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Report Examines Center of Excellence Model for Information Services

Contact: Kathlin Smith


Washington, DC, February 10, 2015-A new report from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) explores the efficacy of using the center of excellence model in a library setting to help address the increasing demands for support of information services.

In 2013, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded seven librarians from the Research Library Leadership Fellows program of the Association for Research Libraries a planning grant to examine this issue. Their investigation and findings are described in The Center of Excellence Model for Information Services.

“Centers of excellence are designed to attract the most talented researchers in a particular field, enhance collaboration, and improve access to the resources needed for their research,” note the authors. “The expectation was that libraries, like other organizations that have embraced CoEs, could benefit by pooling scarce knowledge about new information services and technologies in centers that would serve many libraries.”

The team’s investigation, however, led to a different conclusion. Research and interviews with staff at numerous academic centers of excellence and at funding agencies revealed that nearly all centers face issues of purpose, sustainability, assessment, leadership, succession planning, and, above all, funding. The report highlights these concerns as expressed by the interviewees.

Based on these findings, the authors suggest that librarians look at ways to work within existing organizations rather than trying to develop another structure. They offer a series of recommendations for developing “networks of expertise” as a way to implement and sustain new information services for research. “Rather than consolidating expertise in a separate center, this approach will keep experts at local institutions and rely instead on an active network to address issues across a wider spectrum of institutions,” note the authors.

The report authors are Joy Kirchner, of the University of Minnesota Libraries; José Diaz, of The Ohio State University; Geneva Henry, of The George Washington University; Susan Fliss, of Harvard University; John Culshaw, of the University of Iowa; Heather Gendron, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Jon E. Cawthorne, of West Virginia University.

The report is available as a PDF download free of charge at

CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. It aims to promote forward-looking collaborative solutions that transcend disciplinary, institutional, professional, and geographic boundaries in support of the public good.

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