By: Diane Stirling

Academic libraries face ongoing challenges in assessing and presenting their value to their parent institutions due to the dramatic effect that advancements in technology – and many other factors in higher education today – are having on libraries’ traditional role.  Accordingly, academic libraries must learn how to advocate for themselves by producing data and evidence to demonstrate that they are crucial to their parent institutions.

Those are the beliefs of Megan Oakleaf, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science at the School of Information Studies.  Dr. Oakleaf’s report and her views about the state of academic libraries today are profiled on “Power to the Librarians,” a new website hosted by library vendor Elsevier.  She is one of four librarians across the United States currently featured in articles on the site.

The article highlights Dr. Oakleaf’s research report, “The Value of Academic Libraries,” prepared for the Association of College and Research Libraries, the professional organization for academic librarians in the United States.

“It may be common sense to say a university needs a library, but it’s not a given anymore,” according to the professor. In addition to the way new technologies are forcing a closer look at that standard, several other factors also come into play.  They include the call for added accountability in higher education; vendor pricing; the concern for keeping college affordable to students and families and the need to retain students through graduation, Dr. Oakleaf says.  Consequently, academic libraries must consider “the perspectives of senior academic leaders and other stakeholders at their parent institutions, rather than limiting their perspective to their own library-centric point of view.” She adds, “Libraries need data and evidence both to prove and improve their value,” and urges academic librarians to find ways to better articulate their value within their institutions.  

At Syracuse, Dr. Oakleaf teaches the courses, “Reference and Information Literacy Services” and “Planning, Marketing and Assessing Library Services”.  She earned her Ph.D. in library and Information Science at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and her Master’s in Library Science at Kent State University. She has served as Librarian for Instructional and Undergraduate Research at North Carolina State University and co-chairs the ACRLS Value of Academic Libraries Committee. Dr. Oakleaf also served on the Library Values Management Team funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  As a consultant to academic libraries, she travels several times a year to conduct seminars, and also advises library professionals on topics discussed in her 2010 report. 

Dr. Oakleaf will be speaking about these issues in a webcast the ACRL plans to conduct later this semester, at a date to be announced.  The complete report, “Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report “can be viewed online at: