Update on Value of Academic Libraries – Report from ALA Midwinter, Seattle

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 http://www.ala.org/acrl/AiA

There are full details about how people can apply at http://www.ala.org/acrl/AiAapplication and even more information in the FAQs at http://www.ala.org/acrl/AiAapplicationfaq.

Copies of the slides for the presentation will be found here – http://www.acrl.ala.org/value/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/VAL-forum-MW-13-update-FINAL.pdf

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

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