From the CJCLS Listserv: Should the library report to Academic Affairs or Student Services?

ORIGINAL EMAIL:

We currently have a leadership vacuum at my library. Our library director resigned and less than a week later, his supervisor and the interim library director, the Vice President of Student Success, also resigned.

We now see an opportunity to possibly move the library’s place in the college reporting structure from the Student Success department to Academic Affairs, and report to the Dean of Academic Affairs or the Vice President of Instruction. I’ve searched the list archives but haven’t found much on this topic, so I’m wondering:

  • To whom do you or your library director report? Someone in Student Services or Academic Affairs?
  • If you made the switch from reporting to Student Services to Academic Affairs, or vice versa, what have been the benefits or drawbacks?

The respondents overwhelmingly recommended to go with Academic Affairs.  One librarian, whose unit reports to Student Services, described her experience:

The meetings I attend are with the heads of units like financial aid, athletics, admissions, and housing.  We found ourselves in meetings discussing enrollment management issues and did not understand why we were there.  I don’t meet (and am not invited to meet, and in one instance was told I shouldn’t meet) with faculty. This makes it harder to establish rapport with them.

The librarian also stated her area is often tasked with activities not traditionally done by libraries, such as proctoring make-up tests and issuing school identification cards.  This seemed to feed inaccurate perceptions of what they do:

When Student Services staff give prospective students and families campus tours, I often hear them say when they stop in the library, “this is where you come to make up a missed test.” That’s all they have said about the library!

As a result, the library is often overlooked by faculty.  While the library is seen as a physical space, the college does not understand their staffing, budget and IT support needs.  The library is often seen as having a support role but its employees are not on equal footing in terms of pay or status with other colleagues who have comparable duties and levels of education.

Librarian status was affected by the department to which they reported:

Reporting on the academic side means you are faculty.  At my college, faculty must have a master’s degree.  Since librarians have a master’s degree, we are all equals.  This gives us a voice in governance, which is key.

Many, but not all, of the respondents who said they reported to Academic Affairs said librarians had faculty status.  This strongly affected their roles on campus, particularly with governance:

Having faculty representatives is great in the governance structure, and then having my position be in administration is advantageous because of my opportunity to be part of the management team.  Many of our college committee’s bylaws (instructional council, curriculum, etc.) specify a library representative.  In most cases, it is a voting role, but in some it is non-voting.

Librarians do not have faculty status in some libraries that report to Academic Affairs.  This bars them from participating in professional development, governance, and other campus activities.  Those who reported this added that administrators and sometimes faculty do not know or appreciate what the libraries can contribute to their college.

Many of the changes in reporting structure formed as a result of retirements, resignations, or restructuring:

My sister college had a librarian serving as Dean of Library and Learning Resources. Upon retiring, the position was vacated and they now share a dean with Literature-Language Division. The dean is a former English instructor.

When I started here 7 years ago, the library director reported to the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  She now reports to the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

We had major turnover in administration over the summer with our President, Dean of Academic Affairs and Dean of Career and Technical Education (CTE) either resigning or retiring.  They didn’t replace the CTE dean’s position.  Rather, they placed everyone and everything associated with that position under the Academic Affairs dean, again.

Sometimes the changes in reporting structure happened because of a promotion or reassignment.  At other times, the library was assigned under an academic or IT unit, which posed its own challenges:

Our library does not have its own dean or director.  Ours was the dean of Instructional Resources (IR) who reported to the Vice President of Academic Affairs.  At one point, our dean was promoted to Vice President of Student Services, and IR was obliged to follow her and be placed under a dean there.  Soon, IR was moved back to Academic Affairs and then went through a succession of deans that saw us connected to Visual and Performing Arts, and eventually Language Arts.

I report to the Associate Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS).   HSS falls under the instructional/academic affairs side of the organization.  This reporting structure proves challenging on a couple of fronts.  I don’t always get information that I need to move this library forward.  I also don’t have the clout that goes with reporting directly to a vice president or administrator.   On the upside, I have the autonomy to manage my staff and resources (provided it doesn’t involve too much money).

At my college, the Library Coordinator answers to the Dean of Academic Technology and Learning Support (ATLS), who also oversees Distance Education (Online Learning), Testing, and Tutoring.  Theoretically, this is a natural alliance of units, with the possible exception of Testing.

My library is an outlier. We report to the Dean of Institutional Research and Planning. The history behind this is that our dean used to be head of IT. When he made the switch to Institutional Research and Planning, the library went with him. Talk about being off the grid! The upside is that the library is fairly autonomous. The down side is that the library has fallen off the scope of the academic side of the college

I report to the Dean of Academic Affairs along with the faculty department heads and other academic directors (Outreach, Assessment, Academic Achievement, etc.).  My current dean used to be our assessment director, so he’s a numbers guy, which means he reads and follows my reports. He’s also very pro-library, believing that the library has an important role in student success, so I lucked out in that area (it doesn’t hurt that he’s married to a librarian).

In conclusion, most of the respondents recommended reporting to Academic Affairs, mainly for the following reasons:

It is much easier to make the case for why the library is important to education and information literacy when you have access to academic administration.

Libraries need to work with classroom faculty, which is harder to do when you are in student services.

As a major contributor to teaching and learning, the library belongs under Academic Affairs.  The learning outcomes in library instruction (and reference) should be aligned with larger institutional goals, such as general education goals/competencies, in order to maximize the impact of those services on student learning.  This alignment has the potential to mean the most for administrators in Academic Affairs.  When the library falls under Student Affairs, operational outcomes may be prioritized over learning outcomes.

It’s where the action is and you want to be in the thick of it, good or bad.

What has your experience been with reporting to Academic Affairs or Student Services?  Please share in the comments!

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3 Responses to From the CJCLS Listserv: Should the library report to Academic Affairs or Student Services?

  1. At the main community college campus, the Learning Resources Center has a LRC director who reports to the Vice President of Instruction. Since librarians are faculty, it’s why we report to instruction. At the smaller community college campus where I work, my boss is not the LRC director but the dean of the campus, who reports to the college president. For the LRC’s program review purposes, the documents include information from both campus libraries. Since we play an instructional role ( I get evaluated for teaching in the classroom and teaching at the research help desk) and our collections are tied to instruction and curriculum, academic affairs/instruction is the correct place in my view.

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  2. cannibell says:

    At my former institution, the library was under Academic Affairs, which seems the most appropriate fit. That said, it’s also important to note that without strong support from administration, the library can be just as marginalized if administration doesn’t understand – or isn’t interested in understanding – its role in student (and ultimately the college’s) success.

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  3. David says:

    In an observational study I participated in about 6 years ago, I had the opportunity to study 31 smaller academic libraries in an attempt to identify some of the more obvious indicators of vitality. It was subjectively found that organizational structure was in fact a fairly strong indicator of vitality slotting in at number 4 in the final top 10 list. Correlative to many of the responses found to this posting a library direct report to the chief academic officer was (is still?) indeed considered to be symptomatic of relative vitality in the smaller academic library, personalities involved notwithstanding. To see the citation and download the entire report click here go to this URL
    http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED507433.

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