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The Carletonian

Carleton Paid to Collaborate with St. Olaf

<rly December 2013, Carleton and St. Olaf were awarded a $1.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The money will support increased institutional collaboration between the two colleges. But what will that actually look like on campus?

Outlined in the College’s strategic plan of November 2012, the collaboration efforts will seek to coordinate technological support, explore “collaborative curricula,” investigate shared online learning options, and collaborate on different operations between the libraries.

“A major part of the grant is to look at ways we can improve service and gain efficiencies through collaboration with our libraries and IT departments,  says Carleton College Dean Beverly Nagel. The area students may be most interested in, however, is the academic collaboration.

While students can register for classes at St. Olaf and vice versa, the different academic calendars can make it tough for them to do so. However, the collaboration doesn’t stop there, according to Nagel: “There are lots of other ways in which we can collaborate. If St. Olaf has a specialist in an area in which we don’t, it will be easier to go over there and and take classes or have the specialist come here.”

Whatever comes out of the additional collaboration – in what Nagel calls its “launch phase” – will unfold over a four-year period.
Nagel says that the academic goals are twofold: “There is the recognition that there are always pressures for us to add courses in different areas. The other aim is to see whether we can provide greater depth in the areas we currently offer.”

Nagel notes that the additional collaboration could benefit Northfield. “We both have academic civic engagement projects here in the local community…how do you maintain the kind of work that we have launched? We are bringing our ace people together to think about how we can provide a more seamless community service experience.”

The library systems of both colleges are an area in which the grant will provide a huge boost. Carleton Library Director Brad Schaffner notes that collaboration between Olaf’s Rolvaag Memorial Library and the Gould Library is not new: “The libraries have been collaborating since the mid-70s.”

Among the planned projects for the libraries is a single shared research portal. Said Schaffner: “The research portal would be an enhanced website for both libraries […] the idea of the research portal is to make it easier to have more of the tools that you need on the front page.”

A barrier to having a robust research system is the near-prohibitive cost of e-resources. As Schaffner explains, “We’re trying to coordinate the acquisition of e-resources. Our approach will allow us to provide reasonably close access to more material locally, reducing the need to go as often to the University of Minnesota library.”

How long will it be before changes occur? According to St. Olaf Library Director Roberta Lembke, “Staff sharing is going to start immediately. Implementing a new library catalog is probably an 18 or 24-month process. It’s going to vary project by project.”

Speaking of the opportunity provided by the grant, Lembke says efficiency and quality are top priorities: “By re-allocating our resources, we are able to do more with them. Everybody is aware that we want to contain costs, but we’re also looking at it and saying that we want to improve services too.”

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