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Strengthening curricular relationships between libraries and communication centers: A case study at James Madison University

Paul E. Mabrey III, Kathy Clarke, Carolyn Schubert


The James Madison University (JMU) Communication Center has a strong collaborative relationship with JMU’s campus libraries and librarians. With our submission, we discuss the existing curricular collaborations and potential for expanding collaborations within and beyond curricular interventions. First, we analyze the collaboration on supporting information literacy curriculum into the general education program. Second, we discuss curricular support partnerships in upper division courses through debate across the curriculum, research posters, and conference presentation support. Finally, we reflect on these curricular-based collaborations and suggest other possible productive relationships between a communication center and library.

First, information literacy is embedded into the General Education curriculum as learning outcomes. Students in our core program are required to demonstrate information literacy competencies prior to the end of their first academic year. Students watch a set of video tutorials, complete practice exercises assigned within the required Human Communication course and pass an information literacy test. The libraries develop both the Toolkit and the Test and partner with faculty for integrating content into general education. While most students complete the tutorials and pass the test, some struggle. In order to get these students the help they need, the libraries partnered with the Communication Center to teach peer tutors to be a first line of defense for students who need additional assistance, extending the availability of support. Most students who receive peer instruction from the Communication Center pass the test on the next subsequent attempt and those who do not can be referred for more formal interventions.  This shared commitment to first-year information literacy skills continues to help our students make connections between resource material and effective speeches, presentations, and papers.

Second, the libraries and Communication Center have also worked together on curricular support for upper-level courses with assignment redesign and developing presentational products . For example, Communication Center faculty and librarians have partnered on efforts to work with our center to offer workshops to help faculty include a debate of some type into a course. We are able to review how faculty moved forward with the course redesign based on the workshop activities, Center consultations, and embedded tutor fellows. Other curricular partnerships with subject-expert librarians and the Communication Center included supporting the development of scholarly products, like research posters and conference presentations. We collaborated by coordinating library and Communication Center instruction in a course, as well as providing professional development to Communication Center peer tutors.

Finally, our experiences collaborating on curricular support across campus has opened pathways for future partnerships as well. Using our experiences over the last four years, data collected for assessment and scholarship, and institutional changes across the university, we conclude with recommendations on paths forward for our own campus and others wishing to develop or expand their own collaborative relationships between Libraries and Communication Centers.  


Communication Center; Libraries; Information Literacy; General Education; Debate Across the Curriculum

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