Changing Organizational Partnerships to Build an Information Literacy Program in the Extended Campus Environment
Speakers: Leslie Wykoff, Director of Vancouver Information Systems, Washington State University Vancouver; Karen Diller, Assistant Campus Librarian, Washington State University Vancouver. 


Abstract

At WSU Vancouver, the Library, Computing and Educational Television Departments merged into the cohesive service organization called Vancouver Information Services (VIS), enabling the campus to develop and integrate program in information literacy. This paper will review the trials and triumphs of merging information technology departments and show how VIS is integral to the campus information literacy goals.

Paper

Thank you. We are very pleased to be here and to share the story of our organizational change and the information literacy program we developed from it. I am Leslie Wykoff, the Campus Librarian and Director of Information Services at Washington State University Vancouver, and this is Karen Diller the Assistant Campus Librarian.

This paper is about how we changed some traditional organizational partnerships in a branch campus environment in order to provide a much more flexible and cohesive program of information and technology services. First, Iím going to give you some background about WSU Vancouver and about extended campuses generally. Then Iíll tell you about how we integrated the information services at our branch campus.

To my mind the most important, most visible, and most popular program that has come out of our integrated model so far, is our information literacy program. Karen will discuss that with you later in this session.

First, let me tell you about Washington State University Vancouver. It is one of three Washington State University branch campuses established in 1987 by WSU President Sam Smith. WSU Vancouver is located in Vancouver, a city just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. We are located in Clark County. It is one of the two fastest growing counties in the United States.

We serve junior, seniors, and graduate students. We presently have 1300 students, over 930 are full time students. We have 69 tenured or tenure-track faculty members. WSU Vancouver is on the other side of the State of Washington from our main campus in Pullman. Most faculty meetings and many classes are conducted via videoconferencing over the Washington Higher Education Television System (WHETS). For the most part, our students are older than the traditional student body. Most of them are employed and have families. More than half our students are women over thirty. Many, many of them have very limited experience with libraries and computers.

Extended Campuses is a label ACRL has applied to branch campuses, external degree programs, and various distance education models. Extended campuses have some similar characteristics. Since they are distant from the main campus, the faculty and staff are frequently independent-minded and pragmatic folk who serve a student population of similar ilk. Extended campuses have limited resources. There are frequent tensions - main and branch campuses regarding dependencies and support. Extended campuses are very familiar with distance education methodologies, the good, the bad and the ugly. There is an exhilarating pioneering atmosphere in the extended campus environment. As Karen and I talk about our information services program development it is important to remember where this happened. We think the environment of the branch campus is contributing to the success of our program.

I first learned of the movement to integrate information services (library, computing, broadcasting, telecommunications, media services, technology training) in an article by Matheson and Cooper in the Journal of Medical Education, October 1982. Matheson was the Library Director at the Johns Hopkins Welch Medical Library. Shortly thereafter the National Library of Medicine began solicited Requests for Proposals for IAIMS (Integrated Academic Information Management System) grants. These grants have had a very large impact on the academic health sciences library world.

The Oregon Health Sciences University, where I was Head of Reference and Research Services, received a large IAIMS grant. The OHSU built a new facility and a new program called the BICC (Biomedical Information Communication Center.) As co-manager, along with an IT manager of the Bridge project we merged academic library reference services and IT helpdesk, to provide support for a statewide information service to Oregon health care professionals. The Bridge project also integrated network services, computing infrasturcture renewal, the hospital information systems support, technology and library skills training, and computer labs. We called it the Bridge because we reminded ourselves of the crew on the Starship Enterprise going where no one had gone before. There are other academic and hospital libraries that received IAIMS grants, and there are numerous articles about IAIMS in the health sciences library literature. There are also other academic institutions, Oregon State University, Washington University, Lehigh, to name just a few which are experimenting with this model. The key idea in all of these programs is to create a collaborative organization by bringing into one team, groups that need an element of control over each other's operations.

In January 1995 when I became the Campus Librarian at WSU Vancouver, the campus was reexamining the role of computing services. In April the Dean convened a campus-wide task force (Computer Services Planning Group, CSPG) and charged it with studying alternative and creative models for delivering computing services to faculty, staff and students. He wanted WSU Vancouver to take advantage of new educational (web and video) technologies, expand its leadership role in the community, and respond to the problem of conflicting demands on the IT group.

I was asked to facilitate the task forceís work. Other members were: The Associate Dean, a Professor of Marketing, with a research interest in customer satisfaction; the Coordinator of Humanities, a Professor of English, with a research interest in electronic communication and culture; the Director of Student Services; the Director of Finance and Operations, who was the supervisor of Vancouver's IT group (VIT) and the local educational television (Washington Higher Educational Television System, WHETS); the Media Coordinator; and Vancouver's Information Technology (VIT) staff. While integrating the information services did not seem to be problematic to the CSPG, definitions of "teams and teamwork" dominated the two months the task force met. In June the task force recommended that the Campus Library, VIT, the local WHETS operation be merged into the one division with the Campus Librarian as the Director.

Vancouver Information Services called VIS began just before fall semester in August 1995 with no time at all to mull over the implications of our re-organization. The three departments in VIS were handling all the various preparations necessary for the start of school: reserves, email account, new computers, bibliographic instruction arrangements, training student assistants and lab monitors. We were hiring new people for VIS, including the assistant campus librarian. We were also preparing for a move to a brand new 300-acre campus in December. Planning the campus move dominated our agenda during the fall however VIT staff and I had an opportunity to attend a WSU Human Resources course on leadership. During this course the VIT staff became enthusiastic about the power of the nominal group technique (NGT) as a process which VIS could use to ensure democracy within the integrated program.

When the campus move was postponed to June 1996, VIS settled down to establish some group processes. The previous semester which we had spent working "as usual" but planning the move together, soothed anxieties about merging. We had put in the time "getting to know each" other very well in an intense situation. VIS adopted the nominal group technique as its method for establishing goals and priorities. The NGT consists of brainstorming ideas, and voting (with dots) to establish true participation and collaboration. The entire VIS staff meets once a month and everyone together sets our goals and objectives. Small cross-functional teams are assigned to develop projects and programs. The three individual departments continue to meet on a weekly basis retaining their professional identities with staff from other VIS departments attending these meetings when their projects are being discussed.

This is an organization chart of VIS. In the VIT group we now have four people, and are hiring two more this summer. We have about eight lab monitor/student assistants. Several of these students also worked for the Library and for the Vancouver WHETS unit. In the Campus Library, we now have two librarians, four staff, and about eight part time people, mostly student assistants, but also two reference librarians. We are hiring another librarian this summer. In Vancouver WHETS, we have two operators, an engineer, and about four student assistants. All of these people work on projects and in programs together across departmental boundaries. One graduate student who has worked in all our VIS groups calls herself a VIS Associate. Along with her MBA, she believes that the VIS experience has made her very marketable.

The Director of Information Services reports to the Campus Dean and serves on the Deanís Cabinet. The Deanís Cabinet is advisory to the Dean on campus administrative issues like student life, recruitment and admissions, budget, facilities, community relations, campus advancement, program development, and information services. The task force that recommended the creation of VIS also recommended that the Director of VIS be a part of the Cabinet.

The Director of Information Services also serves on the campusí Academic Council. This group consists of the Dean, Associate Dean, the six Academic Coordinators from the academic program areas at the campus (these people are like department chairs), the Campus Librarian/Director of Information Services, and a Faculty Governance representative.

Vancouver Information Services has firmly established itself as a dynamic, cohesive customer-oriented division. It is integrated into the administrative and academic programs of the campus. The strength of its own integrated programs is most evident in our information literacy program, which Karen Diller is ready to tell you about now.

Because VIS makes it easier for technologists and library faculty to work together, we have been able to design a working Information Literacy program at WSUV in order to support our faculty, staff and students. Content experts & teaching experts work side by side to develop and run the program. Currently, our information literacy program consists of three areas of support:

Let us take a look at each of these areas.

We support the academic program in several ways. Leslie and I are both faculty and we teach a three-credit class which is a required part of the Electronic Communications and Culture (ECC) Concentration at WSUV. English students who would like to graduate with this concentration must take classes in several areas of electronic communications & culture including a course which focuses on electronic research. Leslie and I teach this class. In this course, we discuss the differences between data, information and knowledge, look at how information can be altered when it is adapted to a new method of storage and teach students the details of effectively searching library catalogs, electronic databases and the Internet. In addition we discuss how to evaluate tools and sources and the ethics of being an information user and producer. This course is not only available to students in the ECC area but it is also available to any student who wants to become more adept at finding and using electronic resources. Advisors and faculty, when they notice a student who could use extra help with electronic research, are able to refer students to this course.

VIS, through my coordination, also supports our Masters in Teaching program by teaching a required 1-credit introduction to educational technology course. Entering Masters in Teaching students who are required to take this class often have little knowledge of technology when they begin. Having a librarian and technologists who can handle the full range of technology and information seeking topics teach this class, makes it a great class for these technology-shy students. We feel that our greatest accomplishment in this course is the reversal of student attitudes. They arrive with little technology experience and skeptical of technologyís use in the classroom but leave with a comfort-level high enough to imagine how they might use technology in their own classrooms.

Another way in which VIS supports the academic program is through the more traditional method of course-integrated instruction. Here faculty request that experts in VIS come into class to teach their students about a particular topic. These requests may be for the traditional 50-minute "how to do research" session or for a more extensive, semester-long lab in which students learn anything from ftping to web page creation. Basically we are prepared to provide a much wider range of sessions in a variety of settings (hands-on, demonstration or videoconferencing) because we have cross-trained our staff. The teachers have become more proficient in technology topics and the technologists have become better at teaching. This gives us the flexibility to respond to the full-range of course-integrated instructional needs. It also strengthens the academic programs which are technology and research intensive. Courses such as "Hypertext Writing","Management of Information Systems" and "Computer Applications in Public Administration" are possible even when they are filled with students uncomfortable with technology and library research.

Finally, we also support our off-campus academic programs and here is where our cross-training really comes in handy. If there is a need for someone to travel to a distant site to meet with students, it helps for that person to have a wide-range of skills. Sending a team of people would be impractical. The person who does go will receive questions ranging from the very detailed ones of how to get connected to the campus network to how to search a particular database for information. In addition, this person will have to adapt to the technology which is on-site and this technology will always be somewhat surprising no matter what preparation takes place ahead of time. There is a great advantage to being able to send one person who can deal comfortably with all of these problems and questions.

There always seems to be more ways in which VIS can support the academic program but we do feel that our current activities are making contributions to the academic program at WSUV.

The second area of support in our information literacy program is the self development program. We call this the Vancouver Information Services (VIS) Workshops. These workshops have been a key factor in VISí development. Not only are they now a part of our information literacy program but they were also the project which started the closer collaboration between two parts of VIS, the library and the information technology department. Very early in the establishment of VIS, before we had the bonding experience of the great campus move, Leslie asked me and a system administrator from information technology to create a series of workshops which would help faculty, staff and students increase their information-seeking and technology skills. Illustration 1 shows some of the topics which we cover in the VIS workshops. This program, now offering forty to sixty sessions per semester, requires close collaboration between IT and the Library. Not only do the workshop topics draw from both areas of expertise but, because most of the workshops are hands-on, they also demand coordination with the staff maintaining the lab in which the sessions are taught.

I have to tell you that Chuck, the system administrator, and I are extremely proud of this program. We now have faculty outside of VIS teaching sessions and have been able to coordinate some of the sessions with the needs of particular classes on campus. A point to note here is that, by working so closely together on building this program, Chuck and I learned a lot of valuable information from each other. Chuck taught me more about technology subjects than I ever dreamed about knowing and I taught Chuck how to improve his teaching. These skills are skills which both of us are now using constantly. In addition, this project, falling early in VISí development, focused the newly-formed VIS on an area in which collaboration was needed and would be successful.

The third area to our information literacy program is faculty development. This is the newest part to our program and it is still under construction. A Multimedia Applications and Research Studio (MARS), a joint endeavor between Vancouver Information Services, the College of Liberal Arts and the Associate Dean, has been established for faculty. It is a studio where faculty can go to learn about, practice and play with new technology. Here they can experiment with new technology which they may want to incorporate into their classes. Currently, there is an adjunct faculty member from Fine Arts who is coordinating this lab and who is working with several faculty on demonstration projects. These demonstrations, including a tutorial for teaching Boolean logic and an interactive website for Columbia River history, are being developed to show faculty some of the ways technology can be used for instruction. The MARS lab will also be available for faculty to use in evaluating the effectiveness of technology-driven instruction. It is hoped that these projects will inspire other faculty to look at new ways of teaching using technology.

A future area for faculty development which will enable us to incorporate WHETS into the instructional program is the development of workshops for faculty which will help them be more effective when teaching across the WHETS system. As videoconferencing becomes more popular as a mode of instruction to distant sites, it is important for faculty to become more skilled in teaching via this medium. VIS can help with this need.

As you have heard, we have used our new partnerships to start building a comprehensive information literacy program for the faculty, staff & students at WSUV. We still have many areas in which we would like to expand but we now feel that our support for the academic program, our self development program and our faculty development program form a solid base on which to build.

In creating new partnerships under the IAIMS model and working with one of these partners to start building an information literacy program, we have learned some of the advantages which are to be gained through having all of the information and technology departments working together. Most significantly, we are able to answer campus needs more quickly and we are able to solve more complex problems in a timely manner. Both of these derive from the fact that we are now comfortable with the team model. When a campus need arises, especially a complex one, we are able to quickly form a team which has all of the necessary players and figure out how to solve the need.

One good example of this is a problem that was becoming great for us - that of off-campus access to campus resources. Many of our students live outside of the local calling area and use a variety of Internet service providers to access web resources. We needed to find a way for these students to have access to the libraryís databases and ordering forms without violating our licenses. A team made up of librarians and technologists were able to come up with an authentication program which is now working quite well. Librarians were familiar with the access points to the databases and the rules by which access is governed. In addition we knew our patrons well enough to know what would be considered easy or too complex when connecting from off-campus. On the other hand, the technologists knew all about the campus network and could write the programs and scripts needed to accomplish the task at hand. This turned out to be a very complicated task but it was accomplished.

This problem of authentication of off-campus users also illustrates the third advantage to integration: the libraryís technology needs are a higher priority under the new VIS organization.

In a branch campus library we have a small number of staff. We donít have an automation department on site or in-house technologists to trouble-shoot for us. In addition providing library instruction or reference help is becoming more and more tied to technology, as you all have experienced. It is no longer enough to tell the patron that they need to come into the library and consult a certain CD-ROM but we also need to be able to tell them how to connect to the campus network, troubleshoot their access problems and then tell them how to use a database. For these reasons it is vital for libraries to have enough support from information technologists. With VIS library technology problems are not put on the back burner. Since we are one department, we are treated with a higher priority than we would ever have been if we were not one department (especially when everyoneís boss is the campus librarian!). In addition, because we are more cross-trained and have learned so much from our partners, we, as librarians, are better prepared to troubleshoot technology problems as they arise in the classroom, at the reference desk or across the miles when providing reference help to distant students.

Finally, this new organization makes it much easier to respond to and support exciting new teaching methods and assignments. As we become pro-active in providing support to the academic program as a team, faculty librarians and technologists, we can help faculty take advantage of new techniques that they are not yet comfortable with and we can help design assignments and instruction to help students learn within the technological classroom even when they may be library or computer phobic.

What is our advice to you for building new partnerships whether you are building an information literacy program or other programs on your campus? We do have a few pieces of wisdom for you:

What do we see as the future for VIS? We are now observing that two opposing trends are happening within VIS. First, more and more VIS members are thinking in teams across the traditional divisions of Library, IT and WHETS. As problems and needs arise on-campus, it seems natural for people within VIS to form a cross-departmental team to answer these needs.

At the same time, we are also seeing further specialization. When we started VIS, we were small enough that everyone could basically keep up with everything going on across VIS. However as we grow, we are adding three new positions this year, and as we have more projects going on across campus, there is a need for people to specialize. For example some staff are concentrating on website development while others are concentrating on the acquisition of library materials. This need for specialization could cause us to pull apart again into traditional areas, librarians going one way and technologists the other. However we donít want this to happen. We will need to separate to a certain extent as we grow but we have the power to redesign this separation. We can look at the entire organization in a new light and decide what fits together.

Leslie and I have already started to think about this and we are really happy to see that other VIS are also thinking of new ways of fitting the pieces together. For example we are seeing a public service area which includes all of our public service desks, circulation, reference and computer labs. It is also easy to see how the acquisition of items, whether those items are books and journals or hardware and software, may naturally group together. These pairings can go on and on and take different forms but the importance is in the fact that members of VIS can now see new groupings of tasks.

The key here is that we were brought together without a lot of force. Leslie did not say, "Okay we are all one department and we will now work as one with everyone meshing with everyone else." This would not have worked. Instead she brought us together and provided time for us to meet and plan the big issues together and to get to know one another. Areas that meshed easily were; areas that didnít were not.

Now everyone within the organization has had the time to develop their own ideas and to learn about each of the departments within the organization. People can envision working more closely on various projects. They can see where there are areas of overlap and they are now better prepared to think about a new organization for the future. It now seems normal to call on anyone within VIS even though they may be outside of oneís own department in order to collaborate on program development or problem solving. Staff can envision working more closely on various projects, they can see where there are areas of overlap and where their contributions can be made. This enables VIS to be better prepared to think about an integrated future.

 

 
Illustration 1



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