By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

A user-friendly workbook of 52 tried-and-true workshop-style activities, designed to help the librarians and stakeholders of academic libraries to more easily assess, illustrate and articulate the value of their facilities, has come to fruition.

Megan Oakleaf, School of Information Studies Associate Professor and Director of Instructional Quality, a noted expert on determining the value of academic libraries within their institutions, has just published the workbook, Academic Library Value: The Impact Starter Kit.

The publication is a natural outgrowth of Oakleaf’s expertise and her experiences the past two years in presenting talks and conducting workshops on the findings of her notable report, “Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report.” The report was commissioned by the Association of College and Research Libraries and published in the fall of 2010. Since then, Oakleaf has presented some 20 times a year on those findings. Many of the workbook activities have been road-tested during her talks and workshops, according to the professor.

The workbook is purposefully designed to be utilitarian in nature, she said. It is spiral bound and has gate-folded, tear-out pages. It doesn’t include fancy graphics and it isn’t printed on elegant paper. “All the decisions regarding its format were based on its utility. It is meant to be used—pages can be scribbled on, taped to walls, or shared with colleagues,” the professor explained. It is being self-published in order to keep costs at a minimum level, a factor that will help make it more available to larger numbers of users, Oakleaf said.

Its audience is librarians, committees, task forces, or staff members conducting professional development within libraries that operate under the umbrella of community, state or private colleges. In addition, it may be useful for administrators looking to understand their libraries’ real value.

Exercises take users through activities with explicit directions on how to organize and conduct, then reflect and learn from the exercises. The activities are devised to develop findings and plan assessments for academic libraries within the context of their overarching institutions, taking into consideration the mission and goals of that institution, Oakleaf said. Activities can be worked through sequentially, or by themes: “Re-thinking,” “Listening,” “Getting Organized,” and “Taking Action.” Also included are instructions for activities such as skill audits, time audits, planning for organizational change, and investigating the impact on student learning. 

Oakleaf believes that having these exercises available in workbook format will assure that many more people can access the information. “It’s going to make this content accessible to so many more people than I could possibly teach on my own,” she said.

The issue of addressing the importance of academic libraries’ place and value within their institutions is especially pertinent now in these times of an economic downturn, Professor Oakleaf asserts. “Sometimes it’s not obvious to outsiders how important libraries are within their institutions, and their value can be overlooked,” she noted. When compared to academic departments and student affairs programs, academic libraries don’t have the same direct revenue-producing types of activity for comparison, such as enrolling students, bringing in tuition money, or even the visibility of conducting study-abroad and residence life activities, Oakleaf explained.

Oakleaf’s 2010 ACRL report reviews the quantitative and qualitative literature, methodologies, and best practices currently in place for demonstrating the value of academic libraries. The full report, along with supplemental materials, is available online at

Professor Oakleaf joined the iSchool at Syracuse after completing her dissertation entitled, “Assessing Information Literacy Skills: A Rubric Approach,” at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Previously, she was the Librarian for Instruction and Undergraduate Research at North Carolina State University, where she designed, implemented, coordinated, and assessed the library instruction program. She earned her MLS at Kent State University.  Prior to a career in librarianship, she taught advanced composition in Ohio public secondary schools.

The workbook can be ordered via Oakleaf’s website,, at  this link: