Among the top ten trends in academic libraries in 2012, “communicating value” was at the top of the list, according to the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Planning and Review Committee. This is a direct result of the intense pressure academic and research libraries are under to clearly align their priorities with the overarching institution’s goals and also to provide data-driven documentation of the library’s impact.
The ACRL further drove the point home today when it released a white paper that presents five recommendations for librarians to help them demonstrate this value, which is one of the association’s strategic priorities and a necessity in the culture of assessment that has now taken root in postsecondary education. In a nutshell, the report says:
The library should recognize that it is but one constituent group among many and must articulate its unique contribution to the institution’s goals in a compelling way. Libraries can benefit by partnering with other campus units and developing assessment activities in tandem with existing campus systems and data centers.
The white paper arose from a two-day summit held in Chicago late last year as part of ACRL’s multiyear Value of Academic Libraries Initiative, which aims to help libraries show how they contribute to student and faculty recruitment, retention, and success. The event was co-sponsored by the Association for Institutional Research, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges.
The paper was co-authored by Karen Brown, an associate professor at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and Kara J. Malenfant, a senior staff member at ACRL.
The white paper builds extensively on the major 2010 report by Megan Oakleaf, an assistant professor at the iSchool at Syracuse University and an organizer of the Chicago event, which was funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In addition, the recommendations in the white paper dovetail with ACRL’s recently revised “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education,” which emphasize an outcomes-based approach that articulates “expectations for library contributions to institutional effectiveness.”
The new paper asserts that “the higher education assessment movement provides a unique opportunity for library leadership. Academic librarians can serve as connectors and integrators, promoting a unified approach to assessment. As a neutral and well-regarded place on campus, the academic library can help break down traditional institutional silos and foster increased communication across the institutional community.”
The five recommendations are meant to foster a professional development program, as Oakleaf’s report recommended. The recommendations are:
- Increase librarians’ understanding of library value and impact in relation to various dimensions of student learning and success.
- Articulate and promote the importance of assessment competencies necessary for documenting and communicating library impact on student learning and success.
- 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.
- Expand partnerships for assessment activities with higher education constituent groups and related stakeholders.
- Integrate the use of existing ACRL resources with library value initiatives.
“We expect the report will serve as a resource for academic librarians and others on campus who are committed to helping their colleges and universities assess and advance their missions,” Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, co-chair of ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries committee and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a release.
At the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim there will be a “Forum on ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries Initiative” from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 24.