Library Value and Accreditation

If people at your institution shudder when they hear the word “assessment,” the reaction may be even more dramatic when they hear that it’s time for “accreditation.” An accreditation visit puts pressure on a college or university to demonstrate what students are learning. Has your library participated in a self-study or a visit by an accreditation team?

Most accrediting bodies seem to place high value on information literacy outcomes, whether the phrase “information literacy” is used or not. It’s important for librarians to become familiar with accreditation guidelines and look for terms synonymous with information literacy (Value Report, page 55). Here are some terms that might be used:

  • critical and creative thinking
  • inquiry and analysis
  • evaluation and synthesis of information.

What other learning outcomes would you say are synonymous (or nearly synonymous) with information literacy?

Librarians can take the initiative to communicate the presence and importance of information literacy language in accreditation documents and then leverage accreditation guidelines to integrate information literacy skills into teaching and assessment processes throughout campus. This gives librarians the opportunity to ensure that information literacy extends beyond individual library instruction sessions and into the broader curriculum so that the institution can prove that upon graduation, students are information literate (Value Report, page 55). Participating in the accreditation process can have several positive outcomes for libraries and librarians: greater integration of information literacy learning outcomes throughout departments and programs, improving the library’s status on campus, and increasing the perceived value of the library to the mission of the institution.

My institution’s accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), has recently created new “Pathways for Reaffirmation of Accreditation.” When major changes in accreditation processes like this take place, it’s important to stay abreast of the new requirements.

What is the role of your library in the accreditation process?

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2 Responses to Library Value and Accreditation

  1. Terri Fishel says:

    My institution is just starting the accreditation process using the new format by the HLC along with a number of institutions in the midwest that are part of the testing phase. We’ll be doing more structured planning in the fall in preparation to implementing the the recently approved of Statement on Student Learning by the faculty. Our Statement on Student Learning does have a goal to measure students’ ability to “Think Critically and Analyze Effectively.” Since these were just passed in April, we are just beginning the process of setting up programs for assessment in the library. So I don’t have anything else to offer at this point, but I will share as we move forward, and I do hope others will share how they are getting involved on their campuses.

  2. Lisa H. says:

    A few years ago, we participated in the NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation, but only the highest administrators in the Libraries were asked to write up something for the library section. It was fortunate that our undergrad instruction group had just finished a pilot project related to impact and information literacy and were able to supply some limited numbers, because beyond that, our assessments didn’t really apply to what was asked.

    Separately, there is a person on campus who supports the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation. I am, at least right now, unaware of any input that she gets from the Libraries for this process, but now you’ve triggered my interest and I’ll pursue that.

    One thing that struck me in the past is that there is a sense that regardless of how the accreditation is filled out, this institution will get accredited, so less effort might be put into the whole accreditation process than there might be at other institutions.

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