Thursday, July 05, 2007

Art of Persuasion: Strategies for Effective Communication with Chief Academic Officers

2007 ALA Annual Conference
June 25, 2007


Moderator: James P. Honan
Panelists: William W. Destler, Elise Bickford Jorgens, and Dominic Latorraca
Program description at

Thanks to this sluggish shuttle buses and the fact that this session moved from the room printed in the program to one even more difficult to find, I missed the panelist’s opening comments, but this was a very informative program. The panelists all had some great insight into the minds of college deans, VPs and others in upper administration. It was also great to hear from CAOs (Chief Academic Officers []) who valued and supported libraries. The CAOs on the panel offered the following suggestions for working with CAOs on your campus. Unfortunately, I was in the back and couldn’t see who was saying what.

Do’s and Don’ts
  • Don’t just submit an inflation-based bill
    • Include descriptions of how you will improve services in your budget requests
    • Show how the funds will support the library’s strategic direction and that of other departments
    • Back up your requests with requests with research and support
    • Can you convince others?
      • Show how your proposal will solve a problem. CAOs appreciate this because they are constantly seeking solutions for various problems.
      • Don’t just say “Higher education is moving in this direction.”
  • Is your CAO a natural ally?
  • Don’t go around your CAO. Deans and etc. don’t like surprises
  • Provide ideas on how to make the transition to future of higher education

Library’s Role in Conversations about New Programs and Faculty

  • CAOs expect libraries to reallocate funds out of resources for declining programs into resources for emerging programs.Evidence of this will help with requests for additional funds.
  • When departments are preparing proposals for new programs, remind them it is their responsibility to include learning resources in the proposals

External Funding Sources (like Friends of the Library)

  • Beware of the donor’s goals
  • Today’s libraries distinguish themselves through their special collections.Target these collections in fundraising.

Merging of Libraries and Technology

  • Role of librarians will change from providing the best information to helping students shift through the deluge of information and picking the best information
  • Libraries will be doing more information literacy instruction. Libraries need to carve out their areas that will always be academic because these areas will always have a strong teaching component.

Questions and Answers

  • Libraries and learning outcomes assessments
    • Libraries can be included in general and department specific learning outcomes. Libraries are frequently included in critical thinking learning outcomes
    • Find out how the library can help other departments assess their learning outcomes.
    • At one of the schools represented, the library dean serves on the General Education Curriculum Committee, which is drafting assessable learning outcomes
  • Approaching a new president
    • Invite him/her to the library. Provide examples of the ways students access information and show off technology and special collections
    • Check with the your supervising academic officer first and invite to join
    • Know how you will answer if asked what you need
    • Frame your strategies for working with the new president around what you know about him or her (what did they do/support at their previous institution)
  • Provide a lot of information when presenting case for keeping a high tech library high tech
  • CAOs use benchmark data heavily. Phi Beta Kappa and other organizations can be allies.

I had to leave at this point so I wouldn’t be late for my shift at the NMRT booth. But I picked up on some themes.

CAOs are in risky positions. They will listen to you if they believe you can make their job easier. They also place a lot of value on evidence, like what you have done already and hard data.

They see the roles of libraries and librarians changing. As technology makes more information easily accessible, they expect libraries to provide evaluation expertise and instruction. CAOs also expect their libraries to develop special collections that set the library and school apart.

CAOs receive demands from many directions. It is the library leadership’s responsibility to educate them about libraries and keep them informed. Libraries cannot expect automatic handouts. We must provide evidence and sound arguments for our requests and be willing to propose compromises. Nor can we be bashful. We must display and flaunt our innovations, successes and triumphs.

Read more coverage of this session at