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Library impact

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011

One of the emerging themes at the ACRL (Association of College & Research Libraries) conference was demonstrating the value of academic libraries (see Megan Oakleaf:  Evolution or Revolution?  Strategies for Demonstrating the Library's Impact in a New World of Assessment).  This current discussion on the value and impact of academic libraries, including a post by Derek Rodriguez, "Understanding Library Impacts on Student Learning" ( has again gotten me thinking about the lack of evidence of librarians partnering with service-learning classes and experiences. Rodriguez writes: "The Association of American Colleges & University’s (AAC&U) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) project[27] defined fifteen ‘Essential Learning Outcomes’ needed by 21st century college graduates such as critical and creative thinking, information literacy, inquiry and analysis, written and oral communication, problem solving, quantitative literacy, and teamwork. These outcomes are applicable in all fields and highly valued by potential employers." In the same AAC&U publication, George Kuh, defines high-impact educational practices, including service-learning (along with first-year seminars and other experiential education practices such as capstone projects, internships, etc.). If libraries are concerned with demonstrating their impact, doesn't it stand to reason that we should actively seek out opportunities to collaborate with the people on our campuses that are instrumental in supplying such high-impact practices?   Of course, many librarians already seek out collaborations in some of these high-impact practices - particularly, learning communities or first-year seminars.  Other high-impact practices such as internships or practicums may not lend themselves to incorporating a library partner so easily.  But it still surprises me that only a handful of librarians have written about experiences within service-learning partnerships or classes. I certainly don't claim to be an expert on assessment, so I can't say much about how we might measure the impact of our partnerships in service-learning courses.  But from what I have observed anecdotally, students who use the library and its resources in conjunction with service-learning experiences have more meaningful connections to the library and its resources.