Update on the Value of Academic Libraries Initiative at ALA Midwinter

At ALA Midwinter in Dallas, on Sunday, three speakers provided an update on activities related to the Value of Academic Libraries initiative.

Lisa Hinchliffe, Associate Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ACRL Past-President and co-chair of ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries Committee provided an overview of the project and the IMLS planning grant.  Lisa summarized the timeline which has been on a fast-track since the project began in 2009.  The IMLS grant was awarded in October 2011 and the summit of 22 invited institutions was held in November.  Lisa is also working on a curriculum for an ACRL preconference at ALA Annual in Anaheim, “Planning, Assessing, and Communicating Library Impact: Putting the Standards for Libraries in Higher Education into Action.”  The preconference is scheduled for Friday, June 22 from 8:30 to 4:00 p.m.

Megan Oakleaf, Assistant Professor, Syracuse University School of Information Services, key facilitator and designer of summits, and co-chair of ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries Committee.  Megan began by putting this topic into context, “this is not business as usual.”  In the current environment in higher education and the need to demonstrate value, we must clearly articulate the impact we have on our institutions.  We need to be systematic in identifying what is important to our institution, and what are we doing to contribute to the success of the mission and goals for our own institution.  As you consider your own institution, can you identify how your library can impact the following areas?

  • Student retention and graduation
  • Student career success
  • Student GPA/test achievement
  • Student learning
  • Student experience
  • Faculty research productivity
  • Faculty grants
  • Faculty teaching
  • Institutional reputation

Megan mentioned that at least one study from a report on facilities for student admission decisions indicates that libraries are the 2nd most influential factors for student admission decisions.  Megan’s presentation provided many thoughtful questions regarding the need to collect more data to determine how libraries make an impact and this was part of the purpose of the summit.  A copy of Megan’s slides will be found at http://meganoakleaf.info/ala2012mw.pdf

Karen Brown, Associate Professor, Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science and lead author of a forthcoming white paper on the summits provided an overview of what was learned during the 1 and ½ days with members from the 22 institutions.  The participants included Chief Academic Officers, members from the institutional research offices, and librarians.  The central focus of the summit was to start a national conversation on how to demonstrate library value by documenting and providing evidence that students are learning and succeeding based on the work we are doing in our libraries.  One example of what we need to do in a clear and measurable way is to work with our institutional research colleagues to make sure the data we collect will answer two important questions:  how effective and what happened?  We also need to develop a shared vocabulary for commonality across the spectrum of various institutions.  Another key point Karen made was that the library has a unique role on campus and we are in a position to break down silos on campus and provide neutral spaces where collaboration can occur.  A key area is to look at the library value that relates to student learning and success.  Research about student retention clearly reveals that interactions with adults make a difference.  Librarians have frequent one-on-one contacts with students in their first year, both in instruction activities as well as with students who are library employees.  How can we measure the impact this has on student retention?

This project is an opportunity for the profession to talk about questions, come up with possible answers, but most of all share how we approach this issue on each of our campuses.   In February a second grant will be submitted to further the work begun with the first grant.  Questions for the audience to consider and for you to consider are:

  • What concerns you about libraries working in these areas?
  • What excites you about libraries working in these areas?
  • What can ACRL do to support you in this endeavor?

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