October 12, 2010

Demonstrating the value of the academic library.

From Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report:
Academic libraries have long enjoyed their status as the “heart of the university.” However, in recent decades, higher education environments have changed. University librarians no longer can rely on their stakeholders’ belief in their importance. Rather, they must demonstrate their value.

Traditional measures of internal library processes such as input and output measures, external perceptions of quality, and satisfaction with library services may not have significant meaning to audiences outside the library. Those measures are of great utility to librarians who seek to manage library services and resources, but they may not resonate with institutional leaders as well as outcomes-based approaches.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is calling their members to work together to affirm and demonstrate the value of libraries within an institutional context by outlining a “Research Agenda” for articulating academic library value. The goal is to help librarians understand, and answer the question, “How does the library advance the missions of the institution?”

ACRL is helping libraries answer that question by highlighting areas for further research. For example:

According to the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers (2006), libraries are an important consideration when students select a university or college, and, as a result, academic libraries can help institutional admissions boost enrollment. Specifically, the library ranked second in terms of facilities important in the selection decision process; only facilities for students’ majors ranked higher. Libraries were ranked ahead of technology facilities, the student union center, and even recreational facilities.It is clear that libraries can help their institutions attract the best possible prospective students, as well as matriculate the best possible admitted students, in a variety of ways depending on the institution type, size, profile, etc.

Libraries can play a more prominent role in reaching key prospective student groups and communicating the ways in which librarians can help students attain academic success.

Libraries support students’ ability to do well in internships, secure job placements, earn salaries, gain acceptance to graduate/professional schools, and obtain marketable skills. Although it may be difficult to make direct and clear connections between academic libraries and students’ educational and professional futures, these outcomes are of critical importance to institutions and their stakeholders. Consequently, librarians can investigate the linkages between academic libraries and student job success, and— if no linkages currently exist—librarians can form them.
For example, many institutions place emphasis on students’ job placements immediately after college and most invite employers to campus to interview students. Librarians can help students prepare for these interviews by sharing resources, such as company profiles, market analyses,etc., with career resources units on campus and with students directly.

Other aspects of the value equation to explore include:

Track library influences on increased student achievement.
Libraries support student achievement in the form of GPA and professional/educational test scores. In order to demonstrate this impact, librarians can investigate correlations between student library interactions and their GPA well as conduct test item audits of major professional/educational tests to determine correlations between library services or resources and specific test items.

Track and increase library contributions to faculty research productivity.
Librarians contribute to faculty research productivity in a number of ways. To some degree, librarians have investigated the impact of library resources on faculty productivity, but librarians can explore the linkages between library services and faculty research productivity. How do librarians serve faculty who are preparing publications, presentations, or patent applications? How do librarians help faculty prepare their tenure and promotion packages?

Continue to investigate library impact on faculty grant proposals and funding, a means of generating institutional income. Librarians contribute to faculty grant proposals in a number of ways. Recent studies have documented the contribution of library resources to citations in grant applications In addition, academic librarians can investigate other ways in which libraries contribute to the preparation of grant proposals, both funded and unfunded.

Demonstrate and improve library support of faculty teaching.
Librarians contribute to faculty teaching in a variety of ways. Librarians provide guest lectures, online tutorials, and LibGuides. They integrate library resources into course materials on a massive scale. They collaborate with faculty on curriculum and assessment design. They also provide resources that cover the scholarship of teaching and learning; some libraries also partner in campuswide teaching and learning support centers. Librarians clearly support teaching; now librarians can also collect the data and communicate the value of that support.

Record library contributions to overall institutional reputation and prestige.
Academic libraries can augment their institution’s reputation and prestige in four ways. First, they can help department chairs to recruit faculty or retain them. Traditionally, libraries contribute to faculty recruitment by building collections that support faculty activities. In the future, librarians have opportunities to be more proactive in this area, by actively engaging in dialogue with “star” faculty recruits prior to their hiring. Second, strong libraries, especially those that win awards or other distinctions, may also impact their institutional rank by bringing attention to the institution and therefore potentially influencing the peer assessments that make up a large portion of well-known ranking entities. Third, library special collections can bring significant prestige to their institutions. Finally, library services and resources support institutional engagement in service to their communities locally, nationally, and globally, thus contributing to their institution’s reputation and prestige through service.

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.

Read the full text from the Association of College and Research Libraries

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