The Library’s Role in Proactive Assessment

Strategy(Image courtesy of Stefan Erschwendner’s flickr stream.)

Change before you have to. – Jack Welch

At my prior institution I learned the value of proactive assessment.  This included such things like assessing collections, workflows, workloads and even the regular review of strategic plan outcomes.

As the new Library Director at Casper College, I have spent the last year gathering and evaluating data.  One of the data gaps I had was in the area of program accreditation for those schools that had a library component.  While our library did have a track record of being responsive to accreditation requests, I thought that we could be more proactive in our preparation.

Working with my adjunct librarian I developed a spreadsheet to track my review of each school’s or program’s accreditation standards.  To maintain confidentiality I’ve removed names from the document.  If you find the spreadsheet useful please feel free to use, adapt or modify it.

What follows is my general gathering and review steps:

  1. Work with corresponding dean or program coordinator to get the name of the standards and the name of the accrediting body.

  2. Locate the most current standards.  Tip: Most accrediting bodies post their standards on their websites and are also happy to e-mail you the standards.

  3. Use the search feature in MS Word or Adobe to keyword search for “library.”  Doing so will take you to the library portion of the standards and also speed up the review process.

  4. Record any specific library requirements in the spreadsheet column labeled notes.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to succinctly summarize and review the library requirements in the last step.  Upon completing the review I noticed several themes.

  • Standards vary widely in their specificity and requirements for library support.

  • Some standards do not mention the library at all.

  • Some standards focus on the provision of specific formats (i.e. print, electronic, etc.) where others focus on information access and the provision of supporting services.

Overall this exercise was very useful and I plan to make it a yearly occurrence.  The review process demonstrates to the college that the library takes seriously its role in accreditation.  Also, it ensures that the library is providing the required formats and services.  Lastly, whether you are the sole librarian, an area subject specialist, or part of library administration, this exercise will provide you with information that is useful for collection development, service development and format selection.

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2 thoughts on “The Library’s Role in Proactive Assessment

  1. I know you mentioned you’re new to being a director, but do you find that materials purchased explicitly to meet accreditation requirements are used? I’ve noticed that sometimes these materials languish on the shelf (or online). If the impetus for acquiring the materials comes from an accrediting body and not from a department or program (or librarian), it’s a funny position for the library to be pushing the materials to the faculty and trying to integrate them into curriculum. But I suppose that is the library’s subsequent obligation?

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  2. Hi and thanks for the feedback! The accrediting body standards provide general guidelines. Things like format, provision of service, etc. When I get word of an accreditation visit we sometimes will get more information from the site team. Here they may ask for certain titles, etc.

    This is one piece of the collection development puzzle. The other piece is to get faculty input for discipline-specific content selection and deselection. Also, we try to work with department heads or deans who oversee accreditation visits for their areas.

    The last piece of the puzzle is incorporating librarian expertise in their respective liaison areas.

    Brad

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