the Study
The following considerations may limit the generalizability of the findings of this study:
1- This study focused on university faculty members at a relatively small private university with undergraduate students, so the results may not be generalizable to faculty members at larger and/or public institutions.
2- The study is limited to three areas of possible collaboration.
3- Interviews were limited to ten instructors and five professors. Conducting interviews with all faculty members would have yielded a more meaningful context.
There were 114 total responses representing an overall response rate of 48 percent. The responses were tabulated and analyzed using the SPSS statistical package. The findings of the study were as follows:
1- Respondents were asked to indicate their attitudes toward each of the twenty-two items of the questionnaire. Table 2 summarizes their attitudes. It includes the rank of each statement, the mean and standard deviation. The overall attitude toward collaboration was 3.98 out of 5. The mean is higher than the midpoint 3.
Table 2: Faculty Members' Attitudes Toward Collaboration With Librarians
The results indicate that the participants in this study have attained a high level of positive attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians.
2- Ranking of the areas
The study also intended to find out what areas of collaboration faculty members are interested in, and which areas they are not. The results indicate that the three main areas of collaboration: collection development, information literacy, and library services, received positive attitudes. The means of these areas were 4.18, 3.80 and 3.77 respectively as shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Assumption and calculated means of the three areas of collaboration
3- Demographics of faculty members and their perceptions toward collaboration
The study also intended to find out whether the demographics of faculty members had any effect on their perceptions toward collaboration with the librarians. Gender, academic qualifications, college (faculty), academic rank, and former teaching experience, were the five independent variables used in this study, while the dependent variable was the faculty's perception of the statements.
3.1- The effect of gender on faculty members' perceptions toward collaboration with the librarians.
To test for gender differences in the faculty members' perceptions toward collaboration with the librarians, a t-test was used to compare these of male and female faculties. With a 0.05 level of statistical significance, no difference was found with the overall 22 statements. Table (4) shows the results.
Table 4: T-Test for Comparing Means of Faculty According to Gender
3.2- The effect of academic qualifications on the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians.
The t-test was also used to determine whether or not the academic qualification of respondents has a statistically significant effect on their attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians. Table (5) shows that statistically significant differences exist in their attitudes at a = 0.05.
Table 5: T-Test for Comparing Means of Faculty According to qualification
3.3- The effect of faculty (college) type on the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians.
For statistical analyses, the eight faculties (colleges) were grouped into two main types: "Humanities" and "scientific" colleges.
To test for college differences in the faculty members' perceptions toward collaboration with the librarians, a t-test was used to compare these of "Humanities" and "scientific" colleges. With a 0.05 level of statistical significance, no difference was found with the overall 22 statements (t=-.81, p=.421). Table (6) shows the results.
Table 6: T-Test for comparing means of faculty members according to colleges
3.4- The effect of academic rank on the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians.
A one-way analysis of variance was used to determine the effect of academic rank on the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians (as shown in table 7 below).
Table7: The effect of academic rank on the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians.
The results showed that academic rank did cause a significant difference in their attitudes, a = 0.05. The results of the Newman-Keuls post-hoc test showed significant difference between the means of the attitudes of the instructors (mean = 93.04) and assistant professors (mean=86.22).
3.5- The effect of academic experience on the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians.
As shown in Table (8), a one-way analysis of variance showed academic experience to significantly affect the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians (F= 3.43, a = 0.05).
Table 8: The effect of experience on the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians.
To determine the source of variance, a Newman-Keuls post-hoc was administered. The results showed a statistically significant difference in the attitudes of faculty members. The results indicate that faculty members with more than ten years of experience (mean=91.15) were more likely to have more positive attitudes than the group with less than five years of experience (mean=85.45).
Results from this study indicate that the majority of faculty members had an overall positive attitude toward collaboration with the university librarians.. All of the 22 attitudinal statement got scores higher than the midpoint 3 on the five point scale with a Mean = 3.98 out of 5. These results indicate that they perceive collaboration as an essential element to successful teaching and learning.
This results also indicate that perhaps faculty members in this sample are open to collaboration at least in the three main areas investigated in this study: collection development, user services and library literacy. This result agrees with the findings of Ducas and Michaud-Oystryk (2003) which state that, "the responses indicate that faculty would be more receptive to collaborating with librarians at a higher level of interaction than currently experienced". While other studies indicate that the attitudes have been translated into action, for example (Stubbings & Franklin, 2006) found that, "academics collaborate with library staff to deliver information literacy lectures and workshops within their modules."
In this study, relatively high positive attitudes toward collaboration with librarians may be attributed to the fact that the majority of the faculty members work in close cooperation with the library for accreditation purposes. In addition, in such a private environment, employees of the library make their efforts to provide the faculty members with the required services in a convenient manner. On the other hand, faculty members are asked at the beginning of each semester to check whether the information resources required for the courses they teach are sufficient or not; and to make sure that more than 10% of the books have been published in the last two years. Therefore, faculty and librarians have to work on this job regularly. They are also required to do the necessary reserves at the beginning of each semester. The library usually invites faculty members to attend several activities each year. Such exposure usually helps in forming positive attitudes.
This study intended to identify which of the three areas of collaboration faculty members are interested in, and which areas they are not. The calculated means (out of 5) of the three areas were as follows: collection development (Mean=4.18), information literacy (Mean= 3.80), and library services (Mean= 3.77) respectively. The results indicate that faculty members are interested in collaboration with the librarians in all of the three areas. Faculty ranked collection development the highest. This means that they give collection development the fist priority. There may be many reasons for this result. For example, it may be that faculty members feel that they know better which information resources they need and librarians do not have the required ability to select the resources that comply with the material they teach. One likely reason for this interpretation is that the majority of the campus librarians hold undergraduate degrees or community college certificate. Thus, they do not like to leave this important activity to the librarians. Faculty would like the library to acquire several copies of the same title, while the library tries to get two or three copies for financial reasons. This situation urges the faculty members to take part in collection development. A number of comments included at the end of the questionnaire emphasized faculty willingness to cooperate with librarians in the other two areas. Some examples include: "Faculty members need to help their students make more use of the books available in the library. This requires cooperation with the librarians." "It is interesting to know more about information services. This would help me guide my students to benefit more from the library." "For sure, I would like to cooperate with the librarians for information literacy".
Interviews with several faculty members solicited information that they usually advise their student to go to the library and give them some information on how to use the library and its resources. In addition, they would like to accompany their students to the library for one session or two each semester. In fact, students need to know how to use the library and its resources in a practical way. It has been observed that both faculty members and librarians concentrate on talk rather than on practical training in information literacy sessions. Klaib (2009) concluded that "the offered information literacy instruction programme at Zarka Private University concentrates on theoretical concepts more than the practical aspects."
This situation leads to the fact that there is a crucial need for joint efforts. This study has concluded that faculty members have positive attitudes toward collaboration in the area of information literacy. In other words, they are ready to cooperate with the librarians. Such positive attitudes may help in the design of practical training sessions.
Another concern of this study was to find the effect of some demographic factors on the faculty attitudes toward collaboration. The data showed no statistically significant differences (at a = 0.05) between the means of faculty members' perceptions due to the effect of gender. Type of college also made no statistically significant differences in the perceptions of faculty members of the colleges in the humanities or faculty members in sciences.
The data showed statistically significant differences (at a = 0.05) between the means of faculty attitudes due to the effect of academic qualifications.
Faculty members with a Masters degree were more likely to have positive attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians. This result urged the researcher to conduct unstructured interviews with ten respondents with a Masters degree. The reasons behind this result could be attributed to the fact that most of them were pursuing their graduate studies to earn their PhDs, and almost had daily contact with the librarians.
The results showed that academic rank did cause a difference in the attitudes of faculty members toward collaboration with the librarians, (F=4.72, a = 0.05). Faculty members with instructor ranks, were more likely to have positive attitudes toward collaboration. It is possible to say that their frequent visits to the library, as mentioned above, yielded such positive attitudes.
The data also showed the existence of statistically significant differences (at a = 0.05) among their attitudes in favor of those faculty with higher experience. This result could be attributed to the fact that those with longer experience had the opportunity to realize the importance of the library, and could establish several ways of collaboration.
The study intended to investigate the attitudes of faculty members of ZPU toward collaboration with the university librarians. The findings of the study can be summarized as follows:
1- Most faculty members had overall positive attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians in the campus library with a mean total score of 3.98. This result implies that they appreciate the role of the library in teaching and research.
2- The results indicate that the three main areas of collaboration: collection development, information literacy, and library services, received positive attitudes. However, faculty members were more in favor toward collaboration in the area of collection development.
3- There were no statistically significant differences in the means of their attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians due to the effect of gender and type of faculty (college).
4- There were statistically significant differences in the means of their attitudes toward collaboration with the librarians due to the effect of academic qualifications, academic rank, and academic experience.
The data showed that the twenty-two attitudinal statements in the questionnaire were perceived by faculty members as necessary and applicable. Administrators and librarians can invest such positive attitudes to better support teaching and learning in the university.
Since information literacy requires practical expertise, there is a crucial need for the librarians to be involved. Both librarians and faculty members can design relevant programmes.
Further research is needed so as to get a clearer, more comprehensive and more generalizable results. Another study is suggested to investigate what the librarians think about collaboration with faculty members.
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