The first participants in ACRL’s Assessment in Action program presented results from their projects at poster sessions at ALA Annual in Las Vegas, and their results are also being disseminated in library publications and conference presentations. We’ re thrilled to see more value-related research making its way into the world, and will be featuring synopses of projects and a brief Q&A with team leaders here at the Value blog over the next year. Soon you’ll also be able to read a full descriptive report for this and other AiA projects, along with a synthesis of all the first year AiA projects. Stay tuned for an announcement on the VAL blog.

Small Steps: Alternative Teaching Models & Student Information Literacy Development

To address the concerns of faculty regarding the type and quality of sources students cite in research projects, the Pacific Lutheran study examines the impact of different models of information literacy instruction (one shot vs. multi session) on first-year students’ development of research skills. Results indicate that students receiving shorter, more frequent instruction sessions made greater use of library resources and employed a greater number of search strategies.

Library Staff at PLU on Monday, Aug. 27, 2012. (Photo/John Froschauer)

Amy Stewart-Mailhiot, Instruction Coordinator & Reference Librarian at Mortvedt Library, Pacific Lutheran University

Q&A with Amy Stewart-Mailhiot, Instruction Coordinator and Reference Librarian

Q: What was your greatest challenge during the course of your Assessment in Action project?

A: My greatest challenge was finding balance – balance between the AiA project and my other responsibilities and balance in the distribution of project tasks.  In a small library it can be easier just do things yourself, rather than put the effort into navigating shared responsibilities.  This doesn’t really work in the community of practice model.

Q: What is your #1 recommendation for other librarians who want to conduct an assessment project on student learning and success?

A: The one piece of advice would be to build on established relationships.  There may be more glamorous projects out there, but when you (and your campus) are new to assessment, it is wise to work with individuals you know well and who already support the work that you do.  This allows you to build your skills in a supportive environment. As an added bonus, they are more likely to go out and ‘testify’ about your findings – you can’t buy that kind of PR.

Q: What is the #1 thing you gained through your participation in Assessment in Action?

A: My primary take away is a combination of increased confidence in my abilities and an assessment worldview.  There are a number of smaller skills that I developed over the course of the 18 months, but this shift in the way I look at the work I do and the knowledge that I can do it will stay with me into future projects.


Submitted by Debbie Malone, VAL Committee member: This blog post is one in a series of posts discussing the library value work being done by the ACRL Liaisons to non-library higher education organizations. We welcome Sarah Wenzel, University of Chicago, who is our liaison to the Modern Language Association (MLA).

The Modern Language Association is best known among librarians for its eponymous index; however, the MLA itself as an organization is active in areas ranging from pedagogy to pay-equity to open-access scholarship. The scholarly work being done by its members is novel, interdisciplinary and increasingly reliant on technology either as a tool or as the medium of the object studied.

As liaison to the MLA I have been observing and reporting back to ACRL, particularly the Literatures in English and Western European Studies Sections, changes in topics of interest, types of scholarship, attitudes towards libraries and librarians, and most importantly areas in which I think we librarians can participate (or intervene) on our own campuses or with our own faculty. Some of these are, broadly speaking, discussions that are relevant to the Humanities in general and not unique to literary studies.

One aspect that librarians may need to pay attention to was brought out in a session held at the 2014 Convention : “What Is Data in Literary Studies?” The debate was not as interesting as the discussion afterward, which led to points being made that I have not heard literary scholars previously make, such as : “The Archive” must be defined; scholars need to state their methodologies; results must be reproducible. This acceptance of the data-set in lieu of “the archive” (scholar-speak for the collection of texts or other materials upon which they work), has implications for libraries. First is that as scholars need to define their data set, they will need to know what is in (or not in) the full-text databases to which we subscribe, or the HathiTrust, or Project Gutenberg. Will they begin to care about what is or isn’t in a digital collection? (Associate costs vs. content?)

Second is a need to store data sets formed from different sources, which will have an effect on institutional repositories. In addition, while faculty already are insisting on licenses that permit data-mining, what sort of permissions will be required for storage of the data set created?  A third will be that librarians responsible for teaching students literary research will need to learn the skills required to evaluate these projects. And a fourth implicates collection development: while looking through a bibliography is one way to judge the strength of a library’s collection in a given area, a data-set or corpus of digital works is an entirely different animal. Concepts such as these were brought home to me even further when I sat in on a digital humanities course at my university, both observing and contributing to the search for raw data, creation and eventual loss of the data sets gathered for the final projects. And yet this aspect of the digital humanities, in what was meant to be a sort of introduction to the field, went unmentioned by the teaching faculty.

Also of great interest at this past year’s Convention is how many sessions took the digital humanities in stride and presented research done using those techniques without the angst prevalent in previous years, although there was angst to be had if it were wanted. The use of these techniques and methods of study is not received uncritically and issues surrounding tenure and promotion are real. Librarians find themselves drawn into these questions when asked about the thorny topic of alternative metrics, a topic I find even more difficult to take on than copyright : I cannot simply say “I am not a lawyer.”

The novelty this year was the proliferation of papers on electronic literature, whether it was the “Liminal Textuality of Comments in Code,” literature through social media, the changes wrought by platform migration, or games, or “_ebooks, Typography, and Twitter Art.”  I continue to be concerned that libraries are not preserving literature (or non-fiction, for that matter) created in or drawing from these media.  And there is still the unanswered question of cataloging and access.

Other sessions dealt with topics that you might associate more readily with the MLA : literatures from around the world, comparative literature, language studies, theory, performance studies, comics, bibliography and our very own Libraries and Research in Languages and Literatures forum. All are inflected by changes in modes of study, research tools and techniques, and new discoveries. Even as the Humanities and perhaps none more so than literature are under stress, even within academia, the MLA continues to promote the values of its members and advocate on their behalf. The 2015 Convention theme, Negotiating Sites of Memory, offers scholars and librarians rich possibilities for interaction.


Debbie Malone ( and Terry Taylor ( provided the information below regarding their work with the Value of Academic Libraries committee and the ACRL Liaison Coordinating Committee. They welcome your comments and questions!

In the 2012 report on ACRL Value of Academic Libraries Summit, Karen Brown and Kara Malenfant identified five major recommendations that came out of the summit work, and the fourth relates to expanding partnerships with higher education organizations to “collaborate on library impact activities and explore potential partnerships.” (p. 14) ACRL’s 15 current liaisons have been involved in this work for a number of years, and in 2013 the Value of Academic Libraries committee appointed a small subcommittee to work with the Liaison Coordinating Committee to bring together the work of our two committees and share information.

We began conversations with Kristen Kingsley, then chair of the Liaison Training and Development Committee, and we decided to ask liaisons to tell us about the major issues facing their target organizations.  The goal was to use these issues to see if the Value of Academic Libraries committee could provide resources and talking points for liaisons that could open the door to conversations on ways in which libraries could assist in tackling these key issues.

Some of the concerns facing these external organizations were unique, such as the SCUP (Society for College & University Planning) need for evidence that designing  “informal” learning spaces can relate to improving the student academic experience or the development of self-directed learning.  On the other hand, scholarly publishing and open access are concerns shared among a number of liaison target organizations, as is data management and curation.

We began our work on talking points with the goal of creating a unique document for each liaison and target organization.  As we advanced with the process, we realized that a document that included sections on all of the identified major issues would allow liaisons to pull the resources that were helpful for their particular needs, and it would be much easier to keep up date.

We met with liaisons at both the midwinter and annual conferences in 2013 and 2014, and sought their feedback on our basic outlines. The liaisons were immensely helpful in explaining what worked for them and what did not, and they provided additional resources that we had not considered. Juliann Couture, Interdisciplinary Social Science Librarian at the University of Colorado and liaison to the American Anthropological Association, provided most of the content on data management.

Our discussions with the liaisons led us to a new understanding of the challenges our liaisons face in working with this diverse group of external organizations as well as the successes they have had in promoting library value within their target groups. In an effort to publicize this work to the larger ACRL community, we began asking specific liaisons to write VAL blog posts about their efforts. We hope you have enjoyed reading these posts by Juilann Couture, University of Colorado, Boulder, on her work with the American Anthropological association, Danuta Nitecki, Drexel University, on her work with the Society for College and University Planning, Allison Ricker, Oberlin College,  on her work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh, Georgia State University, on her work with American Sociological Association.

The liaison talking points document now includes sections on basic resources, scholarly publishing and open access, data management and curation, information literacy, which includes a sample letter introducing the new Information Literacy Framework to liaison target groups, library space planning and design, and altmetrics.  The document is available in ALA Connect at

We encourage comments and suggestions from ACRL Liaisons and the entire ACRL community. Please send comments to either Debbie Malone at or Terry Taylor at

© 2014 ACRL Value of Academic Libraries Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha