C&RL Spotlight

Scott Walter

If recent history is any guide, “assessment” will be a topic of considerable discussion at the upcoming ACRL conference in Portland, but, even there, people will ask whether the time and effort associated with library assessment is worth it. Certainly, there are conflicting views about the value of assessment activities in higher education, as seen in a recent commentary provided by a faculty member to the Chronicle of Higher Education that likened the higher education reform agenda of which assessment has been one part to a “drinking game.”1

Librarians may be more optimistic about the value of our assessment efforts, but the question of the ways in which those efforts actually shape and improve library practice is still a live one. In 2008, Megan Oakleaf and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe presented the results of their survey of “the degree to which academic librarians assess information literacy, produce assessment data, and use results to achieve the purposes of information literacy assessment,” including improving instructional programs and promoting greater learning by our students.2 While most of their respondents conducted information literacy assessment of some sort, many were challenged to employ the results of those assessments in their work owing to the existence of one or more barriers to its use. These barriers and how they may be overcome are also the subject of a study by Denise Koufogiannakis in this month’s issue of College & Research Libraries, entitled “Determinants of Evidence Use in Academic Library Decision Making.”

Koufogiannakis employs qualitative research methods, including the collection of diaries and the completion of semi-structured interviews to paint a detailed picture of the factors that may promote (or hinder) one’s ability to routinely make use of evidence in one’s work. These may include: organizational dynamics, time, personal outlook, education and training, and information needs. While Koufogiannakis’s qualitative approach to the research confirmed the importance of some of the same factors identified by Oakleaf and Hinchliffe’s quantitative approach, the current study is notable for also identifying one factor not previously described in the literature—personal outlook (which may relate to feelings about one’s own ability to conduct research, about the likelihood that an evidence-informed decision will be adopted in workplace with support from the leadership, etc.). As we commit more fully to a culture of assessment in libraries and to the use of evidence to inform both strategic and routine decisions, studies like Koufogiannakis’s will be important to library leaders seeking to provide support to librarians throughout the organization wishing to move in this direction.

Other articles published in the January 2015 issue of College & Research Libraries include:

  • Timothy P. Bailey, Amanda L. Scott, and Rickey D. Best. “Cost Differentials between E-Books and Print in Academic Libraries.” Abstract: Academic libraries continue to face funding pressures compounded by the need to provide students with access to electronic resources, both in journal and book formats. With space constraints and the need to repurpose library space to other uses, libraries must carefully examine the move to e-only formats for books to determine if the format makes reasonable economic sense. A survey conducted at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) has confirmed for academic libraries the work of Gray and Copeland on ebooks being more expensive than print for public libraries. For AUM, the mean cost for an ebook is significantly higher than for the print counterpart of that title. The cost differentials between the two formats show ebooks as being consistently higher than print in initial price. This consistency holds true across all LC classifications, regardless of whether the title is published by a university press or a commercial press.
  • Kevin Michael Klipfel. “Authenticity and Learning: Implications for Reference Librarianship and Information Literacy Instruction.” Abstract: This article articulates and defends a student-centered approach to reference and instructional librarianship defined by authentic engagement with students’ interests. A review of the history of the construct of authenticity in philosophy, humanistic and existential psychology, and contemporary educational psychology is traced. Connections are drawn between the philosophy of authentic engagement and the tradition in librarianship of “Counselor Librarianship.” Recommendations for applications to the library context are then outlined.
  • Jennifer L. Fabbi. “Fortifying the Pipeline: A Quantitative Exploration of High School Factors Impacting the Information Literacy of First-Year College Students.” Abstract: The purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between a sample of first-time college freshmen students’ high school experiences that are developmentally related to information literacy competency and their scores on the iSkills assessment. iSkills is an online evaluation developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which tests the range of Information and Communications Technology literacy (ICT literacy) skills aligned with nationally recognized ACRL standards. Through hierarchical multiple regression analysis, four variables predictive of a significantly higher score on the iSkills assessment at the p < .05 level were identified.
  • Courtney Lundrigan, Kevin Manuel, and May Yan. ‘“Pretty Rad’: Explorations in User Satisfaction with a Discovery Layer at Ryerson University.” Abstract: Web-scale discovery systems are becoming prevalent in research libraries. Although a number of studies have explored various impacts of discovery systems, few studies exist on user satisfaction. The investigators of this study evaluated user satisfaction with the discovery service Summon at Ryerson University, using online questionnaires and in-person focus groups. Results indicated a high level of satisfaction overall, although this was heavily influenced by the quality of search results over ease of use. The study provides insight into the informationseeking behavior and search preferences of a user when a discovery layer is implemented in a research library.
  • Bruce Kingma and Kathleen McClure. “Lib-Value: Values, Outcomes, and Return on Investment of Academic Libraries, Phase III: ROI of the Syracuse University Library.” Abstract: This study measures the return on investment (ROI) of the Syracuse University library. Faculty and students at Syracuse University were surveyed using contingent valuation methodology to measure their willingness to pay in time and money for the services of the academic library. Their travel time and use of the online library was measured to determine the environmental value of the academic library. The economic and environmental value of the Syracuse University library show an ROI of $4.49 returned to the university for every $1.00 spent each year.
  • Kristin Calvert. “Maximizing Academic Library Collections: Measuring Changes in Use Patterns Owing to EBSCO Discovery Service.” Abstract: Despite the prevalence of academic libraries adopting web-scale discovery tools, few studies have quantified their effect on the use of library collections. This study measures the impact that EBSCO Discovery Service has had on use of library resources through circulation statistics, use of electronic resources, and interlibrary loan requests. Additionally, the data were compared against data from similar academic libraries without discovery systems. Findings include a strong growth in e-journal use, but a sharp decline in circulation statistics. Implications of discovery on use of the print collection are discussed along with suggestions for improving integration of book and article data.
  • Denise Koufogiannakis. “Determinants of Evidence Use in Academic Librarian Decision Making.” Abstract: The objective of this qualitative study was to identify and explain challenges encountered by academic librarians when trying to incorporate evidence into their practice. The findings resulted in the identification of five main determinants that act as either obstacles or enablers of evidence use. The identification of these determinants provide librarians with a greater understanding of the complex processes and individual, as well as organizational, factors that impact decision-making processes within academic libraries.

Also included in this issue is an editorial coauthored by me and C&RL editorial board member James Elmborg. Building on November’s editorial consideration of the ways in which the journal might evolve to serve as more of a “platform publication” for academic librarianship, this month’s editorial asks us to consider the breadth and scope of the research studies that form the core of the journal and, specifically, to consider the place of research traditions beyond the empirical.

In other news

The next few months will be busy ones for College & Research Libraries, as we complete work on the special, 75th-anniversary issue scheduled for release in March, continue to plan for the Research Forum to be held at ACRL 2015 in Portland, and make the selection of the next C&RL editor (who will take the reins in July 2016). Please watch this column, as well as our Facebook and Twitter streams for updates on each of these projects in the coming weeks.

1. Ward, S. , “Higher Ed Reform or Drinking Game? You Decide. ,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 61, no. 8 ( 2014 , October.24. ): 21 , accessed December 1, 2014, http://chronicle.com/article/Higher-Ed-Reform-or-Drinking/149507/.
2. Oakleaf, M. Hinchliffe, LJ. , “Assessment File or Circular File: Do Academic Librarians Use Information Literacy Assessment Data?,” in Proceedings of the 2008 Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment, August 4–7, 2008, Seattle, Washington, edited by Hiller, S. (Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, 2009 ), accessed December 1, 2014, http://libraryassessment.org/archive/2008.shtml.
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