Crafting Identity, Collaboration, and Relevance for Academic Librarians Using Communities of Practice

Nora Belzowski, Valparaiso University
J. Parker Ladwig, University of Notre Dame
Thurston Miller, University of Notre Dame


Faculty/librarian collaboration is vital for librarians to remain integral to the academy. We now have an opportunity to change how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by faculty and administrators. There are viable solutions for expanding the role of the librarian in ways that could lead to better faculty partnerships. First, librarians must be grounded in a shared purpose and professional identity and establish a contextual framework for our own professional ‘boundaries.’ We cannot create an intersection with the knowledge and experience of others if we do not have an understanding of our own frame. In-terviews and investigation of the professional literature led to a re-discovery of communities of practice. Communities of practice (CoPs) are promising tools for librarians because they can be used to develop and sustain professional identity. Once the shared purpose and practice is identified, CoPs can facilitate collaboration between librarians and faculty and develop partnerships that will increase understanding, create meaningful connections and improve perception. Communities of practice build professional em-pathy, and this empathetic understanding is the essence of alignment. Once our services are aligned with the needs and expectations of our users, we will become more relevant and valuable to our institutions.