SPEC Kit 312: Public Engagement · 13
vision, strategic initiatives, and regular activities of
the library.
A commitment to public engagement may be
found in the mission statements of many institutions,
especially those founded either with a land-grant
mission or a religious mission. Thirty-one libraries
(84%) indicated that public engagement was part of
the strategic plan at the institutional level, but only 28
(76%) indicated that it was part of the library strategic
plan. Likewise, while 33 libraries (100%) indicated
that public engagement was part of the institutional
mission statement, only 23 (70%) reported this as true
for the library mission statement. These responses
may suggest a gap between the commitment to pub-
lic engagement at the institutional level, as opposed
to the library level, but they may also be related to
the differences in the way “engagement” is defined
across institutions. In the library, for example, broadly
defined phrases such as “outreach,” “public service,”
and “sharing information with the community” may
lead respondents to extrapolate a public engagement
component to their mission. On the other hand, com-
ments such as “no formal recognition [of public en-
gagement] but part of the total package” suggest that
a commitment to engagement may be implicit at many
institutions, though without formal integration into
planning documents such as strategic plans. In short,
it is difficult to determine whether either the pres-
ence or the lack of concrete statements regarding the
significance of public engagement programs for the
library in mission statements or planning documents
tells us anything meaningful about those programs.
The majority of responding libraries (31 or 69%)
indicated the existence of a coordinating body at
the campus level that serves as a focal point for en-
gagement initiatives. Notable is the broad variety
of “homes” in which such a body may be found,
including the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of
the Provost, the Office of Public Affairs, the Alumni
Association, and an array of academic units and free-
standing centers. While comments suggest active con-
tribution by the library to the work of these campus
coordinating bodies, respondents reported limited
library representation on the body. Only 7 (23%) re-
port having a representative on the main group, and
9 (29%) a representative on a subcommittee of the
coordinating body more than half reported no library
representation on the campus coordinating body.
If it is notable that the majority of responding li-
braries have no representation on campus public en-
gagement committees despite the array of programs
and services they provide, it is likewise notable that
few libraries appear to have formal structures for
coordinating and promoting public engagement as a
component of the library mission. Only 12 of the re-
sponding libraries (26%) reported having a committee,
working group, or task force charged with promoting
public engagement programs and only two of those
are standing committees.
At 6 libraries, an individual with formal responsi-
bilities for one or more public engagement programs
has primary responsibility for coordinating these
activities. At 5 libraries, a public affairs, development,
or advancement office has this responsibility. At the
other 27 responding libraries, one or more individuals
plan public engagement activities.
Also indicative of the different approaches being
pursued at individual libraries in supporting their
“third mission” is the way in which responsibility for
engagement programs is recognized in formal assign-
ment of time or position descriptions. Thirty-one re-
spondents were able to identify at least one member of
the library staff with formal responsibilities for public
engagement representing at least a part of his or her
professional assignment. The titles of these positions
demonstrate the overlap between public engagement
programs in academic libraries and complementary
programs in Advancement, Public Affairs, and Special
Collections: Marketing and Outreach Officer, Events
and Communications Coordinator, and Director of
Communications and Library Advancement, for ex-
ample. At the same time, other respondents identified
positions that may represent a broader view of the
engagement mission, such as Community Outreach
Services Librarian, Liaison Librarian for High Schools,
and Health Sciences Outreach Librarian.
Only 8 of the 67 positions that have formal respon-
sibility for public engagement (12%) are full-time as-
signment in the vast majority of cases, responsibility
for public engagement programs in academic libraries
is shouldered by multiple members of the library staff
on a part-time basis.
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