Investigation into the level of involvement of subject librarians with VLEs (virtual learning environments) in Irish universities

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Zaliene, Laura
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MSc Information and Library Management
Dublin Business School
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Educational institutions use Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) as content delivery platforms that connect students, academics and administration together. In this context, library participation in VLEs can increase visibility and use of library resources, improve collaboration with the faculty and enhance information literacy instruction delivery. Moreover, subject librarians can utilise VLEs to collaborate with academics, link course materials to relevant library resources and provide course-specific support. Regardless of potential benefits of librarians’ participation in VLEs, little is known of their involvement in VLEs. The research problem is the lack of deeper knowledge of influencing factors that may affect subject librarian’s use VLEs. The purpose of this study is to identify trends of subject librarians’ use of VLEs and constitute a contribution to a better understanding of influencing factors and challenges experienced by subject librarians in relation to their use of online tools and involvement in VLEs to deliver course-specific support. The research was conducted by adopting a mixed method approach: five interviews and a survey were conducted in order to obtain both qualitative and quantitative data. The results of both data analyses were compared and contrasted. The key findings of the study suggest that subject librarians have very little or no interaction with VLEs. In addition, individual relation that subject librarians have with academics plays a significant role in their use of VLEs. Also, a lack of communication, low staff numbers, size of the institution and the issue feasibility of direct involvement in VLE are important influencing factors of subject librarians’ involvement with VLEs. This research partly fills the gap in the literature in Irish context by presenting and discussing the level of involvement of subject librarians with institution’s VLE. This research provides a snapshot of the current situation and practices that can be compared to other contexts or, alternatively, any changes of this situation can be examined if similar studies will be conducted in the future. Author keywords: VLE, subject librarian, virtual learning environment