ACRL/NEC Leadership Development Committee Program Panel Discussion: Accrediation, Assessment and Advocacy: What Every Librarian Needs To Know

Panel Discussion

Sue Wawrzaszek, Wheaton College
Laura Saunders, Simmons College

Question: What are your perspectives on new standards and reflections on these changes?

Sue:

Has served on three accreditation teams as librarian. It is useful experience; she learned a lot about higher education and how other institutions are doing things. She agrees with the changes in the standards stating that one of her own frustrations has been how to push forward information literacy. Right now, there’s a curriculum review by faculty at Wheaton looking at critical literacies. Standard Four, which the faculty own has information literacy, so how do we approach this in a programmatic way? Accreditation shouldn't be operational but should be mission-centric.

Laura:

The new standards integrate information literacy throughout. Use this as leverage to gain support. Advice: It's not the purpose for NEASC to define terms or to tell us to adopt the ACRL definition. It is really useful, but timeconsuming, to go through a process of defining these on your campus. Even if you end up with the ACRL definition the, faculty buy in. What do you mean when you talk about information literacy? Faculty recognize that they are already doing it and not having to cram into a course. It needs to be a campuswide conversation. Where does this definition fit into your course, your curriculum? There are still a lot of faculty who are not on board with assessment. There’s a real role for libraries to take on and to help develop a culture of assessment. Here's how we're contributing to the mission and to student learning outcomes. Reframe the conversation; we are being driven by what you think students need to know.

Question: ACRL Framework In practice: how do we take the abstract structure of the framework and what you do in a program of instruction?

Laura:

Extremely broad and vague but a lot of flexibility and leeway to define what this means and how you want to attain it. Faculty very tied to their discipline and will say, “Well it's different in my discipline.” What I have found is that it is… and it's not. In a basic definition that reflects the ACRL definition, what's different is the way you evaluate authority in the discipline of science versus art, for example. Authority we rely on different emphases on data or primary documents in anthropology or on newspapers in history. Work with departments and ask. We must learn the language of the discipline and then work with faculty to adapt that. Setting goals and outcomes first – what do we want students to know and what do we want them to do? How will we know? Outcomes what can they know and do?

Sue:

ACRL annual data survey, Oberlin Group data survey, etc. We spend so much time counting the beans, but it’s not useful to me for benchmarking. Can compare, but so what? Who cares how many subscriptions or books? How is the library being involved in the life of the students? Which student services are in your building? How are you involved in the curricular and cocurricular?

Question: What do you see as ways the two areas (Libraries and IT) can collaborate to address the new standards and assessment efforts?

Sue:

began work with library/IT operations (merged) at Brandeis. It made sense. Benefits in how to describe a merged department – we’re all about information management and information throughout its lifecycle. We purchase, steward, access, provide storage and security, but it's information and data which is important to both the scholarly and administrative parts of the institution. It’s how we support the academic mission. A lot of IT functions are not unique to any college or university. Misplaced emphasis because technology is expensive and necessary, but we are in support of the students. Our network is both  administration and education, but it also provides entertainment for students. Let's reframe how we think about things. Technology is in support of student learning.

Laura:

Where these functions are not colocated, this gets siloed. I’m trying to move a bunch of courses online, so I’m working with different departments. How does library get integrated into instructional design, for example?

Follow up to previous question: What are some tools or ways to use technology to help with implementation?

Sue:

At Wheaton there are a small number of blended librarians to serve the community and the faculty are discussing a new comprehensive curriculum that includes information and technical literacies. The question for us is to be sure there is scalability. To do that we are looking carefully at the learning management system as an environment where we can expand our reach to faculty and students. We are looking at other Moodle installations to leverage these tools and may “borrow” the best we find rather than buy or build.

Laura:

There are at least three things. Librarians are doing some amazing things like the tutorials from the ACRL Exemplary Program [Information Literacy Best Practices: Exemplary Programs]. How many librarians are out there reinventing something because it already exists? Build as many reusable library objects as possible to be used asynchronously. What content works that way and what doesn't? Build on this in other ways. Things that are lower order thinking skills such as how to cite so sources or using Boolean operators can be done through tutorials. Use class time for talking about things like evaluating information. Teach the teacher; faculty have to take on more of that. Share those resources, talk to people, and ask if I can borrow or share. Use the NEASC standards as leverage. Faculty don't always think through how decisions affect the library.

Question: What are the resources needed to deliver the appropriate level of service for programs?

Sue:

Look at what's been done to create a program. Getting staff to go out and look at what others have done. At Wheaton, we’ve move Access Services into the research and instruction group. Reference services have changed to consultation service. The Circulation staff complained about why the Reference staff was not sitting out there. Now, Circulation staff answer entry questions for research help using a tiered service model to allow people to concentrate in different areas. Online tutorials with assessment, but it doesn't really grab students or have discussion. When do you teach skills to students? As a standalone or point of need? If you are going to teach within context, how do you do that and how does it scale over a four year career? Work with faculty to make an assessable program together.

Question: Play provost and give us your wish list of what you'd like to have the library bring to the table. What advice would you give them?

Sue:

How the library building and staff services and resources make a difference in student experience and student success. How do we support curricular activities, especially through information literacy? One of the ways we support the cocurricular is through student employment. It’s a service that develops leadership and teaches students about management and customer service experience.

Laura:

Retention, persistence, and graduation rates. It’s challenging to tie the library into these things directly. It is difficult. Student work example is a great example. There are also indirect ways to measure. Do library resources attract students and/or parents? The extent to which student learning outcomes are met; the resources we provide. Not so much how many volumes, but are these actually the ones students and faculty are citing in their work? As important as retention and graduation rates, they don't really speak to what value we are adding to the the student experience. None of that looks at then what we gave students while they are there. Skills and learning that contribute to success on campus and afterwards. Look at Project Info Lit by Alison Head. Most recent report looks at skills out in the field. Also, tie what students are learning in your program to success in the field.

Audience comments and questions

Question: How do you get the best recommendation of materials to use? And whose responsibility isthat? Should that belong to ACRL NEC?

Laura: 

ACRL does vet some sites and exemplary programs, but we all have to assess for our particular needs and campus.

Question: Two sides of that pick out specific objects and annotate? Or place responsibility on faculty by referring to MERLOT, etc?

Question: There’s a lot about assessment and outcomes, but what about needs assessment? Information literacy or broader needs assessment for skills and knowledge?

Sue:

Critical literacies working group…Students are arriving without the skills faculty are expecting. Students arrive without knowing something like specific products or security or information literacy. How do we know what the students know and how do we assess whether what they think they know is correct without doing a placement exam?

Laura:

We work on a lot of assumptions of what students know or don't. Even looking at student papers is broadly anecdotal. Are we teaching to the gaps?

Question: Post graduation and employment success? Research students may see as not related or may not be able to connect to those resources later. Nurses, for example, things like the resources that library provided aren’t available after they graduate.

Laura:

Evidence-based practice so big, but the issue is that we are teaching them within the academic library to use expensive databases. Reality is that once they leave; they won't have access. How to frame more broadly to open access or academic libraries that are open? How do they transfer those skills to use with the resources that are available to them? Teach in skills in context. We get too caught up on skills needed for one class and not about getting students to recognize those same skills in their next assignment.

Sue:

Stop teaching Library 101 and start teaching the life skill of dealing with information. Both help students be successful in their chosen field but also apply that skill to real life. Reframe how we think about information literacy. Work with career center and ask, “But how do you discover opportunities and information about companies?” to be more involved in student experiences.

Tom:

Tutorials on LibGuides and the community of sharing.

Barbara:

Reflections: Cost and OER Librarians are well positioned to address these.