Hello! Topher here, happy to introduce guest poster Elizabeth Lieutenant! If you’re like us, you followed all the advice out there and enrolled in an ALA-accredited institution. But what does that really mean? This is your chance to find out! We were fortunate enough to attend a session at ALA Midwinter about the changing world of LIS program accreditation standards. Here’s what we learned:
Meet the COA:
Accreditation has been a part of US librarianship since 1923. In 1956, ALA’s Committee on Accreditation (COA) became a standing committee of ALA. COA is responsible for the execution of the accreditation program of ALA, and to develop and formulate standards of education for library and information studies for the approval of ALA council. The mission of the ALA Office for Accreditation (OA) is to serve: “the general public, students, employers, and library and information studies Master’s programs through the promotion and advancement of education in library and information studies.”
One important thing to understand about the Standards for Accreditation is that they are meant to be qualitative, not prescriptive. The Standards are not mandates for programs to teach particular courses, or for all students to have a particular level of skill in a given aspect of the profession. Instead, the Standards are meant to ensure LIS programs are adequately preparing students to meet the ALA’s Core Competences of Librarianship. Their focus is not on training students for the jobs of today, but instead preparing students to be leaders in the field and carry the LIS profession into the future. If an ALA-accredited program fails to meet the Standards, they’ll be placed on conditional accreditation status, and if significant improvements aren’t made, COA will withdraw accreditation.
Why should you care?
Because this is YOUR education. You want to be a successful (and employable) LIS professional by the time you graduate, right? Because the standards of accreditationguide the decisions/strongly influence the various accredited masters programs, and thus directly affect the lives of LIS students, we students MUST be a voice at the table. COA agrees, and wants to hear from us. During COA’s session at ALA Midwinter, their members repeatedly stated that they welcome student input and feedback on the Revisions to the Standards. One of the committee members even personally thanked us for attending the session! If they care about hearing your views, you should care too.
What can you do?
This all sounds great, but how can students get involved? To start, review your school’s most recent Program Plan. This document describes the program, how it meets the ALA Standards for Accreditation, analyzes its strengths, weaknesses, and challenges, and sets forth the program’s plans and goals for future development and continued compliance with the Standards. If it’s not readily accessible on your school’s website, ask your program administrator for a copy.
Then, educate yourself by reading through Draft revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies. Make note of things that you agree with (For Elizabeth, that would be the focus on diversity, student input, and collaboration with community organizations. For Topher, it’s all about clearly-defined expectations and iterative planning with students involved.) and disagree with (Elizabeth again: the removal of “subsequent accomplishments” in Standard II.7) Finally, make your voice heard! Contact the standards subcommittee by leaving a comment on their website, or emailing their office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog, tweet, and talk up the importance of the standards among your peers–as students are the people most affected by program quality, we need to take advantage of this place in the conversation.
Even better, attend the upcoming Virtual Town Hall meeting on February 20th. Details about that meeting can be found on this page, and here they are:
Event: Town Hall on DRAFT Revised ALA Standards for Accreditation
When: Thursday 20 February 2014, 02:00 PM – 03:00 PM
Time Zone: (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US and Canada)
COA will also be holding another session at the ALA 2014 Annual Conference in Las Vegas, so if you’re there, be sure to take the time to attend. Comments will be accepted through October 24, 2014.
ALA Office of Accreditation (OA)
Outlines the mission and responsibilities of OA. Provides a directory of ALA-accredited programs, and documentation of the “Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies”, and “Accreditation Process, Policies, and Procedures (AP3).” http://www.ala.org/offices/accreditation
ALA Committee on Accreditation (COA) Standards Review
Official website that contains information on the Standards review process. You can review a copy of the Standards and their proposed revisions to the 2008 version here. This site serves as the official comment collection site.