A Survey of Provosts Indicates that Academic Libraries Should Connect Outcomes to University Goals
A Review of:
Murray, A. & Ireland, A. (2018). Provosts’ perceptions of academic library value and preferences for communication: A national study. College & Research Libraries, 79(3), 336-365. https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.79.3.336
Objective – To understand how public and private university provosts understand and interpret the value of academic libraries.
Design – Electronic survey.
Setting – Public and private colleges and universities in the United States with Carnegie classifications of master’s (small), master’s (medium), master’s (large), doctoral/research (DRU), research (RU/H), and research very high (RU/VH).
Subjects – 209 provosts and chief academic officers.
Methods – The authors distributed the survey to a pool of 935 provosts and chief academic officers in academic institutions. Questions were organized toward understanding participants’ perceptions of their libraries’ involvement with issues of institutional importance inspired by the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report, and high impact educational practices (HIPs) based on the work of George Kuh (2008). The survey also asked participants to select their data preferences when making library funding allocation decisions and their library communication preferences when making funding decisions. The authors received 209 responses and analyzed the content using Qualtrics to determine the highest and lowest ranked responses to each question. In addition, responses for specific survey questions were cross tabulated with demographic information about the institution to identify any potential trends that conformed to or deviated from the overall set of responses. Chi squares were then calculated to determine potential significance.
Main Results – In terms of involvement with university initiatives, almost all of the 209 provosts and chief academic officers who responded to the survey had the perception that their respective libraries are either very involved or somewhat involved. The highest areas of involvement included: faculty research productivity (85.02%), accreditation (82.15%), student academic success (75%). and undergraduate retention (67.26%). Of note, only 9% of provosts indicated their libraries were very involved with enrollment. The authors found a trend that suggests that higher-enrollment institutions with a Carnegie ranking of doctoral/research, research, or research very high, increased provosts’ perceptions of their institutions’ libraries involvement in retention initiatives, student academic success, and faculty research productivity. A significant point of note: when asked why provosts did not view their institutions’ academic libraries as being involved in undergraduate retention initiatives, a significant number (76.12%) of respondents indicated that it was because the campuses overall did not recognize the role the libraries could play in retention initiatives. This position co-exists in an environment where the demographic, economic, and cultural transitions taking place in the United States are continuing to have a disruptive impact on higher education. Library directors need to make these connections much more tangible.
Utilizing Kuh’s (2008) 10 high-impact educational practices, the authors gauged the participants’ perception of their libraries’ involvement in educationally purposeful activities. They found that 84.43% of provosts perceived their libraries as highly involved with undergraduate research, 78.39% with first-year seminars/experiences, 77.38% with collaborative assignments and projects, 75.76% with writing-intensive courses, 71.34% with common intellectual experiences, and 69.64% with capstone courses/projects. Fewer provosts indicated that their libraries were involved in diversity and global learning, learning communities, service learning/community-based learning, or internships. A significant point of note: when asked if their institution’s library had an impact on students’ decisions to continue enrollment, opinion was divided. Of the total respondents, a combined total of 91 indicated yes, based on demonstrated evidence or anecdotal or suspected evidence, while 81 respondents indicated unclear or no. This suggests further work is required for libraries in terms of investigating the potential role they might play in enrollment and how to demonstrate such.
The authors also asked participants to indicate their opinion on the level of influence 11 different data types would have on a moderate (non-capital) funding request for the library. In terms of highest influence, 72.02% indicated they would like to see correlations linking the use of library services/resources with student success, 66.07% with undergraduate retention, and 56.55% with enrollment. Of moderate influence, 57.14% indicated they would like to see library usage data, 55.36% user satisfaction data, and 50% focus groups or other qualitative data. A total of 60% of the provosts also indicated that anecdotal evidence had a low influence on their funding allocations. Most provosts preferred the information to be communicated in a formal annual report, and indicated that the report should include information literacy student learning outcomes (SLOs) (50.9%), user satisfaction data (46.11%), correlations with faculty productivity (45.45%), correlations with student success (44.91%), correlations with undergraduate retention (43.11%), correlations with enrollment (42.51%), basic use data (40.12%), and faculty feedback (39.1%).
Conclusion – Most provosts have an understanding that their libraries play an important role on campus, but demonstrating a strong connection to university goals and outcomes is essential. When seeking funding, academic library administrators should focus on projects or initiatives that support the priorities of the institution as a whole, and work to communicate evidence of the value of library services and resources within this context. This is achieved through communication channels that are both timely and relevant, and include a formal annual report or a dedicated budget meeting.
Copyright (c) 2018 Laura Costello
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