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Libraries Have a Key Role in Academic Accountability

The continuing drive for more accountability in academe presents “a unique opportunity” for libraries, which are well placed to connect students, faculty members, and administrators. That was the takeaway from two summits on the value of academic libraries organized by the Association of College & Research Libraries, or ACRL. The association today released a report, “Connect, Collaborate, and Communicate,” that recaps the summit conversations and offers a few recommendations.

The summits grew out of a major 2010 ACRL report on the value of academic libraries, part of the association’s effort to help its members document and demonstrate that value. Convened late last year in Chicago, the meetings brought librarians and administrators from 22 institutions together to talk about the broader landscape of assessment and where libraries fit into it. According to the new report, participants at the summits acknowledged the importance of faculty research but mainly focused on “student learning and success, an issue facing increasing public scrutiny.”

The report lists five “overarching recommendations for the library profession” that came out of the gatherings. Participants stressed the importance of helping librarians understand and measure how their libraries affect student success, and the need to develop “assessment competencies” to help put effective practices in place. They wanted to see more professional-development opportunities for librarians to learn about assessment practices. They saw a need to expand partnerships with other groups on campus who are also interested in assessment. And they wanted more integration of existing ACRL assessment tools into what librarians are doing at individual institutions.

The report suggests that libraries can make the most of the current accountability push and “spark communities of action” around the question of assessment. “Academic librarians can serve as connectors and integrators, promoting a unified approach to assessment,” it concludes. “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.”

Karen Brown, an associate professor of library and information science at Dominican University, and Kara J. Malenfant, the association’s senior strategist for special initiatives, wrote the report. Summit participants included teams of provosts and library directors from a variety of state universities and smaller colleges, including California State University, Drexel University, Grinnell College, Kansas State University, Linfield College, Moraine Valley Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Pennsylvania State University, Rio Salado College, San Diego State University, the University of West Florida, and Utah State University, among others.

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