SPEC Kit 312: Public Engagement · 15
community, to direct scarce time and resources to pro-
grams with the greatest potential for impact, to “get
the word out” among potential users of these services
that they are available, and to establish a sustainable
approach to committing to public engagement as a
core service program of the academic library.
Finally, there is the challenge of assessment.
Despite the increasing concern in the library com-
munity about assessment of services and identifi-
cation of the contribution that the library makes to
campus goals, there is limited attention to assessment
of library public engagement programs. Of the 46 re-
sponding libraries, only 17 (37%) reported any assess-
ment of public engagement programs, and, among
these, several reported approaches of limited value,
e.g., counting attendance at public programs, or infor-
mal assessment. Public engagement programs with a
digital component employ usability studies and use
statistics as a means of assessment, while comments
about other programs suggested the use of individual
interviews and focus groups.
The evolution from outreach to engagement is clearly
underway in many ARL member libraries (and in
their parent institutions), but a shared understanding
of both the meaning of engagement and the library’s
role in it has yet to emerge. Academic libraries are
contributing to campus efforts to engage the local
community, but they are doing so across a spectrum of
programs ranging from traditional outreach activities
to providing support for engagement activities led by
other campus units. Fewer responding libraries are
leading library-based efforts that meet the definition
of engagement set forward in the introduction of this
summary and embodied in the recently established
Carnegie Classification in Community Engagement. In
reviewing the results of this survey, the authors were
reminded of the 2002 SPEC Kit on “Reference Service
Statistics and Assessment,” in which Eric Novotny
concluded that, rather than identifying “best prac-
tices” for assessment of reference services, his survey
had simply revealed “a situation in flux.”16 Our survey,
too, has uncovered as many questions as answers,
suggesting that this topic is one to be revisited. As
funding for higher education, accreditation standards,
long-standing institutional missions, and other factors
continue to motivate universities to demonstrate their
value to the broader community, public engagement
is likely to gain momentum as a strategic initiative in
academic libraries.
1. John V. Byrne, 1998, “Outreach, Engagement,
and the Changing Culture of the University,”
Journal of Public Service and Outreach 3, no. 2:
3–8 Karin Fischer, 2009 (July 20), “Reimagin-
ing the 21st-Century Land-Grant University,”
The Chronicle of Higher Education, http://
21st-Centur/47095/ (accessed July 29, 2009)
Carolyn D. Roper and Marilyn A. Hirth, 2006,
“A History of Change in the Third Mission of
Higher Education: The Evolution of One-Way
Service to Interactive Engagement,” Journal of
Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 10,
no. 3: 3–21.
2. The Kellogg Commission on the Future of State
and Land-Grant Universities, 1999, Returning
to our Roots: The Engaged Institution, http://
Doc?id=183 (accessed July 8, 2009) The Carne-
gie Foundation for the Advancement of Teach-
ing, 2009, “Community Engagement Elective
Classification,” http://www.carnegiefounda-
(accessed July 8, 2009).
3. Kelly Ward, Faculty Service Roles and the Scholar-
ship of Engagement [ASHE-ERIC Higher Edu-
cation Report, vol. 29, no. 5] (San Francisco:
Jossey-Bass, 2003).
4. Derek Bok, Beyond the Ivory Tower: Social
Responsibilities of the Modern University (Cam-
bridge: Harvard University Press, 1982).
5. Marcia Stockham, Elizabeth Turtle, and Eric
Hansen, 2003, “KANAnswer: A Collaborative,
Statewide Virtual Reference Pilot Project,” The
Reference Librarian, no. 79/80: 257–66 John A.
Shuler, 2008, “The Civic Contours of a National
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