On Collaboration: John Steinbeck’s America
Collaboration is the first of OU Libraries’ stated values: “We promote collaboration through teamwork and cooperation to pursue common goals.”1 As library faculty and members of the university community, we wholeheartedly agree. And, we have observed, collaboration is most effective when teams form organically to address a need or objective. A recent effort involving the Humanities librarian and the History and Area Studies librarian is a good example of a collaboration that produced a useful resource.
The project was initiated by Dr. David Wrobel of the History Department. He was preparing a Spring semester course exploring how John Steinbeck and his work were intertwined with American and global events. In the fall of 2016 Dr. Wrobel invited us and Sarah Clayton from OU Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab to lunch to tell us about the course and to brainstorm ways that the library might help. Sarah’s role was to help the class learn and use Hypothesis to annotate their reading, and ours was to help realize Dr. Wrobel’s vision to create a place on the internet that would be a resource not only to students of his class but to the larger community of Steinbeck scholars. This led to us creating a LibGuide, John Steinbeck’s America. Dr. Wrobel provided much of the content for the guide, including a comprehensive list of Steinbeck’s work and biographies and criticism that he wanted his students to know of. We decided how best to organize the information provided to us and added some of our own. The guide isn’t perfect; for example the table showing Steinbeck’s works by year and category isn’t fancy, but it is, we hope, clear and informative. We created visual interest with a gallery of first edition book jacket images.
Dr. Wrobel approved (and praised!) the guide and linked it to the course’s Canvas site. He also included us as instructors for the course, so we were able to follow discussions and be readily available to students. We gave a quick orientation for the class on the contents of the guide and reminded the students that we were available to help them.
This sort of collaboration, arising out of a faculty member’s specific need, reinforces the library’s role as education partner and makes use of the special skills of subject liaison librarians.