Serving a Diverse and Ever-Changing Agricultural Sciences Department: Family, Youth and Community Sciences in Perspective

University of Florida Institutional Repository
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00000111/00001

Material Information

Title: Serving a Diverse and Ever-Changing Agricultural Sciences Department: Family, Youth and Community Sciences in Perspective
Physical Description: Conference Papers
Creator: Special Libraries Association ( Conference )
Davis, Valrie
Dinsmore, Chelsea
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Publication Date: 2008




Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Valrie Davis. Valrie Minson also listed on publications as Valrie Davis.
Publication Status: Published

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: Permissions granted to the University of Florida Institutional Repository and University of Florida Digital Collections to allow use by the submitter. All rights reserved by the source institution.
System ID: IR00000111:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00000111/00001

Material Information

Title: Serving a Diverse and Ever-Changing Agricultural Sciences Department: Family, Youth and Community Sciences in Perspective
Physical Description: Conference Papers
Creator: Special Libraries Association ( Conference )
Davis, Valrie
Dinsmore, Chelsea
Publisher: Taylor and Francis
Publication Date: 2008




Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Valrie Davis. Valrie Minson also listed on publications as Valrie Davis.
Publication Status: Published

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: Permissions granted to the University of Florida Institutional Repository and University of Florida Digital Collections to allow use by the submitter. All rights reserved by the source institution.
System ID: IR00000111:00001

Full Text

Serving a diverse and ever-changing agricultural sciences department:

Family, Youth & Community Sciences in perspective

Valrie Davis
Chelsea Dinsmore

Abstract. Family Youth and Community Sciences (FYCS) is an agricultural science department

traditionally served by a science librarian. The unique set of information requirements which have

grown with the scope of the department makes it a challenge to meet the diverse needs of the

department. Often called "home demonstration work", the focus of FYCS was originally home

economics and rural household management. Often in conjunction with women's organizations, city

councils, and welfare agencies, the agents introduced future farmers' wives to the latest scientific

approach to family budgeting, nutrition, cooking and food preservation, and care for children and the

elderly. These subjects are now called family and consumer economics, food science and human

nutrition, disaster planning and management, youth development, and gerontology, and encompass a

wider and deeper array of sub-fields. No longer primarily covering the rural household, the department

now encompasses theoretical, methodological, empirical and practical issues associated with urban life,

social trends, and complicated life-long financial planning. The information needs of this department far

exceed the standard knowledge base of the traditional science librarian and require a strong foundation

in social science, business, education, and health sciences information sources. This creates a restriction

in information access for the many and varied members of FYCS departments. In order to relieve the

restriction, the librarians must familiarize themselves with a variety of resources from statistical

databases, government and international sources, and social science databases. This article covers the

changes in the FYCS department, the expansion of their information needs, the resources of vital

importance to their research and students, and the challenges to the science librarian in meeting their

needs. The article concludes that the science librarian should understand the growing interdisciplinary

nature of this science field and recognize there are steps that must be taken to increase access to

information. These steps include having a better understanding of social science sources and serving as

a conduit between the FYCS user group and social science resources. One of these resources includes

the social science librarian who also must recognize the FYCS community as a member of their patron

base. Together the science librarian and social librarian can fulfill the diverse information needs of the

FYCS department.

KEYWORDS. Agricultural Sciences, home economics, library services

Valrie Davis (E-mail: vdavis@ufl.edu) is Assistant University Librarian/Outreach Librarian for
Agricultural Sciences, Marston Science Library, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117011, Gainesville, FL

Chelsea Dinsmore (E-mail: chedins@uflib.ufl.edu) is Assistant University Librarian/International
Documents Librarian, Government Documents, Marston Science Library, University of Florida, P.O. Box
117011, Gainesville, FL 32611.

This paper is based on a presentation made by Valrie Davis at the Special Libraries Association (SLA)
Conference in June 2008 for the Food, Agriculture and Nutrition Contributed Session.


The first Lake Placid conference, held in 1899, took place at the end of a half-century of

profound change for the United States. Against the backdrop of civil war and reconstruction, the

development of the domestic sciences may almost appear trivial. However, the idea of applying

scientific principles to the home environment-- child care, household management, and cooking--grew

from an interesting confluence of events. As early as 1841 the authors of domestic manuals encouraged

women to apply scientific principles to domestic life, which included child-rearing, cooking, and

housekeeping (Home economics archive: Research, tradition and history (HEARTH).). The rising

popularity of cooking schools and a national increase in literacy made increased publication of

cookbooks and household manuals economically feasible. When the Morrill Act of 1862 established land

grant colleges in each state, women had better access to continuing education. These institutions, which

emphasized agricultural programs, also began to cultivate the view that farmers' wives were in need of

similar training, and by the end of the 19th century "domestic science" had an established place in the

national curriculum.

In addition to coining the phrase 'Home Economics', that first Lake Placid conference

established the American Home Economics Association (currently the American Association of Family

and Consumer Science). This group worked with school boards to created home economic programs in

schools and lobbied the government for funding. Several federal laws facilitated the growth of the

Home Economics movement. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 was passed "In order to aid in diffusing

among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to

agriculture, uses of solar energy with respect to agriculture, home economics, and rural energy, and to

encourage the application of the same..." (Rasmussen, 1989, 257). Together with the first Morrill Act,

the Smith-Lever Act supported research and education and the eventual dissemination of that

information beyond the campus through extension efforts. The Bureau of Home Economics Act of 1927,

the George-Dean Act of 1937, and a number of Vocational Acts throughout the 1960's and 70's, ensured

funding for the research and continuation of this field (Home economics archive: Research, tradition and

history (HEARTH).

Home economics, like farming and rural life, continued to evolve throughout the 20th century.

The Smith-Lever Act mandated that Extension give "instruction and practical demonstrations in

agriculture and home economics" (Smith-Lever Act). Early programs focused on teaching scientific

approaches towards domestic skills; however as the nation faced wars, economic and natural disasters

and unprecedented technological growth, the home economics and extension system expanded the

scope of their educational programs. During the depression, and periods of rationing during the wars,

home economists were part of a network of educators who taught women and young people how to

make and repair clothing, how to care for and repair household appliances, and even how to make

simple pieces of furniture. Canning clubs naturally followed the spread of garden clubs, "Extension home

economists and assistants trained rural and city people in up-to-date methods of canning, freezing,

dehydrating, brining and storing vegetables, fruits, and meats" (Rasmussen, 1989, p.112).

The nature of courses offered in home economics programs, as well as the scope of the

programs, has shifted. The initial emphasis on domestic skills evolved through various ideas of nutrition

and hygiene, to become the modern Family Youth and Community Sciences department. Courses now

encompass theoretical, methodological, empirical and practical issues associated with urban life, social

trends, and complicated life-long financial planning, "Nevertheless, the basic concerns of home

economics--the physical, psychological and economic well-being of the family--do not change"

(Rasmussen, 1989, p. 153). The exploration of the FYCS department at UF reveals the many challenges of

providing library services to this distinctive department.

History of department at UF

At its inception, the University of Florida, a land-grant institution, was responsible for the

College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (CALS), Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Cooperative

Extension Service. It also served as the men's school for the State of Florida. The Home Economics

program resided at Florida State University (FSU), the women's state university. Even after 1947 when

both universities became co-educational, and despite the strong relationship between the Home

Economics program and County Extension, the programs remained separate. It was not until 1970 that

the Home Economics program, and its faculty, were moved from FSU to UF. Under the land-grant

system, the program's only function was delivery of subject area research to Extension. The program

itself situated between Agricultural Education & Communication, Food & Resource Economics, 4-H &

Other Youth Programs, and Home Economics. After a few years the Home Economics faculty was

charged with the additional research component "to undergird and strengthen the department's

Extension function" (Family, Youth & Community Sciences Department, 2001, p. 6.1) and the program

became an independent department directly responsible for the development and implementation of


Since that time, the department has gone through a number of name changes and departmental

mergers indicative of the truly interdisciplinary nature of the department. The title of the department

eventually changed from Home Economics, to Family and Consumer Sciences, to Family, Youth &

Community Sciences. The first name change came about in an effort to combat the stereotype that

Home Economics referred 'merely' to cooking, canning, and sewing, when it fact it was much more

advanced and firmly grounded in solid scientific research; thus the name change was an effort to reflect

the scientific research coming out of the department. As one FYCS professor says, "Consumer Science"

was added when it became evident that the research wasn't just about the home but also about the

decisions made outside the home (Smith, S., personal communication, May 7th, 2008). Around this same

time, the number of farming families, who had typically been self sustaining, were declining and there

was a "gradual trend of the family as a consumer unit" (Cooper, 1976, 59). Wendell Berry (1996) said,

from 1910 to 1920 "we had 32 million farmers living on farms -about a third of our population. By 1950,

this population had declined, but our farm population was still 23 million. By 1991, the number was only

4.6 million, less than 2 percent of the national population...Also, by 1991, 32 percent of our farm

managers and 86 percent of our farmworkers did not live on the land they farmed" ( p.76). As farming

families declined, the research needs of FYCS broadened to meet the growing demands of the family.

These name changes, from a librarian's perspective, are more than just indicative of American

society's move from its agrarian roots and continual changes in family structure; in fact, this progression

through various names, as well as the different academic models at different institutions, stem from a

complex system with its own particular information challenges.

At the University of Florida, the Family, Youth & Community Sciences (FYCS) department is

currently situated within the College of Agricultural Sciences and has strong ties to the Cooperative

Extension Services. U.F.'s FYCS department is not necessarily typical of the same program at other land-

grants, as there are variations among the land-grants universities. At other land-grants institutions the

field is merged with Education or with Health Sciences; good examples of these models are Cornell--

which places their related programs under the College of Human Ecology--or University of Georgia's--

which has a distinct College of Family & Consumer Science for their programs--or Ohio State--which has

placed their Department of Consumer Sciences and Department of Human Development and Family

Science under the College of Education & Human Ecology. UF's placement of the FYCS is most similar to

Penn State and Michigan State, which also incorporate these programs under the Agricultural Sciences.

Regardless of the home college of these programs, a large percentage of the students who graduate

with degrees in FYCS go on to become Extension agents, or social workers in areas related to children's

services, nonprofit organizations, rehabilitation or elderly services, family-life education, family violence

services, financial assistance, handicap services, hospitals, therapy, religious work, research planning,

teaching, or vocational guidance.

Challenges of Providing Library Services

FYCS is an interdisciplinary applied social science department, served primarily by a science librarian, yet

this department's information needs often challenge the traditional knowledge base of a science

librarian. The first and most difficult of these challenges is the continued change in scope of subject

coverage within the department. The home serves as a microstructure for the greater community, as all

aspects of society are relevant to what goes on in the home, which means that the subject scope and

composition of FYCS, as an academic department, is quite expansive. While the department is no longer

an interdepartmental collaboration, present day FYCS faculty are considered, similar to librarians,

subject matter specialists in a given subject area, such as family life or human nutrition. They also hold

degrees in a wide variety of areas including: Agricultural Education, Food & Resource Economics, Food

Science & Human Nutrition, Education, Rural Sociology, Business Administration, Psychology, Child

Development, Human Nutrition, Family Economics, or Public Affairs. Faculty, more so than other

agricultural science departments, always have a percentage of their time split between work as County

Extension agents, Extension specialists (researchers who supply timely information to the agents), and

teaching faculty. Within Extension, FYCS faculty work primarily within three goal and focus areas: To

assist individuals and families to achieve economic well-being and life quality through personal and

economic well-being, financial management, nutrition and health, housing, and nonprofit and volunteer

development; Healthy Communities through urban/rural interface, community action, economic

diversity and community preparedness; and to Develop Responsible and Productive Youth Through 4-H

and Other Youth Programs through volunteer and life skills development.

Assigning an agricultural science librarian as liaison to the department might appear to be the

best choice when FYCS falls under the agricultural sciences, as the agricultural science librarian may be

the person most familiar with the overall mission and goals of Extension and of the agricultural research

coming from the college. Yet, with such an expansive number of subject areas relevant to FYCS, it can be

a difficult-or even an unviable-task for one designated liaison librarian to meet the needs of the

department. First, with collections spread out among various libraries and with multiple librarians

developing those collections, no single librarian can stay aware of the development and progression of

the library's collection for FYCS. Within UF subject collections are typically developed by one librarian

within a specific library. For example, many collections (such as Astronomy, Chemistry, etc) are

purchased by one science librarian and those materials are then housed within the science library;

reference and instructional services are provided by that same librarian. Within this type of model a

librarian can feel confident in their knowledge of a collection, which they have developed, and

comfortable with the resources taught in an instructional session. In the case of FYCS, many of the

relevant resources-from books to databases-are purchased by librarians from outside the sciences

and those materials may be physically housed in any number of locations (agriculture,

business/economics, education, psychology, or law libraries). This type of purchasing varies significantly

from the standard liaison model where a librarian independently manages information requests for a

given department and requires collaboration across disciplines.

When it comes to reference and instruction services, it becomes important for a librarian to stay

up-to-date on the various databases important to the field. Science librarians at UF teach a core set of

science databases at instructional sessions; in addition to these core databases, the FYCS liaison must

learn a large number of social science databases that provide the research and literature for this broad

field. Additionally, it is important for the science librarian to acquire an understanding of the general

nature of social science research and to familiarize himself with all of the various resources for locating

social statistics. There may be a general perception within the sciences that the "soft" sciences are not

as challenging as the "hard" sciences, when "In reality, the study of people, their families, and

communities is extremely complicated because each individual is unique, changes over time, and

experiences countless interactions with other people and the environment" (Wilken, 2005, 25). Failure

on the part of the collecting and instructing librarian to acquire a basic understanding of social research

can affect the quality of collections and instructions and leave patrons feeling confused about where to

go for help. In other science fields, such as with chemistry, engineering, or even other agricultural

sciences-such as agronomy-the science librarian is clearly the best resource; with FYCS the best

resource is not always clear, as it can vary with each patron's information needs. One distinction that

confuses both science and social science librarians alike is the difference between Agricultural Education

& Communication (AEC) and FYCS. Both departments are social science departments and both serve

Extension, providing valuable research to the community outreach programs, but they also have very

distinct functions. AEC focuses on how to communicate, develop curricula and outreach programs as an

agricultural educator. FYCS, on the other hand, provides subject area expertise to specific goals within


The FYCS librarian must also maintain an up-to-date and ever growing knowledge of resources

for information related to 'recent trends.' This includes more than a passing familiarity with large

amounts of government statistical information sources. As the idea of the "nuclear family" transforms,

so do the trends affecting the research needs of this academic department. National and local statistics

are of vital importance, including: trends in Hispanic populations, encroachment of gang violence,

cohabitation among couples, and non-marital births. These trends dictate the type of assistance County

Extension needs to provide to local communities. National and global trends are also a factor as

changing family composition, family policy debates (immigration laws and domestic partnership

regulations), civic engagement (support for national guard families during disasters), food science &

human nutrition ( regulation of imported foods), a changing financial climate (economic bailouts and the

mortgage crisis), and the globalization of business affect FYCS research related to today's families. Based

on these constantly changing trends, the teaching and research within the department is ever changing.

One FYCS professor gave an example of the Microbiology and Cell scientist who, despite having a field

that is ever changing, could maintain the same curricula for the introductory course. FYCS, on the other

hand, is sensitive to trends, legislation, or policy issues, all of which have dramatic affects on families

and family research.

Interaction with the Library

Among all of the agricultural sciences at UF, FYCS has the greatest amount of interaction with

the librarian. Teaching faculty request a large number of instructions for their students on how to use a

range of library databases including: Agricola, CAB Abstracts, Psyclnfo, Sociological Abstracts, PubMed,

Ageline, Web of Science, EconLit, ERIC, FSTA, LexisNexis, Professional Development Collection, Child

Abuse Child Welfare and Adoption, Alt-Health Watch, CAB Abstracts, EthnicNewsWatch, GenderWatch,

Alternative Press Index, Social Science Citation Index, and Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts.

Library instructions sometimes include carefully constructed assignments, and contain questions

designed to assess a student's ability to locate and use statistics or legislative officials or bills at the

federal or state level. Statistical resources are of primary importance (see resources section, below),

particularly for classes specializing in family studies or family policy, and are taught in instructional

sessions or in one-on-one sessions with the librarian. While the Agricultural Sciences Librarian is usually

the first stop for these types of assistive interactions, there are additional subject librarians who provide

advanced research assistance in the areas of business/economics, education, government information,

psychology, and law.

As community studies, service-learning, and volunteering is also an important component of the

program, students are encouraged to learn more about non-profit organizations through volunteer

programs. Student poster sessions describing their experiences are displayed each semester at the

library, where adequate wall space accommodates the large number of posters. The librarians assist in

the grading and critique of the posters related to the literature review attached to their work. While the

students typically have very little trouble understanding the peer-review process, one of the complaints

expressed by FYCS professors, is "in some cases, students have trouble distinguishing between a

"general readership" audience and a professional or research audience" (Diehl, D., personal

communication, May 7th, 2008). This may be because of the importance of such resources as Extension

documents to the field, and the fact that those types of resources blur the lines between general

readership and research. It is also interesting to note the large numbers of instructional requests, more

than other departments, on how to evaluate resources and how to avoid plagiarism. Due to a significant

number of recognized instances of plagiarism with students in the FYCS department, several of the

professors recently undertook a project to evaluate student understandings of plagiarism. This

exploration has led to library involvement in a number of workshops developed for teaching faculty and

for students, and the development of a student tutorial designed to combat this issue.


Family, Youth & Community Sciences is an interdisciplinary applied social science department

with strong ties to Extension. Providing library services to a department with such a large scope presents

its own unique information challenges, especially at land-grants where it falls within the agricultural

sciences. FYCS faculty and students have a wide-range of reference and instructional needs, including

instructions on using a wide variety of relevant databases, government statistics, and interest in

plagiarism as it applies to the social sciences. Properly meeting the needs of this department

necessitates collaboration between librarians from the sciences, social sciences and government


Resources important for FYCS research

CYFAR (http://www.csrees.usda.gov/nea/family/cyfar/cyfar.html)
Locate digested research containing statistics on a particular topic, such as welfare reform, poverty,
child care, etc. State specific data available or "state of" reports (i.e. Agriculture at Risk: A Report to the

Childstats.gov (http://www.childstats.gov/)
The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Includes statistics on child well-being:
national surveys, assessments, vitals, census, and reports or research based on these sources.

CDC Data & Statistics (http://www.cdc.gov/)
Data on children and their families across the federal agencies that produce the data. Data categorized
by: national, state, vital statistics, health, and aging, more.

Annie E. Casey Foundation (http://www.aecf.org/)
One of the most valuable resources for FYCS courses. Includes the KIDS COUNT Data Center which
includes child well-being measures for states and large cities. Indicators include infant mortality, child
deaths, teen births, teen dropouts, poverty, etc.

Census Data Online (http://www.census.gov/)
Raw and interpreted data on population, housing, economic and geographic data gathered by the
census bureau. This site also includes American Factfinder
(http://factfinder.census.gov/home/saff/main.html? lang=en): A free online tool for accessing key
Census Bureau data sets: the population and housing census, the economic census, the American
Community Survey, and others.

FEMA (http://www.fema.gov/)
Information on disasters and associated relief efforts, flood maps, and information on disaster
prevention and recovery.

EU Database (http://europa.eu/index_en.htm)
Key facts and figures related to the EU. Information related to population, quality of life, news,
transportation, energy, economics, etc. for the EU as a whole, as well as information on individual
member nations.


Berry, W. (1996). Conserving communities. In W. Vitek, & W. Jackson (Eds.), Rooted in the land: Essays

on community and place. London: Yale University Press.

Cooper, J. F. (1976). Dimensions in history: Recounting Florida Cooperative Extension service progress,


Family, Youth & Community Sciences Department. (2001). Family, Youth & Community Sciences

comprehensive review syllabus, October 22-26, 2001. Gainesville: Institute of Food & Agricultural


Home economics archive: Research, tradition and history (HEARTH). Retrieved 10/10/2008, 2008, from


Rasmussen, W. D. (1989). Taking the university to the people : Seventy-five years of Cooperative

Extension (1st ed.). Ames: Iowa State University Press.

Smith-Lever Act. Retrieved 10/10/2008, 2008, from


Wilken, C. S. (2005). Family, youth and community: A student's guide to data, theory and practice.

Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.