Library innovation is not only the realm of large research libraries. Frequently, innovation and early adopters come from small liberal arts colleges who have the interests of their undergraduates front and center. Eric A. Kidwell, the Library Director of Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, is such an example. He participated in the ACI Scholarly Blog Index proof of concept interviews and subsequently was an early adopter and among the first subscribers to this innovative collection of scholarly blogs. Kidwell is also an active member of the Association of College & Research Libraries and the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries so he has a perspective on library innovation at the state and national level.
The college has an enrollment of approximately 1,100 and from their website “Huntingdon is consistently listed among U.S. News and World Report’s ‘America’s Best Colleges’ and the Princeton Review’s ‘The Best Colleges, Region by Region;’ the campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The College has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past three years.” The campus is fully wired and each student is given a laptop upon starting their freshman year. A new emphasis to place research at the heart of the college’s curriculum is underway and the number of students who go on to graduate school is high.
It is in this environment that ACI’s Scholarly Blog Index became part of the library’s collection of new research tools. ACI is promoted in the library because of its uniqueness. Along with other members of the library faculty, Kidwell teaches a course in information literacy to all freshman to help them develop as savvy internet users who understand the difference between scholarly research sources, like journals, monographs, and now blogs, and what sources are not scholarly.
Some of Huntingdon’s faculty will accept scholarly blogs as a legitimate source and, according to Kidwell, “ACI is consistently used as a teaching and learning tool. It’s an interdisciplinary resource that can be used as a starting point and lead to scholarly authors and journal articles.” For example, the scholarly blog database was recently used in a film studies class and students researched commentary about selected films and their directors.
According to Kidwell, in the sciences, social media is becoming a prevalent means of communication and blogs, tweets, and other forms of social media commentary are good ways for scientists to share their research. There is an immediacy to social media, and contemporary commentary can help build a scientist’s reputation while he/she works on the longer cycle of research and journal articles. At Huntingdon, the pre-professional fields of law, business, and health have a large number of students going on to graduate schools and the scholarly blogs help support their undergraduate research efforts as well as lead them to prominent scientists and social scientists found both in blogs and in the journal literature.
Building on the graduate school theme, social media and scholarly blogs are relevant, these are “more modern” forms of communications that resonate with today’s college students. Kidwell suggests that the ACI Scholarly Blog index be used by upper class students as a tool to identify the thought leaders and movers in their fields of study then follow them in on social media and comment intelligently on their blog posts. Students can use this activity to begin to build their professional network and social media profile and may become known to the scholarly bloggers they were introduced to in ACI. Professional networks can also be an advantage to students as they apply to graduate school or enter the job market, particularly in competitive fields.
The library faculty work to create strong partnerships with their classroom faculty colleagues. The faculty recently approved core competencies for the general education program with one being information literacy. ACI Scholarly Blog Index may be a help in the information literacy program. Students can use ACI to find scholarly blogs on a topic and learn how to navigate social media, using authoritative and credible ACI sources, to discriminate among authors and identify bias.
Innovation at Huntingdon is not solely happening in the library. This year the library is leading a 20th anniversary celebration of the publication of Harry Potter that includes a series of courses building on the Harry Potter theme, for example, a Potions Course in chemistry and Mythical Creatures courses in English literature, religion, and biology. This forward looking college sounds like a fun place to learn!