The Cal Poly digital learning initiative

Somerville, Mary M., Rogers, Erika, Mirijamdotter, Anita, & Partridge, Helen L. (2007) The Cal Poly digital learning initiative. In Connor, Elizabeth (Ed.) Evidence-based librarianship: case studies and active learning exercises. Chandos Publishing, Oxford, Endland, pp. 141-161.

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Amidst rapid technological change, aggravating financial uncertainty, and escalating community expectations, librarians at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly, SLO) recognized that nimble responsiveness required reinvention of library processes, procedures, and services. They understood that this would require changing how they think and what they think about, as they readied themselves for new roles in the academic enterprise.

Concurrently, librarians in this comprehensive polytechnic teaching university observed a consistent pattern of declining gate counts and diminishing reference transactions, despite student enrollment increases to 18,500 in AY2005-06. These data suggested that even the traditional "library as place" role was eroding at this institution, which offers a wide range of baccalaureate and master’s degree programs. Librarians were not alone in recognizing that the library was increasingly marginalized on campus: when campus administrators announced permanent budget cuts, the library’s share was consistently greater than other academic support units.

So when a new group leader was hired in September 2003, public services librarians agreed to examine the underlying assumptions and beliefs that historically guided research, information, and instruction delivery decisions. They also chose to use systems thinking tools to build larger frames of reference capable of bridging boundaries within the library and across the campus. These choices affirmed that “no matter what the previous history, every system can be altered and reinvented” 1 – i.e., "if organizations are constructed, they can be reconstructed." 2

Since both individual and collective change begins with the onset of research, librarians recognized that the question of what to study was critically important. As this case study illustrates, it has proven equally important to consider the question of how – and with whom - to conduct evidence-generating research projects to enable organizational learning.

The university’s distinguishing student-centric "learn by doing" educational philosophy also informed selection of their professional research-in-practice approach. It drove librarians’ agreement to invite student-generated research projects on library services and systems, with the aim of obtaining authentic perspectives on "user experience" expectations, preferences, wants, and needs. This approach required relinquishing control of the research process: students, with faculty supervision, generated problem definitions, chose research methodologies, conducted data analysis, and produced results reports.

Progressive student research reports offered opportunities for librarians to engage with student and faculty researchers for the purpose of ascertaining the implications of findings for library services and systems. Iterative dialogue fostered sustainable communication which altered relationships, processes, and practices. Through the application of collaborative evidence-based information practice (EBIP), the Cal Poly library moved from a service to a learning culture. This chapter describes Cal Poly’s collaborative EBIP approach and illustrates key application projects.

Impact and interest:

5 citations in Scopus
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7 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 9680
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: For more information about this book please refer to the publisher's website (see link) or contact the author.
Additional URLs:
Keywords: evidence based practice, evidence based librarianship, librarianship, research, in, practice, case study
ISBN: 978843342991
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > LIBRARY AND INFORMATION STUDIES (080700) > Librarianship (080706)
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 Chandos Publishing
Deposited On: 24 Sep 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 14:11

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