The Accidental Academic Library: Meeting the Needs of a Health System–Affiliated University


Background: In 2017 a small liberal arts college affiliated with a large western health system was re-branded, and a School of Health Professions was created to prepare for future staffing shortages and to train the next generation of healthcare workers. Instead of relying solely upon its own library, University administration reached out to the health system library to meet the information needs of this new group of students, most of whom were active employees of the healthcare enterprise. Thus, a group of hospital librarians found themselves as accidental academic librarians.Description: Library leadership researched academic library bench-marking to propose a budget for collections and FTE. Library staff brushed up on library trends and copyright issues specific to academic libraries and prepared to serve a new type of user. Vendor negotiations became newly complex as they brought in both the corporate and academic sides of the business and raised the issue of how to properly license for the University. Operational challenges included subscription IP overlaps and how to provide remote access to non-employed students and faculty. Librarians had to adjust to the different service level needs for students as compared to employees, many of whom were one and the same.Conclusion: Nearly 3 years later and the health system library has yet to receive any additional funding or FTE to support the University and has built the collection and services on its existing budget. Publisher contracts are revisited on an annual basis as the growth of the school of health professions puts pressure on agreed-upon pricing models, as well as library staffing capacity. Library staff has adapted instructional materials and service expectations to the student population, shifting the balance from a value-add fish FOR a person to a TEACH to fish approach

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