This post is from Peter McDonald, Dean of Library Services at Fresno State

The accreditation commission Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), perhaps most effectively among all such agencies, has taken the a step toward fully including librarians in defining how academic institutions of higher learning have an impact on core competencies such as critical thinking and information literacy. WASC believes these have a direct impact on student engagement, retention, and graduation rates. Of course, these are areas where libraries already do, and in fact can continue to have, great impact. WASC has held several regional meetings over the past two years on evolving their standards where librarians from many diverse campuses were specifically invited to give input and help define meaningful rubrics on these and other competencies.
 
This emphasis by WASC, of course, has the added benefit of making most academic colleges and universities within the WASC region reach out to their own local libraries for greater support and partnership in accreditation efforts.  
 
After looking at the WASC accreditation model, and in conversations with stakeholders about accreditation agencies elsewhere around the country, we’ve come to the conclusion that it may well serve our values work most if we don’t get hung up on the specific language in accreditation documentation that may lists requirements for accreditation in language other than ‘information literacy’. Though WASC specifically mentions information literacy, they also emphasize such critical student learning outcomes as undergraduate research,  critical thinking, inquiry and analysis, lifelong learning, writing proficiency and so on — all of which, in fact, are arenas of student success support where academic libraries, in collaboration with campus stakeholders, provide extensive services and referrals. (See for example: http://www.wascsenior.org/content/retreat-core-competencies-critical-thinking-and-information-literacy)  As academic librarians, we just need to message that these sorts of student centered foci are precisely what libraries are about already.
 
Using what we’ve learned working with WASC, we suggest we stop worrying about not being named specifically in accreditation documentation, or even in some cases removed from accreditation language, and get into the business of realizing we already have the  skills and the wherewithal to support any student outcome listed by any accreditation agency – by being nimble in using our many demonstrated skills to match whatever language the various regional agencies may use. Our role as central loci of student learning on our respective campuses therefore has many facets.
 
While librarians have had some success reaching out to, and influencing, accreditation discussions at WASC, it seems a salient take-away that academic libraries everywhere can play a stronger role in curriculum and course design best practices on our respective campuses, which doubtless would link back directly to almost any accreditation language irrespective of region. We firmly believe libraries are one of the most effective campus units that not only have a demonstrated impact on most all facets of curricular activities/outcomes regardless of discipline but we also bridge over to support and make successful co-curricular activities/outcomes so critical to student graduation and retention.
 
In the months ahead the ACRL Value Committee will be looking at ways to leverage the effective participation of librarians in WASC to provide broader documentation on how we actually do provide many existing services coast to coast, regardless of which agency we may belong to, that can show direct and indirect (correlative) impact on most all rubrics of student success well beyond the confines of information literacy. 

 

An update on the work of the Value of Academic Libraries committee was presented at a Sunday afternoon forum at ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Lynn Silipigni Connaway and Melissa Bowles-Terry, incoming chair and vice-chair of the committee, shared information regarding the committee’s work and led a discussion about the Assessment in Action program. Highlights from the presentation included:

1. A Task Force on Standards for Proficiencies for Assessment Librarians and Coordinators has been formed with the charge:

To develop a list of proficiencies required of assessment librarians and other librarians who contribute to assessment programs at their institutions, focusing on broad areas of proficiency rather than a comprehensive list of skills; consider similar documents such as ACRL’s “Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators” and RUSA’s “Professional Competencies for Reference and User Services Librarians;” outline an approach to assist individuals and organizations in selecting the proficiencies most appropriate for their environment; and follow the standards development requirements in the ACRL Guide to Policies and Procedures.

2. We are preparing a poster campaign with posters that can be customized by any institution. Posters provide examples of the research that demonstrates library value, citing studies from the literature in higher education.

3. The first cohort of Assessment in Action participants presented posters at ALA Annual, and this fall ACRL will release their project descriptions as well as a paper synthesizing results of the first year of the program. The second cohort has begun its work, and those interested in participating in the third year of Assessment in Action should look for applications available in January 2015.

Thanks to those who attended the session, and especially to those who shared their experiences with Assessment in Action. If you missed the session, please see the slides below!

ACRL VAL Update, 2014 Annual, LasVegas

 

 

One of the ongoing objectives of the VAL Committee is to “leverage existing research to articulate and promote the value of academic and research libraries.”  The Assessment in Action program provides opportunities for librarian-led teams to investigate and report on research they conducted on their campus.  These projects will not only contribute to the body of research, but also provide examples for other libraries who may wish to conduct similar studies.

On Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, the first cohort of 75 11054451404_c313a4f6fd_mteams shared their project posters and provided examples of research conducted over the past year as part of their participation in  ACRL’s program “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success” (AiA).   The poster sessions were well attended and the quality of posters was excellent.  There is a wide range of projects conducted by librarian-led teams at their community colleges, colleges and universities and their projects examined the impact of the library (instruction, reference, collections, space, and more) on student learning/success.

 If you were not able to attend the poster sessions, you can read about their projects from the abstracts in the poster guide (pdf). Additionally, teams are submitting online final project reports, which will be analyzed and synthesized in a report released by ACRL later this year. The individual reports (including poster images) will also be available in a searchable online collection.

ACRL is undertaking AiA in partnership with the Association for Institutional Research and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The program, a cornerstone of ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries initiative, is made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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