HBCU Library Alliance HBCU Library Alliance

A Call for Cooperation among HBCU Libraries

Opportunities for Consideration

The directors and deans of libraries at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) have been engaged in a dialog over the last eighteen months to determine ways of strengthening library programs and services through increased cooperation. This dialog has taken place through a listserv established for this purpose, individual discussions, and open forums at the 2001 and 2002 SOLINET Annual Membership Meetings. Participants in these discussions explored common opportunities and challenges that could be addressed through collaborative efforts among HBCU libraries.


There has been consensus that increased cooperation among HBCU libraries could be effective in strengthening the role of libraries on our campuses, improving preservation of and access to the unique cultural resources, developing staff, and in sharing expertise and resources among libraries. This paper’s purpose is to summarize the ideas expressed thus far about potential cooperative activities in these areas, and to organize these ideas into categories as a basis for further discussion, brainstorming, and prioritization. At our initial conference, the goal will be to establish agreement as to a plan of action for implementing cooperative activities and a potential HBCU library organization.


Breakout discussion sessions will be held on these categories, as outlined below, at the HBCU Library Initiative Meeting in Atlanta , Georgia on October 28 and 29, 2002.


1. Preservation and Access to Cultural Materials

HBCU libraries hold rich collections of books, photographs, pamphlets, newspapers, letters and other cultural materials. These materials have significant value to faculty researchers, students, and society as a whole, but may not be known or accessible to those who have need or interest in them. Maintaining the historical context and integrity of these valuable collections to our institutions is a primary consideration while providing increased access. Moreover, many of these materials need stabilization and improved storage to preserve them for future generations. Cooperative action among the HBCU libraries could improve preservation, maintain integrity of materials, establish value and enhance access to these special collections, advancing their use in research, teaching and learning opportunities. Potential collaborative activities in this category would allow libraries to:

1. Improve and share knowledge about the value, location and content of special collections.
2. Improve access to collections through preservation and digitization programs.
3. Link digitized special collections at all HBCU’s through a portal designed specifically by its members to advance use of these materials and preserve their cultural integrity.


2. Information and Advocacy

HBCU libraries share educational objectives in regard to serving students and faculty. The role of library services at HBCU’s can be strengthened by sharing our knowledge with each other, by increasing library visibility on campuses, and by collectively addressing those (within and beyond HBCU’s) who influence public policy and funding. Potential initiatives to cooperatively build understanding and commitment in these areas are:
A. Information Collection and Analysis (through statistical studies, assessments, etc.)
1. Analyze HBCU libraries as a whole using statistical data submitted by all libraries in the biennial IPEDs survey. Develop a report roughly to parallel the National Urban League’s annual report, “The State of Black America.”
2. Analyze non-statistical factors of HBCU libraries, such as programs supported, expertise on staff, histories, etc., that would enhance libraries’ ability to work together.
3. Create a portal linked to the web pages of all HBCU libraries.
B. Advocacy and Communication
Develop a communications and advocacy program describing HBCU library needs and accomplishments for use
• on campus by individual HBCU libraries
• in identified higher education forums
• in identified public policy forums
• with foundations and other funding agencies


3. Human Resources: Shared Expertise, Recruitment and Development of Staff

Libraries are challenged by the shortage of librarians and the consequent impact on programs and operations. Discussions in this category have identified the need for cooperation that will:

1 Coordinate and provide ongoing staff development opportunities through staff exchanges, seminars, workshops, or other activities
2 Develop programs to recruit and support the education of individuals to the library profession from among HBCU undergraduates, library staff, and other groups.
3 Explore cooperative activities, such as shared cataloging and virtual reference programs, that can address operational needs through shared expertise at multiple HBCU’s.


4. Better Access to Collections/Facilities

Easy access to HBCU libraries and collections is critical to meeting educational goals and enhancing library interaction with other university programs. Discussions have identified several cooperative activities which would enhance access to and use of HBCU library collections and facilities. Collaborative programs can:
1 Create a virtual HBCU library collection by linking the catalogs of libraries and extending access to all HBCU faculty, students and researchers.
2 Provide reciprocal access to libraries’ physical collections through a “universal borrowing system.”
3 Offer cooperatively developed and maintained information literacy programs that increase use of collections.


In conclusion, we ask your consideration of the above categories in order to determine an action plan for cooperation that will strengthen our libraries, our historic institutions, and our community of users.