Higher Education Ph.D. Dissertations


Opposites or Perfect Partners: Student Affairs and Libraries in Collaboration to Advance Student Learning

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Higher Education Administration

First Advisor

Kenneth Borland (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Maureen Wilson (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Michael Coomes (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Sara Bushong (Committee Member)


As institutions become more learning-centered, there will be an increased need to collaborate across organizational boundaries. Partnerships between student affairs professionals and academic librarians are one such method to encourage and demonstrate a seamless learning environment on campus. This study utilized a case study methodology to explore how student affairs professionals and academic librarians collaborate to advance student learning. Augustana College, a small private, Midwestern institution was chosen as the site for this study, and 18 participants (8 librarians, 5 student affairs professionals, 4 members of senior administration, 1 other) comprised the participants. The Stage Model for Collaboration in Higher Education (Kezar & Lester, 2009) was used as the theoretical framework. The findings indicated that although student affairs professionals and academic librarians shared a common definition of student learning, the professions were operationally invisible to each other prior to the opening of a shared library/student union facility. This hybrid facility acted as a catalyst for collaboration between the two units, but was not a panacea. The lack of knowledge of each other’s profession was a barrier to increased collaboration and formal information-sharing initiatives and relationship-building measures were needed to increase collaboration. Evidence suggests that that by working together, academic librarians and student affairs professionals are better able to support students, while advancing departmental goals through programming, employment, and outreach initiatives. Librarians provide a bridge to faculty that may validate the student affairs mission on campus and pave the way for increased learning partnerships campus-wide. Similarly, student affairs professionals act as a bridge to the student body, which may enforce and enhance the relevance of libraries for today’s student. Additional implications for practice and research are included.