What do faculty need to be productive and effective teachers and researchers? This was the main question asked in a year-long research study conducted by Tisch Library, in conjunction with Digital Collections and Archives, UIT Academic Technology (AT), and Medford Information Technology Services (ITS). Librarians and technologists carried out intensive interviews with 40 faculty from the Schools of Engineering and Arts & Sciences. What we learned will help us shape future library and technology services and, hopefully, make research and teaching a little easier.

Standing from left to right: Laura Walters, Associate Director, Teaching and Research, Tisch Library;Lionel Zupan, Director for Research Technology Services, AT; Gina Siesing, Director for Educational Technology Services, AT; and Jeanne Penvenne, Professor of History

It should come as no surprise that Tufts’ faculty research and teaching interests are wide-ranging and diverse. Research, especially in the humanities and social sciences, is increasingly interdisciplinary. Gone are the days when searching in a single subject-specific database fulfilled research needs. Faculty now are casting a wide net, not only across diverse subjects, but also across formats. The Internet has made it possible for faculty to search a giant universe of information. While this can be good for interdisciplinary research, many of the faculty interviewed expressed the view that they are “drowning in information” and need assistance from librarians to narrow the information universe and find relevant materials.

Faculty are eager to integrate technology into their teaching, and many have already done so. Like their students, faculty are searching the web for images, videos, and music. In the words of a humanities teacher, “Images help students to have visual anchoring and challenge their way of thinking…Students are visually oriented and are more engaged when I teach with video and images.” Using the web, faculty have discovered such diverse materials as African praise poems, WWII radio broadcasts, commercials from India, children’s television programming, and clinical videos.

While many resources are available on the web, finding the right ones can be difficult and being able to integrate those resources into a classroom presentation can be even more challenging. Faculty need assistance from librarians and academic technologists to find appropriate audiovisual materials and to effectively integrate them into teaching. A common refrain among the interviewed faculty was the need for a centralized media production lab in which they and their students could receive support in finding, using, and creating media.

In addition to media, digital resources of all kinds are transforming teaching and research. Faculty across the disciplines commented on the fact that electronic journals have increased their productivity, and many wished that the library could purchase more electronic journal backfiles. Digital resources such as classical texts, datasets, and historical newspapers have made it possible for faculty to involve undergraduates in research in ways that were not possible in the print world. The digital resources that the library has purchased are heavily used, and faculty would like to see more of them.

All the research study partners agree that the results of the study will help improve future services. In addition, the results have strengthened our commitment to continued partnerships and to working in new ways with each other to provide seamless high-quality service to faculty. Some of the current outgrowths and collaborations related to Faculty Study findings include:

  • Consultations as follow-up on particular educational and research services and technologies that faculty mentioned wanting to explore further in their Faculty Study interviews.
  • Tisch Library’s advocacy for a multimedia resource center to support the use of multimedia in teaching, learning, and research on the Medford campus. This collaboration involves active partnership with AT to articulate the model that will work well initially to meet the range of Tufts needs. The cross-organizational team contributing to the proposed model for the new center has reviewed effective models at other institutions, explored ways to draw on related expertise from multiple groups at Tufts, and envisioned ways we will work together in the future to provide training and support for faculty and students who want to produce and integrate multimedia resources and projects.
  • Shared advocacy for additional classroom technology support.
  • Joint meetings of AT and Tisch Library colleagues, to exchange up-to-date information about our range of services. Outgrowths of the joint staff meeting include new collaborations on workshop offerings for faculty in the School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering, and coordination of our marketing efforts to increase awareness of our services and programming for faculty.
  • Tisch Library has appointed a liaison to TLR Innovations, the AT newsletter, to contribute articles related to library services and projects.
  • Library colleagues have been participating actively in the next-generation learning management system (LMS) project, evaluating products to determine which provide mechanisms for integrating library guides, e-reserves, and other resources into the LMS and working together with UIT and ITS colleagues to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for faculty and students to the new LMS.
  • AT and Digital Collections & Archives (DCA) continue our long-standing partnership in providing and enhancing the Tufts Digital Library service. This year’s focus includes building the content models and submission forms for Undergraduate Honors Theses and faculty research and developing the repository for institutional records.
  • Collaborations among DCA, Tisch Library, and AT colleagues on the Scholarly Communications Team to inform the Tufts community about issues of copyright, fair use, and open scholarly publishing in higher education.

We anticipate continued collaborative pursuit of the service initiatives and enhancements identified as areas of interest in the Faculty Study and will continue to evaluate with faculty how educational and research goals are evolving across disciplines and how we might continue to develop services to support faculty goals robustly at Tufts.

Laura Walters, Associate Director for Teaching, Research, and Information Resources, Tisch Library, with contributions from Gina Siesing, Director for Educational Technology Services, UIT Academic Technology
Article adapted/expanded from Laura Walters’ Spring 2010 article, “Faculty Research Study Yields Rich Results,” in Friends: A Newsletter of the Friends of the Tufts Libraries. Previous issues of this newsletter are published on the Tufts University Libraries Friends & Alumni portal.

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