College & Research Libraries News

ACRL: PARTNERS IN HIGHER EDUCATION: Are you qualified to serve on the accreditation team? Survey results of six accrediting agencies

by William N. Nelson

In accord with the ACRL Strategic Plan, the ACRL Standards and Accreditation Committee has begun to place equal focus on accreditation issues, as well as on the profession’s standards and guidelines. What follows is one product of this effort.1

During December 1997 and January 199S, the six regional accrediting agencies were surveyed to determine the process employed for academic librarians to become peer evaluators on regional accrediting teams. Five questions were asked of each agency. Initial contact was by e- mail with a follow-up telephone call, as necessary. The expected result was for the committee to compile and disseminate the information so that persons with appropriate qualifications may apply to become peer evaluators.

Who are librarian evaluators?

Five of the six regional accrediting agencies always, or almost always, include a librarian as a member of every peer evaluation team. In rare cases, a librarian can qualify as a team member for the other regional accrediting agency.

The application process for becoming a librarian evaluator varies greatly, but most frequently the regional accrediting agency receives recommendations from librarians or institutional administrators. In some instances a formal recommendation by the institutional president or chief academic officer is required for consideration. Most of the agencies welcome nominations of experienced, well-qualified librarians. Selection to the evaluation team for a specific institution generally depends on a number of factors; typically the best-qualified person for that particular assignment is selected from a database of potential librarian evaluators.

Specific qualifications for an academic library peer evaluator vary among the regional accrediting agencies. Most require an MLS and extensive and appropriate knowledge and experience in libraries. The trend is definitely toward selection of individuals with multiple skills and the ability to view the institution as a whole.

A librarian evaluator is frequently expected to have broad-based knowledge in information technology and information literacy. The growing emphasis by the regional accrediting agencies on institutional effectiveness and student learning outcomes is beginning to affect the selection of academic librarians for the peer evaluation teams.

Survey results (Alphabetically, by agency)


  1. For another committee initiative see: William N. Nelson, “Leadership Beyond the Library: Accrediting Teams,” C&RL News, 58 (June 1997): 410-12, 426.
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