Libraries: Called to collaborate

Regional meeting of academic libraries shares collaborative efforts in open resources, student outreach and digitization

Stephanie Baltzer Kom, Head of Technical Services for the ND State Historical Society Archives

North Dakota-Manitoba Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries symposium keynote speaker Stephanie Baltzer Kom, head of technical services for the North Dakota State Historical Society Archives, urged fellow librarians and research specialists to start building partnerships and strong collaborations with each other. This year’s
symposium was hosted by UND. Photo by Shawna Schill.

Hushed chatter over Monday morning coffee and muffins drifted through the Memorial Union’s River Valley Room on May 8—the occupants, hard-wired for unobtrusive quiet.

Three dozen librarians, archivists and their counterparts gathered at UND for the annual symposium of the North Dakota-Manitoba Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). The ACRL is a professional organization that provides networking opportunities and regional and national conferences at which members of the academic library community can share new projects and research.

Keynote speaker Stephanie Baltzer Kom, Head of Technical Services for the ND State Historical Society Archives, began the event by addressing the unspoken character quirk of some attendees. “A lot of people who get into libraries, archives and museums—we’re all pretty high on the introversion scale, if I say so myself,” she said to the polite chuckles of the crowd. “Collaboration for us can be a little hard, because you have to put yourself out there.”

This year’s symposium theme was “Better Together”– a call to libraries to crack out of that shy shell and start building partnerships. Newly-appointed chapter president and UND Dean of Libraries Stephanie Walker said it was a perfect year for UND to host, because she and her team have a lot of recent successes to share.

“We split the theme into three different areas—collaboration between the library and other campus units like student affairs, collaboration between different libraries, and collaboration with non-library entities—for example, a state historical society or state archives,” Walker said.

Presentations from UND and others from the University of Manitoba, North Dakota State University (NDSU), Concordia College and more ranged from “New Innovations in Multi-institution Collaborations” to Open Educational Resources (OER) and Student Outreach.

Baltzer Kom described her road to effective teamwork in digital initiatives for the North Dakota State Library and the State Historical Society. One of those initiatives, Digital Horizons, is a consortium of five major partners (NDSU, the State Library, the State Historical Society, Concordia College and Prairie Public Broadcasting) pulling together thousands of digital texts, images, audio/video files into a searchable online library.

Baltzer Kom has been calling meetings with players across state institutions to form one digital access portal through the Digital Public Library of America. She said those meetings have raised more questions than answers, but added that starting the conversation is the most important step to progress—for any project.

“It all comes back to getting the bodies in the room and forming the relationships with people, understand where they’re coming from, and try to form some kind of effective collaboration relationship with everybody,” she explained.

“That’s what I encourage everybody in this room to do—step outside yourself, step outside the introvert, start talking to people and start making those connections and relationships.”

UND Chester Fritz librarians share how they collaborated with multiple campus and state entities to develop the growing OER initiative at UND, which is saving students more and more on textbook costs every year. (left to right): Holly Gabriel, Business & Government Documents Librarian; Zeineb Yousif, Digital Initiatives Librarian; Megan Keely Carroll, Education Librarian. Photo by Shawna Schill.

UND Chester Fritz librarians share how they collaborated with multiple campus and state entities to develop the growing OER initiative at UND, which is saving students more and more on textbook costs every year. (left to right): Holly Gabriel, Business & Government Documents Librarian; Zeineb Yousif, Digital Initiatives Librarian; Megan Keely Carroll, Education Librarian. Photo by Shawna Schill.

Open education

UND’s librarians took advantage of their roles as symposium hosts to present and share how they’ve worked cross-campus on several initiatives, including the incredibly fruitful pursuit of OERs.

“We thought this would be a particularly appropriate topic for the symposium because of the high degree of collaboration that’s been involved in implementing these OERs at UND,” said UND Digital Initiatives Librarian Zeineb Yousif. “This huge list of groups (pointing to slide of a dozen campus and state entities), including the library, UND faculty, Student Government, etc., have all been involved at some point in making OERs successful here.”

Help first came in the form of state legislator support in 2015, when more than $100,000 was allocated for OERs in North Dakota. From there, a webbing of UND librarians, instructional designers, tech experts, faculty and students joined together in a working group that rolled out OERs and saved students up to $1 million in textbook costs in the first year. That cost savings is expected to grow to $4 million this year.

“One of the things you want to avoid with a project like that is having a really terrific start—and then a fizzle,” Walker said. “It wasn’t all one kind of group…it was a few people from all over the place, and I think that helped a lot.”

The UND math department has also reached out to colleagues at NDSU and Northland Technical College about sharing what they’ve developed for the classroom, as well as local high schools.

“That’s really exciting to me, because they’re working with [the high schools] on some of the advanced placement items,” Walker said. “They’re thinking that might actually be a good recruitment tool.”

the North Dakota-Manitoba Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries symposium

Newly-appointed President of the North Dakota-Manitoba Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries and UND Dean of Libraries Stephanie Walker said it was a perfect year for UND to host the chapter’s annual symposium, because she and her team have a lot of recent successes to share. (above) A packed room of symposium attendees listen to keynote speaker Stephanie Baltzer Kom. Photo by Shawna Schill.

Student success, outreach

Another UND panel explained how their libraries have developed partnerships with Student Affairs to foster student success.

UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences Research & Education Librarian Dawn Hackman described the steps she and others took to link up with the Wellness Center, Health & Wellness, Financial Wellness and the Student Success Center to provide outreach through resource fairs, de-stress events, peer education, and passive education like bulletin boards and bookmarks.

“We’re not trying to pretend that the librarian is the subject expert in student debt or healthy eating or sleeping habits. But we’re fulfilling the same role that we’ve had for millennia, which is connecting people to resources,” Hackman said. “That’s all we’re doing—it’s just a different type of resource.”

The panel said their partnerships have faced challenges amid recent departmental changes on campus, but a reliance on communication and shared interests has kept those connections flourishing. And it all comes down to recognizing the needs of the students—whether they know it or not.

“Librarians—we’re everywhere!” Hackman said to knowing laughs. “We’re incognito, and students don’t realize we hear what they’re saying.”