- A Review of the Literature on Assessment in Academic and Research Libraries, 2005 to August 2011
Assessment in United States higher education has become very important in recent years. Virtually all colleges and universities are now striving to prove through empirical evidence that they are committed to improving student learning. Created in late 2005, the US Department of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education was charged with the task of "developing a strategy for higher education to meet the needs of America's population and address the economic and workforce needs of the future."1 The Commission's final report, A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of United States Higher Education, makes several recommendations for reform and states in a summary that "improved accountability is vital to ensuring the success of all the other reforms we propose. Colleges and universities must become more transparent about cost, price, and student success outcomes, and must willingly share this information with students and families." Though the report was not an early wake-up call for assessment, since articles on the need and importance of assessment in higher education had been published in the literature before 2006,2 it was an important document on the topic from a political and administrative perspective and has had a significant impact on campuses across the nation. This is because, in response to the Commission's report, the regional accreditation organizations made changes in their standards, and these changes have been directly responsible for the trend toward assessment. As might be expected, some of the standards of several of these regional organizations relate to academic libraries and have changed the way they are assessed.
This article reviews the literature on assessment in academic and research libraries that has been published since the Commission on the Future of Higher Education was created in 2005 and up until August 2011. Much has been written about assessment [End Page 5] over the years. The author felt that coverage of the literature of the most recent six years would include sources that would still be reasonably relevant for academic professionals in 2011. The author was also interested in providing an examination of the coverage since the Commission's report to disclose new developments, ideas, and directions in the assessment of academic and research libraries. Also, to offer a competent and manageable review of the literature, the article focuses on assessments concerned with the management or administration of libraries and their collections, public services, and issues or projects affecting more than one department within a library. Assessments in the acquisitions and technical services areas have been excluded.
The author's goal was to treat the topic comprehensively. However, some sources were not considered significant enough to be included, and it is possible that other sources that perhaps should have been included were inadvertently left out. A representative selection of noteworthy older monographs and textbooks generally recognized for their contribution to academic and research library assessment has been included, along with a selection of publications on assessment in higher education that provides a more comprehensive perspective of the topic. Though the majority of the sources reviewed in this article were published in the United States and cover developments in the United States, some sources published in international or foreign publications that cover developments in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, or South Africa were included because they discuss developments similar to those taking place in American academic and research libraries and provide important insights into the topic.
Assessment is often equated with evaluation. To education professionals, assessment occurs when a researcher wants to discover what a student knows or can do, while evaluation is used to determine the value of a course or program. Authors of books focused on academic and research libraries normally use evaluation when they discuss the measurement (or evaluation) of a library's operations and services. In The Measurement and Evaluation of Library Services, F.W. Lancaster explains in his definition of evaluation that it "consists of the comparison of performance with the objectives of the agency, in order to determine (a) whether there has been any change in performance for a...