From Fall 2014 through Spring 2015, in consultation with the Mellon Foundation and with AMICAL’s Coordinating Committee, I worked with Celeste Schenck (President, American University of Paris) to develop an $800,000 grant proposal to support AMICAL’s operations and programs from August 2015 through July 2018. I’m thrilled to announce that the proposal was accepted by the Foundation and was disbursed this summer to AUP as responsible party for the grant.
This is a critical boost for AMICAL. The grant will allow us to continue, and in some cases expand, our most successful programs. It will give strategic emphasis to consortial activities supporting leadership development, information literacy, digital initiatives, and network-level collaboration. And it has enabled us to hire a Web Developer & Digital Strategist – Alex Armstrong, whom I’ll introduce below – who will tie those activities together with tools and resources that enable you, as AMICAL members, to engage effectively with them.
AMICAL’s 2015-2018 Mellon grant: Leadership, digital initiatives and collaboration
In drafting our grant proposal, we sought to support AMICAL members in navigating the rapidly changing environments of libraries, IT, scholarship, pedagogy, and higher education in general, while cultivating shared value that comes from our institutions’ international-American visions of liberal education. We also sought points of common purpose with the Mellon Foundation itself, to benefit from their broad-based expertise and to ensure that our own objectives could find financial support.
The result was a plan that establishes four strategic priorities:
1. Leadership of Library and Information Services in Liberal Arts Environments
AMICAL has finite resources to put towards professional development at 25 member institutions. We’re trying to help our institutions navigate the changes just described, but we must focus much of our support on leaders who are in a position to effect change locally, or to engage local colleagues in conversations, training or other actions that help move their organization forward. AMICAL’s professional development programs will therefore give particular focus to leadership skills, innovation, and change management among library and information services teams at AMICAL institutions.
Related actions planned:
- Priority support in AMICAL’s Small Grant Program for participation in
- key externally-organized leadership seminars
- management-level training in key emerging areas of higher ed libraries and information services
- AMICAL-organized workshops on strategic planning and evidence-based decision making
- Facilitation of partnership with mentors - both within and outside of AMICAL
2. Information Literacy as a Liberal Art
Working critically with information is a hallmark of liberal education, and part of the ‘brand’ and value of American universities. This is also one of several perfect spaces in which to cultivate collaboration between all of AMICAL’s target groups: librarians, faculty and technologists.
- AMICAL-organized face-to-face and online presentations, discussions and workshops related to information literacy
- Priority support in AMICAL’s Small Grant Program for professional development related to information literacy instruction
- Consortium-wide collaborative projects on assessment, data sharing, program development, faculty-librarian collaboration, curriculum integration and other issues related to information literacy instruction
3. Curriculum-Integrated Digital Initiatives
Digital scholarship and pedagogy, as well as the curriculum-relevant curation of digital content, are increasingly considered as intrinsic to research, teaching, and libraries. This is another set of spaces perfect for collaboration between AMICAL’s target groups of librarians, faculty and technologists.
AMICAL-organized face-to-face and online presentations, discussions and workshops related to digital scholarship/pedagogy/collectionsPriority support in AMICAL’s Small Grant Program for professional development or projects related to digital scholarship/pedagogy/collections
4. Growing the AMICAL Collaboration Network
Only a small fraction of AMICAL staff and faculty are able to meet face to face at our conferences. A robust array of resources for online collaboration – and in particular a network for discovery of, and exchange with, colleagues – is absolutely essential for collaborative activity to grow across AMICAL.
- Build a coherent web presence for communicating about AMICAL’s programs, through
- a redesigned website with vastly improved architecture and design
- a blog, supported by an editorial strategy that uses AMICAL news and reflections from staff, members and invited guests to build shared vision and focus for AMICAL as a growing, dynamic organization
- coordinated social media activity to engage with members and other stakeholders
- Replace existing network structures (primarily AMICALconnect) with more flexible, easy to use tools for
- topical discussion among interest groups
- project or committee-based communication and sharing
- discovering and interacting with AMICAL peers according to teaching, research, and professional interests
- Explore ways in which AMICAL can showcase and link students and their work, through:
- sharing of learning and research-related objects such as student digital multimedia projects and digital scholarship projects in a consortial repository
- facilitating communication and collaboration amongst students who are leading AMICAL-funded projects
How will AMICAL support the work in these areas?
- Organizationally and peer-to-peer, through the ongoing programs coordinated by our five standing committees:
- Professional Development
- Institutional Research & Assessment
- OCLC Programs
- Information Literacy
- Financially, through our grant-funded programs:
- Annual AMICAL Conference
- AMICAL-organized topical workshops and webinars
- A new Small Grant Program (to be officially launched in November) that supports individual training or local projects in three areas:
- Professional development
- Emerging technologies and practice in libraries, teaching and learning
- Digital scholarship and digital collections
- Through communication and collaboration resources - spearheaded by our Web Developer and Digital Strategist
Introducing AMICAL’s Web Developer & Digital Strategist: Alex Armstrong
We have struggled for years with ambitions of developing a functional and robust array of resources for communication and collaboration among AMICAL members. Over the years, we managed to get the most essential program information to members via our website, and we created a basic collaboration network with AMICALconnect. However:
- there is an immense void of missing or inaccessible information about AMICAL’s programs
- AMICALconnect has turned out to be far less functional and used than we hoped
- we were missing someone with the skills, and a solid understanding of AMICAL’s mission, to develop a coherent set of online resources for communication and collaboration – for existing needs, but in particular to support the goals laid out in our 2015-2018 grant proposal.
Luckily, we connected with Alex Armstrong at the right moment. Alex worked previously at the American College of Greece, and has now struck out on his own as an independent consultant. AMICAL has contracted with Alex as Web Developer & Digital Strategist for the period of this Mellon grant, and I hope that we’ll be able to continue working with him going forward. Alex brings together the skills and understanding mentioned above (in spades!). He also brings along vision and methodology for organizing AMICAL’s digital resources in ways that will serve the strategic goals we’ve laid out for the coming years. He developed the AMICAL 2014 and AMICAL 2015 web sites, as well as the new AMICAL website that is under continuous development.
Here are just a few of the things Alex has already helped with since starting his new AMICAL role this summer:
- Alex accompanied me and a team of AU Cairo/Beirut/Iraq colleagues to a summer institute on digital scholarship in liberal arts colleges. He and I are already working together to steer AMICAL support for a number of digital humanities and digital pedagogy projects that have spun off from that and from other discussions with AMICAL colleagues.
- As Provisional Chair of the E-Resources Committee, Alex has been consolidating existing data and looking for ways to streamline work on this program. Laying a foundation for growing but sustainable committee work in this area is important in its own right, since this program generates a significant part of AMICAL’s financial value to members. However another critical reason for involving Alex in E-resources this year is to investigate committee-level communication needs and to develop appropriate communication tools and processes.
- Alex has been reviewing all of AMICAL’s web-based resources for improvement. He has created the new AMICAL website, implemented a new helpdesk system, and begun planning and testing new discussion and project management platforms.
In all kinds of ways, Alex has already proved himself to be an essential partner in developing and managing the consortium’s programs. He’s currently working on plans for rolling out several new communication tools that will replace AMICALconnect, so you’ll be hearing from him soon as he talks about these developments on AMICAL’s blog. If you want to talk to him about any of this, he can be reached at email@example.com. Welcome, Alex!
If you’ve read this far, I’m amazed and appreciative. I feel strongly that all of the above is important news for AMICAL, so thank you for giving it your time.
Here’s to three great years of consortial collaboration ahead of us!
Originally sent to AMICAL members as an email.