The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) released on Sept. 14 the “Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report.” Developed for ACRL by Assistant Professor Megan Oakleaf of the iSchool at Syracuse University, this valuable resource 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 http://www.acrl.ala.org/value/.
Increasing recognition of the value of libraries and librarians by leaders in higher education, information technology, funding agencies, and campus decision making is one of ACRL’s six strategic priorities. Recognizing the sense of urgency around this issue, the report is intended to help academic librarians participate in the conversation and to identify resources to support them in demonstrating the value of academic libraries in clear, measurable ways.
“Librarians can shift from asking ‘Are libraries valuable?’ to ‘How valuable are libraries? or ‘How can libraries be even more valuable?'” Oakleaf said. “Making this shift is the right thing to do, for both users and librarians. When academic librarians learn about their impact on users, they increase their value by proactively delivering improved services and resources—to students completing their academic work; to faculty preparing publications and proposals; to administrators needing evidence to make decisions.”
“This report presents the vision and the reality of the value of academic libraries and their contributions to institutional goals and outcomes,” said ACRL President Lisa Hinchliffe of the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. “Through it, we have a shared knowledge base for the association and our members as we pursue this strategic priority.”
The primary objective of this comprehensive review is to provide academic librarians and institutional leaders with a clearer understanding of what research about the performance of academic libraries already exists and where gaps in this research occur. The report additionally identifies the most promising best practices and measures correlated to performance and represents a starting point to assist college, university, and community college librarians in gathering evidence to tell the story of their libraries and promote dialogue on the value of the academic library in higher education.
“Documenting the evidence we have for the impact of academic libraries on student, faculty, and institutional success will enable library leaders to respond proactively to calls for accountability and return on investment. Identifying the gaps charts a path for the data we need to gather and analyze,” explained Hinchliffe. “In the coming months, the ACRL will be turning its attention to strategies for pursuing the research agenda recommended in the report, identifying funding sources for projects, and developing training and support materials for our members.”
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.
In July, Oakleaf received a $280,550 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to measure information literacy skills of college students during a three-year study. SU will match the grant with an additional $126,815. The research project, entitled “Rubric Assessment of Information Literacy Skills” (RAILS), is designed to develop and test rubrics that evaluate student learning and information literacy, as well as faculty and librarian assessment skills.