Melissa Bowles-Terry

 

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

 

 

This post comes to us from Debbie Malone, VAL Committee member and library director at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. 

Altmetrics, going beyond citation counts to measure scholarly impact via blog posts, twitter and other forms of social media, is becoming a hot topic in library literature as well as more general scholarly communication. Academic libraries can demonstrate their value by examining faculty productivity, and altmetrics gives us another way to see productivity and impact. I recently listened to a wonderful seminar on the topic presented by Linda Galloway, Syracuse University, for the National Library of Medicine, Mid-Atlantic Region, in which she shared multiple ways she assists faculty members and other researchers to get started with altmetrics and to use these new measures to understand the immediate impact of their work.  In the post below, I asked Linda to share practical tips for beginning a similar innovative outreach service in your library.

Altmetrics and Library Outreach

Altmetrics, or alternative citation metrics, can help inform scholarship by providing near real-time analyses of scholarly output. In addition, altmetric values are popping up everywhere  – from PLOS ONE articles to Elsevier journals.  Librarians can help faculty and researchers by contextualizing altmetrics within the landscape of traditional citation metrics and recommending how to get started.

Traditional citation metrics quantify scholarly output by measuring a researcher’s number of publications, citations to those publications, and the relative influence of the publications.  Typically, a faculty member also considers their h-index as an important metric – an h-index of 7 means that an author has published at least 7 papers that have been cited 7 times.  While traditional citation metrics are the gold standard, there are limitations.  They do not capture a publication’s impact or influence in emerging forms of scholarly communication, are often behind pay walls, measure influence narrowly, and take a long time to accumulate. 

Altmetrics are not citation metrics, but can complement and enhance a researcher’s scholarly presence.  Beyond citation counts, altmetrics measure diverse impacts from articles, blog posts, slide shows, datasets and other forms of scholarly communication.  Altmetrics quantify a different type of reader engagement with scholarly literature – more personal and meaningful. If a reader takes the time to save an article to their personal library and then tweet or blog about it, it may indicate that the article is more compelling than the one that was simply downloaded to a reference manager.  And what about post-publication peer review – the comments that are now permitted in some online scholarly publications?  These types of personal, thoughtful interactions with scholarly literature are both timely and valuable.

Altmetrics can measure scholarly engagement by collecting data on:

Accurate attribution of research products is the most important step in both citation metrics and altmetrics. Content creators can help with this by registering for and using an ORCID or another unique scholarly identifier. ORCID can help with attribution by “automating linkages to research objects such as publications, grants, and patents.”  Authors should endeavor to keep one or two online platforms (institutional profile, Google Scholar profile, etc.) consistently up-to date with their latest articles and other discrete research outputs. Remembering to use unique identifiers in academic communications (such as DOI’s) will also help to gather accurate data.

 There are several platforms that help capture and visualize altmetrics:

Non-profit:

  • ImpactStory – designed for the individual researcher, tools to visualize impact of research products. Helps “researchers to tell data-driven stories about their impacts”.

Commercial:

  • Altmetric.com –owned by Macmillan Publishers (also owns the Nature Publishing Group). “Provides article level metrics for researchers and publishers”.
  • Mendeley.com – Reference manager, .pdf organizer & social networking tool for researchers/authors. Collects & displays altmetrics. Recently purchased by Elsevier.
  • Plum Analytics – startup co-founded by former Summon developers; recently acquired by EBSCO. Collects article-level data for use by different constituencies to compare individuals, departments, universities

At the recent 2014 STELLA unconference, most participants reported little faculty awareness of altmetrics.  Five years from now, the interest in altmetrics will certainly be much greater and understanding and collecting this data now will prove beneficial.  Librarians, who recognize the inherent value in recording scholarly communication, are well positioned to promote accurate and thorough attribution of research products by helping to quantify their impact.

Further reading:

Linda Galloway, Syracuse University Libraries

Biology, Chemistry & Forensics Librarian, STEM Bibliographer

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