14 · Survey Results: Executive Summary
Services Provided
The services most commonly provided by libraries in
support of public engagement efforts are reference and
information services (87%) and public programs and
exhibitions (80%), followed by orientation programs
(67%), subject specialist services (e.g., health informa-
tion services) (63%), government information services
(61%), and information literacy instruction (50%).
Collections services were identified as a central
feature of public engagement programs. Special col-
lections and archives were noted in particular for
providing public programs and exhibitions, while
preservation and conservation programs were noted
for the expertise they provide to community mem-
bers. The University of Georgia, for example, par-
ticipated in National Home Movie Day http://www.
homemovieday.com/, in which expert advice was
provided to community members on how to preserve
home movies. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign, librarians, archivists, and museum cu-
rators collaborated on a “Preservation Emporium,”
during which community members could seek advice
on how to preserve an array of “heirlooms, artifacts,
and family treasures.”14
Archives and special collections also form the
foundation for many partnerships with community
groups, public libraries, state libraries, cultural heri-
tage organizations, and governmental agencies. Two
examples of such partnerships are Oklahoma State
University’s Women of the Oklahoma Legislature
Oral History Project http://www.library.okstate.edu/
oralhistory/wotol/ and the University of Kansas’
Territorial Kansas Online http://www.territorialkan-
Digital collections and services also provide critical
support for public engagement programs. One exam-
ple of these kinds of Web resources is the University
of Chicago’s eCUIP Digital Library http://ecuip.lib.
uchicago.edu/ which was designed in collaboration
with the Chicago Public Schools. Other digital library
services, such as institutional repositories, also may
be integrated into campus engagement efforts, At the
University of Massachusetts Amherst, for example,
the ScholarWorks repository includes community
engagement collections for a number of programs
As noted earlier, one of the most significant challenges
in articulating and promoting a commitment to public
engagement in higher education comes from lack of
clarity in terms of the definition of what “engagement”
is, and how it differs from “outreach” and “service.”
This challenge appears to be all the greater in the case
of the academic library, which brings to this issue a
tradition of service and outreach shared among cul-
tural heritage organizations, but distinct from those
found in other academic programs. This challenge
is also reflected in the gap between the number of
libraries reporting that librarian position descriptions
included formal statements of responsibility for public
engagement programs (12 or 28%) and the number of
libraries reporting that there are positions for which
there is an assumption of informal responsibility for
such programs (33 or 77%).
The array of human resource arrangements
found across the responding libraries reflects a sec-
ond major challenge, i.e., the availability of appro-
priate support in terms of budget and personnel.
Multiple respondents noted that public engagement
programs compete with other library services for
funding, personnel, time, and space, and that sup-
port for such programs is often seen as secondary to
the primary mission of service to the campus com-
munity.15 Several libraries have pursued external
funding as a means of meeting at least part of this
challenge with 26 respondents (58%) having pursued
grants through the American Library Association,
the National Endowment for the Humanities, the
Institute of Museum and Library Services, and a vari-
ety of state and local funding agencies. Advancement
activities, by contrast, provide less support for public
engagement only 13 libraries (29%) reported having
pursued fundraising efforts to address public engage-
ment program needs.
The limited coordination of public engagement
programs at the library level and the limited involve-
ment by the library with campus engagement initia-
tives also presents a challenge to these programs.
As one respondent noted, “many flowers blossom
in our garden ...[but with] little coordination.” This
situation has made it difficult for librarians to iden-
tify key campus partners, to develop contacts in the
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