Southwestern University has received a $600,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will be used by the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) to help liberal arts colleges transform their libraries to meet the needs of students and scholars in the 21st century. NITLE is headquartered at Southwestern.

“The trend is clear and irreversible,” said Joey King, executive director of NITLE and vice president for innovation at Southwestern. “Given the digitization of content, increased pressure to collaborate, and the rise of open access − among other factors − liberal arts colleges must shift their libraries toward models that emphasize access over collection.”

NITLE will use the grant over the next two years to provide colleges in its member network with resources and opportunities that help them enact this transition. The grant will enable NITLE to leverage the strength of its member network to create access to global cultural resources  and will support the development of seminars and planning tools that engage campuses in envisioning potential future scenarios and new models for their libraries.

NITLE, which currently supports more than 150 colleges across the country, has already initiated efforts to create access to valuable scholarly resources on its member campuses.

For example, it is currently testing a program to make primary resources in Chinese available to its member colleges. Such resources are cost-prohibitive for small colleges on their own. In addition, the first of its library-oriented seminars will be held in October.

The new grant from the Mellon Foundation will enable NITLE to further implement and evaluate these initiatives.

“This is a fundamentally important grant,” said Charles Henry, president of the Council on Library and Information Resources and member of NITLE’s advisory board. “It allows for a thoughtful, programmatic rethinking and re-envisioning of libraries at liberal arts colleges. So much focus has been on the transformation of research libraries in the last decade. The challenges and opportunities faced by liberal arts institutions are similar and often as vexed. NITLE will provide the cohesion and leadership to help define the liberal arts library in the context of the swiftly changing and demanding environment of higher education.”

This is the second major grant Southwestern and NITLE have received from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in recent months. Over the summer, Southwestern received an $800,000 grant for NITLE to use in helping liberal arts colleges expand their offerings in the digital humanities.