Assessment in Action LogoToday’s academic librarians are connecting with campus partners in new and exciting ways to explore and express the value they bring to their institutions. As the higher education association for librarians, ACRL is committed to facilitating ways in which academic libraries can demonstrate their impact on institutional outcomes and student success. The “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success” (AiA) program, a cornerstone of ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries initiative, provides guidance in developing the skills and capacity for campus leadership, including local data-informed and evidence-based advocacy, needed to foster these partnerships across the higher education community. Learn more about AiA during an online open forum at 1pm Central on Monday, December 9, 2013.

The three-year AiA program is aiding 300 postsecondary institutions of all types as they create engaged libraries of the future. Each selected institution has a team with a librarian and at least two people from other campus units, such as the assessment and institutional research offices along with academic departments. The librarians participate in a formal 14-month professional development program and lead their campus teams in developing and implementing action-learning projects. The projects investigate library impact and consider different aspects of the academic library (e.g., collections, space, instruction, reference, etc.) and must ultimately be tied to student learning or success.

Join AiA facilitator Lisa Hinchliffe and staff manager Kara Malenfant for this hour-long online open forum as they provide background on AiA, report on the assessment work of the first 75 institutions, and give details on how your institution can apply to be one of 100 additional participant teams starting the second year of the program in April 2014. Sign up now and invite others on campus who would be your potential team members to join you and participate in the forum together. The session is limited to 500 participants on a first-come, first-served basis, and there is no charge to participate. A recording of the forum will be posted on the ACRL website.

The online application for the second year of AiA will be available in mid-January 2014 and due in early March 2014. The AiA program, being undertaking in partnership with the Association for Institutional Research and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, is made possible with funding from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.


An update on the work of the Value of Academic Libraries committee was presented at a Sunday afternoon forum at ALA Midwinter in Seattle.   Speaking to a large audience turnout, ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen Davis opened the Sunday afternoon forum with background on ACRL’s involvement in assessment.  Mary Ellen emphasized that while the Value of Academic Libraries initiative is new, ACRL has been involved in the topic of assessment since the early 1980’s.   Mary Ellen also shared results from our 2012 ACRL membership report.  When asked to select the top three issues facing academic and research librarianship today “Demonstrating the value of the library and librarians” was cited as a top issue facing all member segments, regardless of job title or type of library. (61% responded that this is the top priority.)

Vice-Chair, Terri Fishel, provided an overview of current activities underway by the committee.  (See slides for this presentation for more information. Update 2/19: Recording now available; use Firefox browser.)

Current Co-Chair, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe provided an update on the Assessment in Action grant.  The program “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success” is based on ACRL’s 2011 IMLS Collaborative Planning Grant which convened two national summits in partnership with AIR, APLU, and the Council of Independent Colleges. The decision to hold summits and seek an IMLS grant in order to do so were a direct result of the ACRL publication, The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report, released in fall 2010, which recommended that ACRL:

  • create a professional development programto build the profession’s capacity to document, demonstrate, and communicate library value in alignment with the mission and goals of their colleges and universities.

The planning grant summits assembled representatives from twenty-two postsecondary institutions, including senior librarians, chief academic administrators, and institutional researchers, for discussions about library impact. Fifteen representatives from higher educationorganizations and associations also participated in the summits. During the presentations, discussions, and collaborative work, the following four broad themes emerged about the dynamic nature assessment in higher education:

  •  Accountability drives higher education discussions.
  •  A unified approach to institutional assessment is essential.
  •  Student learning and success are the primary focus of higher education assessment.
  •  Academic administrators and accreditors seek evidence-based reports of measureable impact.

Given this intensified attention to assessment and accountability issues in the higher education sector, five overarching recommendations for the academic library profession emerged:

  1. Increase librarians’ understanding of library value and impact in relation to various dimensions of student learning and success.
  2. Articulate and promote the importance of assessment competencies necessary for documenting and communicating library impact on student learning and success.
  3. Create professional development opportunities for librarians to learn how to initiate and design assessment that demonstrates the library’s contributions to advancing institutional mission and strategic goals.
  4. Expand partnerships for assessment activities with higher education constituent groups and related stakeholders.
  5. Integrate the use of existing ACRL resources with library value initiatives.

Each of these recommendations was followed by proposed action steps (More details in the white paper “Connect, Collaborate, and Communicate: A Report from the Value of Academic Libraries Summits.”)

Lisa explained that one of the features of this program will be action learning projects.  The librarian team leaders will apply what they are learning through team-based activities carried out on their campuses. The focus on action learning will lead to a deeper understanding of what happens when knowledge and skills are applied in practice. The institutional teams will participate in peer review and provide feedback about the library value projects developed by other participating teams. As part of the AiA program, we will document and articulate approaches, practices, and tools that are replicable/transferrable to a variety of settings for use by the wider academic library and higher education community.

The projects will result in a variety of approaches to assessing library impact on student learning which will be documented and disseminated for use by the wider academic library and higher education communities. The different perspectives and experiences represented by the institutional team members will foster a collaborative approach to assessing the library’s impact on student learning and success on the campus of each participating institution.

Following Lisa’s presentation, Kara Malenfant, ACRL Senior Strategist, presented information on the application process.  Deadline for applications is March 8th.  More details will be found in the presentation slides , the session recording (use Firefox browser), and online at

There are full details about how people can apply at and even more information in the FAQs at

Copies of the slides for the presentation will be found here –

The session was recorded and will be freely available later in February. (Update 2/19: Recording now available; use Firefox browser.)


Sunday, I presented a workshop at the Library Assessment Conference called, “Library Value: Conceptualizing, Capturing, & Communicating Impact.” Through a combination of mini-lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities, we engaged these four questions:

  1. What is academic library value, when viewed through an insitutional value lens?
  2. What library services, expertise, and resources have insitutitonal value on your campus?
  3. How can you capture evidence of that value?
  4. What can you do with evidence of value once you have it?

In order to engage the first question, workshop attendees participated in an activity identifying the “focus areas” of their institution, so that they could consider which library services, expertise, and resources align with those institutional focus areas. This activity was drawn from my new workbook, Academic Library Value: The Impact Starter Kit.

Based on workshop attendees’ feedback, I thought I’d share this activity with all of you. You can find it online at I hope you find it useful in engaging in your own reflections and discussions as your pursue your library value efforts!

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