Library Planning Research

Know Your Library’s Value—and Make Sure the University Does, Too

 

To remain a vital partner in a University’s mission, academic libraries need to communicate their value. According to ACRL’s academic library impact report,” academic libraries need to strategically evolve to support student learning and success; they must effectively communicate the library’s value. This communication is a vital step when competing for resources within funding and governance structures both in and outside the academic institution.”

Based on findings from the report, ACRL members identified six priority areas where academic librarians can build a case for the library:

  1. Communicate the library’s contributions.
    2. Match library assessment to institution’s mission.
    3. Include library data in institutional data collection.
    4. Quantify the library’s impact on student success.
    5. Enhance teaching and learning.
    6. Collaborate with educational stakeholders.

For example, does your President or Provost recognize that the library can provide a common point for collaboration between students and faculty? Or that libraries can have an impact on student retention? According to Megan Oakleaf for the Association of College and Research Libraries – Value of Academic Library Report(ACRL), “Librarians in universities, colleges, and community colleges can establish, assess, and link academic library outcomes to institutional outcomes regarding student enrollment, retention and graduation rates, student success, student achievement, student learning, student engagement, faculty research productivity, faculty teaching, service, and overarching institutional quality.” Her report emphasizes  that libraries are learning communities.They can support a return on investment campaign (i.e. for each $1 spent on an academic library you get a specific benefit in return).

Libraries without a library master plan or library facility analysis don’t know how to communicate their value and need help crafting a plan. They need to study how to utilize the spaces and increase support for multiple stakeholders: librarians, faculty, administration and students. Academic libraries need to outline the ways that a new design will provide a better return on investment.

A master plan is an important catalyst for change. Left without a plan, environments will not grow organically or enhance student success effectively. The master planning process facilitates improvements to libraries, buildings and systems. It provides a narrative and program that can be used to attain optimal service and capital expenditures.

How We Can Help

Aaron Cohen Associates, LTD specializes in academic library assessments. We ask the challenging questions and show clients how to communicate the value of the academic library. We help develop new strategic/organizational programs, but our real strength lies in an understanding that the library is truly “for the people.” As an organization of learning spaces with staff and resources nearby, the library impacts the learning outcomes on campus.

To better understand what makes the academic library valuable, we developed a framework to analyze the library planning variables. First, ask: what matters? What is really important to the stakeholders? In effect, this is a simple question that can be complex to answer. To be sure, there will always be librarians who make sure the book still has a place in the library, and others that make sure that it is a dynamic space. We have worked with all types of librarians on academic master planning projects, and their integrity and passion for learning translates into good library programming, which increases value.

We can help communicate ways to improve and thus generate a good return on investment for your academic library. ACA’s success is the result of our program and planning methodology, developed over several decades. It is based on 47 years of management studies and program models that have been tuned to the needs of the 21st century library.

For over a decade, Alex Cohen, MLS has led efforts to build simple program reports with recommendations. Based on ACA’s five learning modes (social, presentation, collaborative, reflective, touchpoint), he provides clients with clear, relevant recommendations that best serve students, faculty and staff. It can be used as a stand-alone program or as part of a larger study to help decision making, improving the return on investment for library space and services in the 21st century.

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