In the last few weeks, several strands of information have come together to provide a framework for this proposal on library assessment. The sources are as follows:
1. In the NCA self-study for re-accreditation the library is mentioned many times. Particularly relevant is the statement that the library is the only entity among the colleges to have done a systematic assessment (p.136). This is a strength we want to keep up.
2. The draft of The Standards for Libraries in Higher Education (2011 edition) issued by ACRL states that the new standards differ from previous editions “by articulating expectations for library contributions to institutional effectiveness” (p.1). The focus of library assessment is then shifting from comparisons to other libraries to acting on behalf of institutional mission and fulfillment of institutional goals.
3. Recent publicly available information includes similar changes in focus such as a presentation putting library assessment within the context of the institution (David Shulenburger), and a presentation on space assessment (Danuta Nitecki) at the 2010 Library Assessment Conference. Both were invited presentations.
4. In the guidelines for the program review self-study on the WIU Provost site, there is a component about library support. Cyclic program reviews are required by IBHE for all academic programs being offered. (http://www.wiu.edu/provost/pdfs_and_docs/ProgramReviewProcess2010.pdf)
5. In presentations and writings (six since 1999), I have talked about different aspects of assessment, particularly with reference to the institutional context and accreditation.
My rationale is that library assessment should cover every aspect of library operations and should be cyclic. When we present an integrated face to our users, we should also assess resources, services, and operations, particularly the infrastructure. At the same time, we need to pay attention to trends and the changing environment so that we can make necessary changes and other adjustments. In cyclic assessment we can then judge whether we have achieved our goals, should adjust our goals, or establish new goals, all in the direction of our mission and values. At this time, it may be more prudent to concentrate on those academic programs that are accredited by external organizations since they have stated criteria.
In the timeline provided by the Provost, preparations for the self-study (e.g. forming the self-study team) will take place prior to the fall semester of the year before accreditation review. The self-study is to be conducted during the fall semester. External review will take place the following spring. And the final document will be submitted to IBHE in August. So the whole process spans a year and half.
The schedule for program reviews and accreditation are given on one of the Provost web pages. Since data prepared for program accreditation may be used in program review, accreditation criteria may be a good place to start. The academic programs that are accredited here at Western Illinois University are as follows (from WIU web pages):
Accreditation Body: National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
Program: All Teacher Certification Programs
Accreditation Body: Council on Accreditation of Parks, Recreation, Tourism and Related Professions (COAPRT)
Program: B.S. in Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration
Accreditation Body: The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Program: Bachelor of Business, M.B.A., M.Acct.
Accreditation Body: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (AACN)
Program: Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Accreditation Body: National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST)
Program: B.A. in Theatre, M.F.A. in Theatre, B.F.A. in Musical Theatre
Accreditation Body: Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE)
Program: B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences–option in Dietetics
Accreditation Body: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
Program: M.S.Ed. in Counseling
Accreditation Body: National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD)
Program: B.A. in Art, B.F.A. in Art, M.A. in Museum Studies
Accreditation Body: Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA)
Program: M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders–option in Speech-Language
Accreditation Body: National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)
Program: B.A in Music, B.M. in Music, M.M. in Music
Accreditation Body: Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA)
Program: Western’s English as a Second Language Institute
Accreditation Body: Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE)
Program: B.S. in Athletic Training
Accreditation Body: Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE)
Program: B.S. in Engineering Technology
In reviewing academic program accreditation criteria, the role of libraries is often mentioned within the context of total resource base or support, from a few lines to several pages. For example, for counseling programs, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) specifies that “Access to learning resources is appropriate for scholarly inquiry, study, and research by program faculty and students.” For athletic training through the Department of Kinesiology, the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) says that “Students must have reasonable access to the information resources needed to adequately prepare them to be entry-level professionals.” For National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the standards simply state that “Professional education faculty and candidates have access both to sufficient and current library and curricular resources and electronic information.” For business, AACSB standards say under Services: “Does the organization provide services (e.g., library, …..) necessary to sustain the activities of the applicant academic unit? Are the costs of those services charged back to the applicant academic unit?”
On the other hand, for National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST) and National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), the library requirements took up several pages, listing standards for the collection, administration and personnel. However, the resources must be “of sufficient size and scope” and the library should have “qualified personnel sufficient to meet the various needs of the music unit.” Other needs include “an environment conducive to study.” So some professional organizations do recognize needs other than holdings and quantitative count of other resources. But all of these standards still need library and the academic department to collaboratively reach understandings of those hedge words. For the other programs such as dietetics, RPTA, social work, communication sciences and disorders, and ESL programs, the key phrase is again whether library resources are appropriate and sufficient to meet program missions and goals.
One of the core values of Western Illinois University is Academic Excellence. This is described as a “commitment to teaching, to the individual learner, and to active involvement in the teaching-learning process.” This gives a context within which to examine our library support. I started talking about program accreditation last spring in the library and started researching requirements of the various agencies. I initially met with an Assistant Dean in our College of Education and Human Services in August 2009 about the NCATE re-accreditation scheduled for 2011. The College had just put together a committee to conduct the self-study. The Assistant Dean for the College who oversees undergraduate and teacher education said that if this process is successful, perhaps we can establish a template to look at library support that can then be applied to other accredited programs in her college. Included are programs in counseling accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), dietetics accredited by American Dietetic Association, athletic training option in kinesiology accredited by Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), recreation, park and tourism administration accredited by National Recreation and Park Association, and social work accredited by Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).
In reviewing the library and resource-related components of each set of criteria, I have created the following check list for library support.
Check List for Library Support
This is a general statement of library support drawing on the library mission and values, and relating them to the mission and values of the accrediting body. Most accrediting bodies have general statements about having library and information resources necessary to support its purpose and appropriate for its size and purpose, or sufficient and appropriate to achieve program mission and goals. Other words used in the different criteria include “comprehensive,” “sufficient to ensure quality,” “adequate,” “current,” and “fair and equitable.” The statements here should follow the vocabulary of the accreditation criteria.
Other components should include the following:
1. Governance and Administration
Several accrediting bodies call for clearly identifiable procedures and services that place library support within the framework of library administration and operations.
2. Collections (or Resources)
Some accrediting bodies call for clearly identifiable collections of “sufficient size and scope” and in all applicable formats. Other words used include “adequate,” “current” and “contemporary.” Indicators for these may be title count by call number and SD# ranges applicable to the discipline. Also to be mentioned would be consortial resources and ILL.
This is an area we can refine. There is physical access to resources that we own and access to materials housed elsewhere, including electronic resources. One accrediting body wants access “appropriate for scholarly inquiry, study, and research by program faculty and students.” Another wants access regardless of the physical location of students. To these, we can refer to our support for distance education, proxy server, etc.
There is a call for persons responsible for particular areas. We can make reference to the liaison program. Also to be mentioned are those responsible for instruction and public service areas. With regard to technology, we also have computer support.
Many accrediting criteria call for reference and ILL, or other “appropriate” services. Also mentioned is reference.
As described in some criteria, physical facilities include adequate study space and computer equipment that are “conducive” to studying.
Budgetary support for the library is mentioned in many sets of criteria. Most say “appropriate” or “sufficient.” But one calls for “equitable,” which we can re-frame as equitable opportunities. All academic departments have the opportunity to work with library liaisons.
Some call for evidence of continuous evaluation or procedures “addressed in the program strategic plan.” These may include LibQUAL+ surveys and bi-annual statistics that are submitted to various agencies. The other part would be this proposal for cyclic assessment.
9. Learning Outcome
While many talk about preparing students for appropriate use of library resources, one body states that “students are able to use current information technologies to locate and apply evidence-based guidelines and protocols” in classroom-related research that will enable continuation as practitioners. Reference should be made to our library instruction program.
This checklist can be used to present comparable information to all departments. As necessary, the library may wish to re-frame accreditation requirement when the resources and services that we offer may be comparable to what the criteria call for. By interpreting the meaning of our information for academic departments, we can draw the focus to what we do and think are important. Since program reviews and program (re-)accreditation occur periodically and cover all academic programs offered by the university, with each cycle, the library can assess those resources, services, and facilities corresponding to support for the relevant academic programs. In each cycle of six to eight years, depending on institutional, discipline and IBHE requirements, every aspect of the library that supports the curriculum, either directly or indirectly, will have been assessed.
Methodologies are to be worked out. Since many outcomes or services cannot be measured directly, we need to find indirect indicators for evidence. However, care must be taken in assigning causal relationships. For example, at the 2010 Library Assessment Conference, while high correlations may facilitate prediction, some presenters tried inappropriately to assign causal relationships based only on high correlation. In some cases, the “evidence” that is called for in the criteria may simply be inclusion in the library’s strategic plan that an evaluation or another event will take place.
Since the review cycle for all academic programs spans eight years, the process for implementing this proposal will take that long. It may take a few years before we can benefit from this process of library assessment. However, strategically, it presents a viable and systematic process.
We will be coming up for institutional accreditation in ten years. Near the end of the program review cycle timeline as described above, we should pull all the pieces together in preparation for the next NCA accreditation. This will give us a chance to evaluate if there are any gaps, inconsistencies or methodological issues that need to be addressed for another cycle.
(3/14/2011, rev. 4/21/2011)