For the second time in three months, LAUW members selected a report as the article of choice for our journal club. (Aren’t we an exciting bunch?) The October selection was the executive summary for the recently released “Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report” prepared by Dr. Megan Oakleaf from Syracuse University.
A small group of us met last week in the Davis Centre conference room to discuss this executive summary. One thing we agreed upon early on is that it’s difficult to assess the potential value of the full report from only reading the summary. Naturally, we found ourselves qualifying our comments with things like, “I’d really need to check the full report to be sure.” How librarian!
That said, there were a few things that we could confidently agree on that are worth noting:
- This is an important report. We all felt that it is essential for academic librarians to consider the suggestions for communicating academic libraries’ value through evidence/data.
- There were some stated “facts” that didn’t resonate with our experience. (The library being a factor in student and faculty recruitment, for one.)
- The summary does not stand alone very well. Style wise, it was a bit difficult to follow. Content-wise, we all felt like we lacked a clear sense of the full report’s scope and depth.
The group’s most lengthily conversation centered on whether or not proving the library’s value through evidence/date is doable or desirable for librarians. The underlying message in the document seems to be that the main aim of implementing retention strategies is to increase the university’s bottom line and secure/increase future alumni dollars by keeping students and keeping them happy. We wondered how comfortable many librarians are with this mind set, since our main concern is typically that first and foremost students’ education should be enriched by the materials/services we provide them. Any “by-product” (in the form of alumni support/transfer payments, etc.) is the bonus, not the other way around.
We concluded that this report is perhaps most directly relevant to library administrators, although it is useful for all librarians to understand and integrate wherever possible. Many of us will be consulting the full report and we’re looking forward to any supporting ACRL materials that will stem from it.
Thanks to everyone who made it out to discuss this document. Stay tuned for details on our November meeting!