“It’s like winning the NCAA championship for libraries,” said Lynn Sutton, dean of the library.
The library received the 2011 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award, given annually by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association. The library won the award for university libraries, the category for the largest libraries, typically at research-focused universities; Wake Forest is one of the smallest universities to ever receive the award in that category.
“The purpose of the award is to recognize librarians and staff who work together as a team to further the educational mission of their institution,” Sutton said. “Our mission is to help our faculty and students succeed, and we will do anything to further their success.”
The ACRL Award will be presented on campus in the spring. The ACRL selection committee noted the library’s “strong institutional focus and values,” said Erika Linke, chair of the selection committee and associate dean of university libraries at Carnegie Mellon University.
“The selection committee was impressed with the strong alignment of the library to institutional values and ambitions as evidenced through the variety of programs developed to support and foster student learning. The Z. Smith Reynolds Library is a catalyst bringing together faculty, students and staff. The library values and celebrates its employees whose teamwork creates the energy and vitality evidenced in their application.”
The library’s application for the ACRL award details its innovative programs, technology and services; leadership within the library field; and relationships with faculty and students.
The library has 28 librarians who have faculty status and 24 staff members. “We focus on developing personal relationships with faculty and students, so we see our role as closely tied to the University’s mission,” Sutton said. “We want to make the library the center of academic and intellectual life on campus.”
For students, that starts with creating a welcoming environment. The opening of Starbucks on the lower level of the liberty in 2008 made the library a destination spot on campus. Activities such as raves, Wake the Library midnight snacks during exams, and Capture the Flag contests show the staff’s commitment to creatively reach students, Sutton said.
The library has partnered with other University departments to bring some student-support programs into the library, including the Writing Center and the Information Systems Help Desk (now called “The Bridge.”) The library also offers credit-based information literacy classes that have grown in popularity in recent years, and sponsors the annual Senior Showcase, for selected seniors to present their research projects.
The library’s staff also takes an active role in reaching out to faculty. Librarians have accompanied the past two experiential learning trips for the sociology course, Social Stratification in the Deep South. “We want to go beyond just serving faculty to working with them as thinking partners, to discuss how the library can help in their teaching and research,” she said.
The library sponsors several programs to recognize faculty accomplishments, including the Library Lecture Series, for faculty members to address contemporary issues, and the Faculty Author Dinner, for faculty with newly published books. The library is also home to the Teaching and Learning Center.
The library has been in the forefront in adapting new technologies. Most recently, it has transformed its information technology systems from local servers to the “cloud;” piloted new ways of integrating ebooks into the collection; employed social networking communication tools; and created an online “toolkit” to help to facilitate students’ research needs.
The library’s award application also noted the leadership of library staff, both on campus and nationally. Several librarians have received national recognition in recent years: Molly Keener, scholarly communication librarian; Audra Eagle, visiting assistant librarian/project archivist; and Lauren Pressley, instructional design librarian, have been named “Emerging Leaders” by the American Library Association in the last three years. Pressley also has been named a “mover and shaker” by Library Journal. Susan Smith received the Innovation Award of the ACRL Instruction Section in 2008, and Sutton received a national award for “Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Salaries and Status for Library Workers” in 2009.
Two other university libraries also received Excellence in Academic Libraries Awards: The Grinnell College Libraries in Grinnell, Iowa, was recognized in the college category, and the Luria Library at Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College, was recognized in the community college category.
— By Kerry M. King (’85), Office of Communications and External Relations