RLI 284 Library Space Assessment: Focusing on Learning 13 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 28 Critical thinking Student success Undergraduate research Information literacy Writing and communication Most academic librarians believe that their programs, facilities, and services support all of the above in some way, but demonstrating a direct connection between libraries and student success, for example, is not an easy proposition. Even more difficult would be demonstrating the value of the library facility to student success or any of the other topics listed above. While it may take a great deal of effort to frame questions and develop methodologies that address the role that renovated library facilities play in students’ education, the results may assist the library in demonstrating to administrators and others the value of the library to the teaching and learning program of the university. Adding to the complexity, it is often the combination of the renovated space, along with the associated services and technologies that together create an environment that facilitates changes in learning. In a study for the Association of College and Research Libraries, Megan Oakleaf looked at a wide range of ways in which libraries can provide value for the institutions they serve her work addressed library spaces as one dimension that libraries can correlate with institutional data on learning.4 The exercise of planning out an assessment program in conjunction with the library facility design process may prompt librarians to think more deeply about what they hope to accomplish for student learning as a result of the renovation. When embarking on an assessment program for a renovated library space, these considerations can be used to frame initial discussions: Developing an assessment plan as a component of the overall design process Keeping the assessment plan tied to broader institutional goals, particularly related to learning, rather than more narrowly on library concerns Considering the key issues and methodologies in assessment in higher education and how they relate to the project Current Library Space Assessment Practices Librarians have developed sophisticated methods for understanding how students study and how they spend their time doing academic work. Inspired by the work at University of Rochester, pioneered by Nancy Fried Foster and Susan Gibbons, many libraries are employing qualitative methods and ethnographic strategies (observation, use of diaries, studying photographs, etc.) as a means to understand users’ needs and plan a renovation of library space.5 However, these assessment efforts most often focus on student behavior prior to the building project and generally do not examine whether the renovated space has, in fact, actually met student needs in a way that is better than the pre-renovation space.
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