Reflections upon Standards for Libraries in Higher Education (ACRL)

Ah, the famous ACRL Standards.  I have heard so much about them, and there is a great deal packed into a fairly compact document.  Floating on the shifting tides of accreditation committee standards, ACRL has gone a great way in simplifying and explaining what we have to do to meet accreditation standards, and in (fairly) plain language, provided guidance to get there (at least in our documentation).  Outcomes assessment is necessary these days, whether you are in medicine or bicycle repair, so….

Outcomes for libraries being measured by “…the ways in which library users are changed as a result of their contact with the library’s resources and programs” is a challenging task.  We have to set up tasks and objectives that have measurable outcomes, then we have to measure the outcomes, and this may mean tracking outcomes (including graduation rates and employment history for academia) for years.  How many things can go wrong here?  Is simple better, or is it the only way?  Sticking to ratio data (number of library holdings per student enrolled) may be simple, but is it a metric that is meaningful?  Number of electronic holdings per student?  In the UA annual report (http://www.lib.ua.edu/sites/default/files/admin/AnnualReport2011-2012.pdf), I found metrics that made sense, including numbers of actual downloads per year—but outcomes…in search of outcomes.

Using the first year experience and EN 102 as an example, I see great potential in the collaborative process and cooperation with EN faculty.  To knit classroom objectives and facile use of library resources together is a win-win, clearly.  This is not outsourcing of faculty responsibility to library personnel, rather it is an opportunity to reach students who have not yet been reached in their earlier academic careers.  We can get to young scholars who have been satisfied up until now with the canned mushrooms of google and wikipedia, and bring them into the world of fresh mushrooms (if you can stand a kitchen analogy).  Next thing you know, these same young folks will be doing their own balsamic vinegar reductions, deglazing with apple juice, or making their own pizza sauce in the academic world, thoughtfully searching for opposing views in order to sort their own feelings, forming their own philosophies, and contributing effectively to their own education (and their classmates’).  Yay interdisciplinary work!  Yay librarian educators!  Yay thoughtful, skilled scholars who won’t take just anything for an answer!

Excited?  You betcha.  Challenged?  Even more than excited.  Time to dig.  Gotta go.

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