Through collaboration, the AMICAL Consortium raises the quality of libraries, technology and learning across the 28 international liberal arts institutions that form our membership.
AMICAL’s programs build and leverage the connections between libraries, technology and the classroom as spaces where information is used and created in study and scholarship. Our programs aim for outcomes in the following strategic focus areas:
Cost-saving on library and information resources
Innovative, adaptive and effective library and technology leadership
Innovative liberal arts pedagogy and scholarship – with a particular focus on:
information & digital literacies
digital liberal arts: digital pedagogy and scholarship anchored in the liberal arts curricular environments, and in the local resources or geo-cultural contexts, of AMICAL institutions
Our work has been supported since 2004 by a series of grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, including our current multi-year grant of $1.1M for “Building Leadership & Capacity for Digital Liberal Arts across the AMICAL Consortium.” AMICAL member institutions themselves also contribute essential financial support for AMICAL’s operations.
AMICAL’s core programs and resources include:
Consortial price negotiation on licensed library databases and other library/academic resources
Staff and faculty development: events, cohort training programs, and consultation services
Small Grants: for training, staff exchanges and project support
An online community network and collaboration tools
In the face of this past year’s many challenges, AMICAL’s programs and peer network have been an increasingly important source of support for member institutions. Below is an overview of this consortial support and collaborative activity for the period of August 2019 – July 2020, along with highlights of more recent activity through January 2021.
Consortially Leveraged Access to Library & Academic Resources
AMICAL’s E-Resources Committee leverages our collective bargaining power to negotiate with vendors (Project Muse, Springshare, and others) for discounts on ebook collections, article databases and other library and academic resources.
17 member institutions benefited from discounts through AMICAL.
We continue to work with OCLC to bring latest-generation library management technologies to members while keeping the costs as broadly accessible to members as possible.
Members participated in a Knowledge Unlatched initiative to enable open access to 7 academic journals in the humanities and social sciences.
The AMICAL Conference
The annual AMICAL Conference brings together our librarians, instructional designers and technologists, and faculty developers – as well as disciplinary faculty interested in collaborating with them – for workshops, discussions and showcases of local projects and initiatives.
The AMICAL 2020 Conference was held January 15-18 at the American University of Kuwait. The conference program – under the theme “Digital Transformation at International Liberal Arts Institutions: Innovation, Collaboration & Sustainability” – included the following highlights:
Pre-conference workshop on “Strategic approaches to the development of digital literacies”(Doug Belshaw, Co-founder, We Are Open Co-op)
Pre-conference workshop on “Library leadership in the global context”(Donna Scheeder, President, Library Strategies International; co-facilitated by members of AMICAL’s Leadership & Assessment Committee)
Glass Room exhibit exploring society’s dependence on data and technology – and the normalization of monitoring and surveillance
43 sessions presented by AMICAL members on libraries, technology, learning and digital transformation
Post-conference meeting of AMICAL Representatives (mostly library directors), organized using Liberating Structures techniques to identify opportunities for future collaborative actions
Attendance figures for AMICAL 2020:
97 attendees from 25 member institutions
82% of member attendees received funding for accommodation or airfare to attend, and all members’ registration fees were covered by AMICAL
The following roles were represented:
31% Faculty or faculty developers
10% IT managers/staff
6% Instructional designers or technologists
3% Administrators and other roles
Since the onset of COVID-19, AMICAL’s events have been organized entirely online, and these virtual professional development opportunities have become both more frequent and more substantial. Many events have aimed at supporting member institutions’ own responses to the pandemic, for example helping faculty and librarians to adapt to teaching online. Over time, we’ve also been learning how to work effectively through online gatherings on nearly all of our strategic focus areas, from library leadership to digital liberal arts.
Just for the period August 2019 through July 2020, we organized 19 online events, focused on:
Information/digital literacies (10 events)
Library/technology leadership (4 events)
Online teaching/learning (4 events)
Library systems/technologies (1 event)
Many of AMICAL’s events address several such focus areas, drawing connections between them. In addition to these events from last year, a full list including more recent events can be found on our Past events page.
AMICAL’s first-ever Mid-Year Virtual Forum, held 13-14 January 2021, drew 162 registrants, with up to 80 simultaneous participants observed in some sessions. The Forum’s program addressed challenges for teaching, technology and libraries in the current pandemic context of online and hybrid learning, reflecting on experiences from the Fall semester and workshopping together to apply those lessons to plans for the Spring and coming year. Collaboration, as always for AMICAL, was center stage, and much of the workshops’ content was participant-driven in small groups.
The 2021 AMICAL Conference, meanwhile, will also be held online, in late Spring or early Summer 2021.
AMICAL Coordinated Participation in Training & Workshops
In April 2020, we funded leaders of AMICAL committees and groups to attend a full-day online immersion workshop on high-engagement group facilitation methods for inclusiveness and meaningful participation, organized by Liberating Structures London (10 registrants from 4 AMICAL institutions).
During Summer 2020, AMICAL partnered with organizers of two major online events related to digital pedagogy and online learning, enabling participation at no cost to interested AMICAL members:
In October 2020, we partnered with Library Juice Academy, a leading provider of “online professional development workshops for librarians and other library staff,” to offer all members a 20% discount on course registration fees.
Digital Liberal Arts Cohort Program: Team Training & Project Support
The latest iteration of AMICAL’s Digital Liberal Arts (DLA) Cohort Program was launched in Summer 2020. The DLA Cohort Program aims to build a learning community with training and resource support for faculty-staff teams working on digital approaches to pedagogy and scholarship in the liberal arts. The program supports these teams with access to third-party training and expertise, a peer community of practice, and a series of AMICAL-facilitated project showcase and peer consultation events. The most recent project supported through the Program is: “Development of Digital Literacies at AUC: Professional Development and Toolkit for Faculty.” The DLA Programs Committee will be working in the coming months on building out support for the community of DLA cohort participants from recent years, as well as making plans for course-integrated DLA collaborations and the grant-funded hiring of a DLA Fellow for consultation and training on digital scholarship and pedagogy.
Small Grants for Libraries, Tech & Learning: Training & Project Support
Our Small Grants program funds training, peer exchange/consultation and projects that support AMICAL’s mission, in particular in the following priority areas: library and technology leadership, information and digital literacies, and digital liberal arts.
Last year, we awarded Small Grants to colleagues at 8 member institutions. Examples:
Open Education Global 2019 Conference
NYU Abu Dhabi Winter Institute in Digital Humanities
Development of digital storytelling and filmmaking skills for teaching and research
Educational technology and digital literacy: group workshops and individual consultations
Training and consultation for creating an oral history project
International learning collaboration: Culture, gender and psychology
Library-faculty capacity building in 3D modeling
AMICAL as a Peer Network: Community & Infrastructure
AMICAL Connect member forum: AMICAL serves as a collaboration network for over 500 librarians, faculty and technologists at our member institutions. AMICAL Connect, the consortium’s forum, serves as the online hub for sharing information with peers and seeking help from them, coordinating action on consortial programs, and finding collaborators across institutions. Last year members shared over 1600 posts, and 84 new colleagues joined our forum.
Content management for AMICAL groups: Alex Armstrong (AMICAL Program & Technology Officer) recently developed “AMICAL Guides,” a sub-system within AMICAL’s content management system allowing member groups to publish web content for their groups, and for AMICAL members generally. Our OCLC Working Group has been developing a guide supporting AMICAL members’ use of OCLC services, and we expect other groups may begin developing such AMICAL Guides as well.
Curricular collaboration: Small but promising steps are being made in technology-enabled curricular collaboration:
Faculty at AU Central Asia, American College of Greece, and AU Cairo led a Small Grant-funded initiative in Spring 2020 linking groups of students from each institution for collaborative research, academic writing and digital showcases on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Sharing knowledge about information literacy practices: AMICAL’s Information Literacy Initiatives Committee led several major peer-contributed research and writing projects:
Collaborative responses to COVID-19: In March 2020, AMICAL colleagues began contributing to Resources for member institutions during COVID-19, to support faculty, technologists and librarians dealing with the shift to online/hybrid learning and other challenges of the pandemic. Resources included:
A “Continuity during COVID-19” live online forum series
Opening your own workshops to AMICAL peers: We’re particularly excited to report that some member institutions have recently begun welcoming AMICAL-wide participation in teaching and technology workshops organized originally for their own faculty and staff. The American University in Cairo, Forman Christian College, and Habib University have led this trend, which has enormous promise for multiplying the value of AMICAL as a network for sharing peer expertise.
AMICAL Member-Authored Books on Library-Faculty Collaborations
In December 2020, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) published Faculty-Librarian Collaborations: Integrating the Information Literacy Framework into Disciplinary Courses, co-edited by Michael Stöpel (AU Paris), Livia Piotto (John Cabot U), together with Xan Goodman and Samantha Godbey (both from University of Nevada, Las Vegas). Chapters were contributed by librarians and faculty from 9 AMICAL member institutions. The book’s chapters grew out of work begun as librarian-faculty teams in the AMICAL workshop “Co-design: Integrating Information Literacy into Your Disciplinary Course” held in 2017, along with subsequent design work, assessment, and a survey of participants.
Surveys to Understand Member Needs and Priorities: Actions Being Taken
Survey of AMICAL Representatives
Your institution’s AMICAL Representative plays a pivotal role in advancing AMICAL’s mission, and promoting the consortium and its spirit of collaboration as a group, by representing the member institution’s stakeholders, be they librarians, technologists, faculty, or administrators. AMICAL’s Coordinating Committee organized last year a “Survey of AMICAL Representatives” to better understand what they need in order to fulfill their role as liaisons between your institution and the consortium as a whole. Since then, we’ve acted on a number of needs identified by the survey:
Provide better guidance for Reps:We’re publishing a “Guide for AMICAL Representatives” shortly.
Make cross-consortium member communications easier
Member groups can now build and share web content as “AMICAL Guides” on our website (discussed further under “AMICAL as a Peer Network”)
Reps now have their own Representatives’ Discussion Space on AMICAL Connect
Consortium-wide announcements are now drafted in a way to make them easily forwardable to colleagues at your institution
Keep Reps more regularly involved (in planning processes, in AMICAL Admin communications to colleagues, in discussion with each other)
“Survey of institution-level AMICAL stakeholders” administered September 2020 (see below)
Since November 2020, AMICAL has been organizing regular meetings among Reps (monthly, with alternating focus on their roles either as library directors or as AMICAL Representatives)
We’re more consistently keeping Reps informed about participation in AMICAL programs by colleagues at their institution
Communicate clearly and regularly to members the channels available to them for voicing concerns, suggestions for improvement, etc.: We’ve updated our contact page to provide multiple avenues through which members can make their voice heard..
Survey of institution-level AMICAL stakeholders
In September 2020, we ran a “Survey of institution-level AMICAL stakeholders” (AMICAL Reps, library directors, academic leadership, faculty development centers, and academic IT directors) asking them to identify the biggest environmental or institutional issues in front of your institutions for the coming years. Responses for the “Biggest challenges/opportunities for next 1–2 years” were dominated by the themes of online teaching and cost savings. Other recurring themes included library professional development and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “Biggest challenges/opportunities for next 3-5 years” were quite similar, with a clear call for consortial collaboration on finding ways to do more with less, and on helping our institutions to create rich, innovative and adaptive learning environments – in the library, in the classroom, and online.
Drawing on member feedback, including the surveys above, AMICAL is currently giving focus to supporting and facilitating staff and faculty development related to teaching, technologies and library services in online or hybrid learning environments. Our E-Resources Committee is working assiduously to identify new opportunities for cost savings, and a working group is investigating how AMICAL members might be able to work on diversity/equity/inclusion together. Our Standing Committees, some guided and funded by our Mellon Foundation grant, continue their mission-focused work as well, using the survey feedback from member institutions as a compass to ensure that AMICAL’s programs and initiatives have as much beneficial impact as possible in the areas most important to our members.
For Spring and Summer 2021, we aim to increase the number and scale of online events we organize, with a goal of significantly increasing participation levels, including:
More frequent and regular online events and workshop-style participatory meetings
A virtual AMICAL 2021 Conference (late Spring or early Summer)
The following committees and interest groups, meanwhile, have identified goals specific to their focus:
Leadership & Assessment
Regular meetings for library directors
Expand work on AMICAL library benchmarking using ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics survey
Update and share AMICAL’s collection of consortium-funded research reports
Collect and share examples of member institutions’ satisfaction surveys
Information Literacy Initiatives
Organize information literacy teaching observations with AMICAL peers
Expand scope of “Journal Club” series and other events to include intersections with digital literacies and digital humanities
Digital Liberal Arts (DLA) Programs
Develop online communication resources, events and consulting to support AMICAL’s growing DLA cohort community
Reevaluate profile of the DLA Fellow, to consider partially adapting this role to support institutions’ urgent needs for instructional design support in online/hybrid teaching environments
Reevaluate plans for course-integrated DLA collaborations in current environment
Clarify and communicate expectations from and for vendors
Improve workload distribution for negotiations
Outreach to bring into group more writing teachers across AMICAL
Events and online discussions to develop the peer network
Organize shared resources (e.g. assignments) and collaborations (e.g peer review)
For academic year 2021-2022, our Standing Committees and Interest Groups will continue their mission-focused work, and we are also seeking to extend our current grant from the Mellon Foundation for this additional year. This would extend AMICAL’s grant-funded programs such as our Small Grants and Digital Liberal Arts Cohort programs, and it would allow us to more fully develop a number of projects that had to be put on hold during the onset of COVID-19: hiring a Digital Liberal Arts Fellow to provide training and consultation to members on digital pedagogy and scholarship, and supporting course-integrated digital project collaborations. We’re excited to extend and expand these initiatives, and we hope to have more news to share with you this Spring.
Informed – and Get Involved!
Interested in learning more or getting involved in initiatives described above, suggesting an idea, or reaching out to peers across the consortium? Here are a few ways: