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Q&A: What types of services do university libraries offer to support faculty authors?

Faculty enjoy a break during the winter 2019 Writers Retreat and workshop hosted by William & Mary Libraries.

University librarians offer a wide range of services to faculty and students to support their research and scholarly writing projects. Many of these services are used widely by faculty on campuses across the country, while other services may be little known and little used. As dean of libraries at William and Mary, I make it a priority to work with library staff and faculty to identify needs, develop useful services, and then communicate their availability to faculty. Here I highlight a few of our library services and suggest how faculty at other institutions can work with their university librarians to access services and support.

 1) We host writing retreats.

These week long summer and winter retreats for faculty and staff are complete with breakfast, lunch and brief daily remarks meant to inspire productivity and shed light on the many ways the campus library supports faculty. It’s a simple gesture, but one that results in strengthened relationships among our faculty community and with librarians. Participants are grateful to have dedicated space and time to write, and we hear over and over again how productive they are when they attend. Upon registration, participants are asked to specify a writing related goal for the week. Throughout the retreat, librarians offer consultations to discuss open access, copyright, collections and any other topics that support their goal.

Even if your library doesn’t offer writing retreats, I can assure you that librarians are interested in your research and writing projects. Be intentional and ask a librarian or archivist to meet during the planning stages of a writing project. Much like a book editor or close departmental colleague, a relationship with an information specialist can bring rewards and get you across the finish line!

2) We offer media support.

Many academic libraries have staff experienced in media production. If you’ve been considering ways to incorporate media into your academic texts, it’s worth exploring how the library can support your growth in this area. At William & Mary, we have a production lab and sound booths, equipment for checkout and staff on hand who can hold your hand and give you tips for recording lectures or incorporating media into a course or academic text. We also make available, a database offering introductory and advanced online courses on writing, technology, project management and many other topics of interest for scholars and writers.

3) We buy, borrow and deliver materials.

Libraries don’t buy everything, but they are spectacular at getting access to almost anything you want or need. Interlibrary loan departments are skilled at borrowing physical and digital materials on your behalf, and getting them to you in record time. Many academic libraries will rush order a book. This process is often referred to as patron driven collection development: a library buys instead of borrows, knowing that the request guarantees the use and justifies the purchase. For items in our collection, we have a pull and hold service, and we deliver to faculty offices daily. William & Mary is a member of state, regional and national consortia. These memberships expand our collections and expedite access for our patrons far beyond the materials we own.

4) We have expertise in digital publishing.

Most academic publishers are distributing content in print and digital formats. Authors are wise to ask publishers how their work will be accessed by individuals and academic libraries. Other questions to consider:

A) How will my royalties differ for digital distribution?
B) Will my text be available in any eBook packages?
C) May I make the introduction, outline or a chapter of my academic text available open access in my institutional repository?

Some authors make the assumption that a book won’t sell if any part of the content is available online. However, offering some content open access may actually increase sales of your book. Academic librarians often have a good understanding of publishing trends and copyright. Some libraries even hire positions dedicated to Digital Scholarship, Scholarly Communication and Copyright. Tap your library for help and practice discussing the issues you will eventually ask your publisher.

5) We celebrate and promote your work.

Academic librarians want to promote the research output of faculty and staff. Librarians regularly use social media to bring attention to new books and other scholarly and creative achievements. At William & Mary, we have a rotating exhibit in our lobby to showcase faculty scholarship and interdisciplinary programs. Along with the exhibit, we promote the work of those in the exhibit in the institutional repository. Sometimes there is an online presence for the exhibit that lives on after the exhibit comes down. These exhibits promote a broad representation of work done by faculty, including: books, blogs, journal publications, performances, student collaborations, digital scholarship and more.

Librarians and archivists are your biggest fans and supporters, but more importantly, they have skills to enhance and support your work. They are open to your questions about current services and requests regarding individual assistance. Make a new friend in the library and start writing!

Carrie L. Cooper, Dean of University Libraries, William & Mary University