Fall 2023, Volume 31, Number 2 • ISSN 1066-7873 • Susana Stoll, editor
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68 ALA-accredited programs
64 institutions with ALA-accredited programs
34 US States (plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico) with ALA-accredited programs
5 Canadian provinces with ALA-accredited programs
42 ALA-accredited programs offering 100% online programs †
1 Program with candidacy status
19,818 total students enrolled in ALA-accredited programs in fall 2022*
7,249 graduates of ALA-accredited programs during the 2021-2022 academic year *
† As identified by the programs
* As reported by programs to the Office for Accreditation
Annual Fee Increase Effective October 2024
The 2024 fiscal year (September 2023-August 2024) budget is submitted. Increases in operating costs mandate expense reductions and necessitate a 10% annual accreditation service fee increase to $1,334.00, effective with the billing in October 2024. This applies to all programs with Continued, Conditional, or Initial accreditation status.
An email with instructions for regular interim reporting was sent to program-designated contacts (heads of programs and those also to be copied) on October 13, 2023. Any head of program who has not received the emailed instructions should contact the Office at email@example.com. The Committee on Accreditation (COA) will review the reports in preparation for its spring 2024 meeting (April 18-19,2024) and prepare a response at that time.
Director of the Office for Accreditation Retires; Interim Director on Board
Linda Lysoby, former Executive Director of the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc., has been hired as Interim Director of the Office for Accreditation in preparation for Director Karen O’Brien’s retirement at the end of November 2023. Many in attendance at the 2023 Association for Library and Information Education (ALISE) Conference in October had a chance to meet Linda.
New external review panelists sought
Find out about program reviewing at this link and pass it along to colleagues you think would benefit from the experience https://www.ala.org/accreditedprograms/resourcesforerp/becomereviewer/ER....
The Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) appreciates your recommendations of colleagues to the Office directly.
Especially sought are reviewers with expertise in:
Archives and records management
Cultural heritage information management
Curricular review and redesign
LIS graduate program administration
Service to diverse populations
French language skills
Spanish language skills
At the CoA Meeting at ALA Annual Conference 2023
Continued Accreditation status was granted to the following programs:
- Master of Science in Information and Library Science at University at Buffalo, SUNY. Follow up reporting is due on February 15, 2025, regarding how diversity, as the program references in the Self-Study section I.2.6 and elsewhere is incorporated in curriculum and teaching in the accredited program; how course content is updated (Standard II.1); an update on the hiring for the vacant faculty position (Standard III.1); how the program ensures student support services for career guidance, counseling, and placement assistance (Standards IV.4 and IV.5.6); and how the program ensures student representation on departmental committees (Standard IV.5.1) and in other organizations (Standard IV.5.5).
- Master of Science in Information and Library Science at Queens College, CUNY. Following up reporting is due on February 15, 2024, regarding providing evidence that the full-time faculty are sufficient in number and in diversity of specialties to carry out the major share of the teaching, research and service activities, as required by standard III.1; provide an update on your meeting with the provost regarding space, and any subsequent improvement in the space and facilities for the program; describe the implementation of an ongoing broad based systematic planning process, incorporating all aspects of the Standards, including curriculum development, faculty hires, student support and services, and other aspects as described in Standard I; the program appears to have individual course-based student learning outcomes, but evidence of how the curriculum achieves the program-level student learning outcomes is lacking; and provide an update on the composition of the advisory board and efforts to incorporate input from employers other than public libraries.
By Karen L. O'Brien, Director, ALA Office for Accreditation
After two decades with the ALA Office for Accreditation, I am retiring at the end of November 2023. This is my final Director’s column for Prism. What a satisfying journey it’s been working with such devoted staff and dedicated volunteers. Working with the Committee on Accreditation (CoA) has been especially fulfilling.
To the 2023-2024 Committee we welcome:
- Nona Ostrove, a public member (not of the library and information profession, an attorney)
- Joe Sanchez, one of the five faculty members on CoA, who works at Queens College, CUNY.
The overarching lesson for me in all of the work is that everything boils down to good decision-making— certainly all accreditation work is in service of it. This is not without challenges-- the vagaries of decision-making are many and when decisions are delayed or not made, there are also consequences, mainly in progress thwarted. This is the reality of decision-making in organizations generally, but in accreditation, it is key.
Accreditation standards ask for details on decision-making-- the familiar ‘five Ws’ apply: who, what, when, where, and why. When programs can document a systematic (regularized and predictable) approach to decision-making, much of the crucial accreditation work is accomplished. Reporting involves who makes decisions (the stakeholders involved), what decisions were made and when (how regularly/ frequently), where the decisions were made (in what contexts-- mostly in meetings of course, but also by individuals), and why (precipitating factors such as results of evaluation).
When decision-making is delayed, that too must be accounted for, but the dynamics are often hard to explain. That is true for programs reporting on accreditation efforts and is also the situation with the delay in a decision on adoption of the Standards revision. After more than a year of gathering feedback on successive drafts, the CoA brought a revision forward to ALA Council for a decision on adoption ahead of its meetings at the ALA 2023 Annual Conference. The chair of the CoA reported on the revision to ALA Council. The Council was not prompted to vote.
Leading up to this ALA Council meeting, the CoA responded in writing to recommendations from an ALA/Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) working group on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). The CoA also met with its Executive Board liaison prior to the Council session to discuss the Committee’s response to the working group’s recommendations. Four meetings with members of CoA and the working group followed in which language in the revision was reworked. That further revision was shared with the Association of Library and Information Science Educators (ALISE) Council of Deans, Directors and Chairs (CDDC) at its session at the 2023 ALISE Annual Conference.
The CoA chair then met with the ALA Executive Board at its meeting on Saturday morning, October 14, to mitigate the delay of the vote on adoption of the Standards revision by requesting that a special session of ALA Council be held in November or December 2023, to vote on the revision. That request was approved. A special session has been tentatively scheduled for Thursday, November 30.
In the eight-year cycle of reviews under the current 2015 Standards, the Office documented the effect of applying the Standards by collecting program review evaluation and tracking CoA response in letters to programs’ application of the Standards. The CoA fulfilled its charge of “executing” ALA accreditation by making thoughtful decisions on accredited status, all the while scrutinizing the efficacy of the Standards on which decisions are based. The documentation has been analyzed in terms of standard elements cited, paying attention to the effect to note what interpretations were made by programs and CoA. Using this kind of approach, members of the CoA Subcommittee on Standards Review developed revision language to address what programs are experiencing. Some of that is a reflection of decision-making on the part of programs as to how best to show its achievements and challenges. Within the context of the Standards, that is a major undertaking: making Standards interpretation decisions.
In accreditation, everyone learns more than a few things about what they’re doing together and where they’re going. That learning journey makes the process rewarding in all its twists and turns.
Thank you, dear readers, for being on this journey with me— keep on learning! That’s my retirement plan.
If you’d like to join me at the retirement reception on Thursday, November 16, 2023 (5:00 pm – 7:00 pm), in-person at ALA headquarters in Chicago or virtually, please send a note to email@example.com with the subject line: Nov 16 Reception.
By Gail Dickinson, 2023-24 Chair, Committee on Accreditation (Professor Emerita, Old Dominion University)
Healing from a recent kitchen mishap-- hitting my thumb with a hammer while using a kitchen appliance, provides what seems an analogy for this slow process of revising the Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies (Proposed Revision to the ALA Standards). The kitchen mishap created a nasty-looking bruise right at the very base of the thumb. There is no way to fix that-- nothing to be done but to cope with the slowness of the healing as it moved, bit by bit, on its way up my thumbnail. It doesn’t look great and it takes a long time. It even hurts.
The struggle to educate librarians and information specialists in today’s divisive political climate at the local, state, and national levels is a reflection of wounds. The hammer of state policies prohibiting funding, mindfulness, or even mention of diversity, equity or inclusion (DEI) is rampant, and happening in more and more states. State universities, where many of the ALA-MLIS programs are located, are especially feeling this pressure. And yet, at the same time, the need for library and information professionals to work for the right to read, freedom of access, and services to further social justice are crucial for today’s society. Those will be even more important in the future.
So how are LIS programs going to continue to educate for the needs of our global and diverse society given the state or university policies that not only discourage those goals but may in fact outlaw them? How can we ensure that librarians are prepared with social justice values that are the hallmarks of the library and information services profession? One thing we cannot do is to put our responsibilities on a shelf, thinking that right now we can conform to threats, perceived or real, and re-open that DEI box in a few years when the tide will turn. We cannot turn our backs on the basic values that are the basis of the library profession. If we launch LIS professionals in the workforce with no grounding in DEI and social justice, we are creating the bruise at the base of the nail that will stay with us until those professionals reach their personal retirement age. It will be decades, agonizing slow, and painful for those who well understand the power and potential that strong librarians could have.
Library educators are not alone in this struggle. Counseling, nursing, education, and other professions, especially those grounded in the social sciences, are facing the same concerns and developing similar strategies to meet them.
The Standards revision focus is on the importance of DEI in the preparation of library and information professionals. There is no free pass; there is no excuse. That the times are divisive is indisputable, but there has to be a way that libraries can continue to be a strong force and a safe place for all information users. There has to be a way that programs, working together, with ALA’s help, can search for strategies and solutions that will meet the standards and work for the common good.
I started my library career at the dawn of the digital age, working on the CONSER system. But early on I pivoted to medical librarianship, which has been my passion ever since. When I arrived as Director of the ALA Office for Accreditation, the 1992 Standards were about to be launched. After shepherding that process for five years, I became Dean of the LIS program at Dominican University in Chicago. In 2005, I was offered a graduate fellowship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, enabling me to broaden my teaching and research to include health informatics at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where I have been for 15 years. During that time, I have served on review panels for both informatics (CAHIIM) and ALA. I served on the CAHIIM Board from 2014-2020 and am completing my 6th year of service on the Board of the Sewell Learning Partnership. I am a Fellow of the Medical Library Association and the American Medical Informatics Association.
Q. Describe your career path, including any interesting work or other projects you have been involved with lately.
When I reflect on my career, I see how we are creatures of our times, and that social change affects us all. I completed my university studies amid great social upheaval, which eventually resulted in my obtaining my MS from Simmons College in 1976. Shortly thereafter, I took my first position as a hospital librarian, and medical librarianship has been my primary focus ever since. So how did I end up in accreditation? At the time I became director of the Office for Accreditation in 1992, the LIS field was undergoing significant change—perhaps even rebellion—against the “old ways” of teaching library science. Academia itself was changing; library schools were closing, and those that remained saw a need to innovate and realign their programs. At the national level, new organizations such as CHEA and ASPA were created to re-think the process of accreditation itself. And re-think it we did. While some may say the changes went too far; others contend it was sorely needed at the time. ALA’s “new” standards have continued to evolve, encouraging programs to engage in continuous quality improvement. We went from an era characterized by The Closing of American Library Schools* to the present when the number of accredited programs has increased, making the LIS field more accessible and raising the profile of ALA Accreditation.
Q. Describe what was most challenging about your work as a dean.
Not surprisingly, the role of a dean also continues to evolve. In my experience at a small institution (Dominican University), the LIS program was one of the few graduate programs. It was challenging to balance excellent education and revenue generation, and a small faculty can become overly focused on internal issues, rather than outreach and innovation. For me, one of the greatest challenges was not having time to do what I really loved—research, teaching, and professional engagement.
Q. Can you tell us about your experience as director of the Office for Accreditation?
As I mentioned, I served the Office for Accreditation during a time of challenge and opportunity. Some of the pressures to “adapt or die” led to the iSchool movement, which some saw as an alternative to accreditation “owned” by a “library” organization. However, programs have evolved, and many excellent, innovative programs encompass a variety of digital components. By encouraging self-examination and using measurable objectives, LIS programs achieve accreditation and compete favorably with computer science programs, often having a humanizing impact on the digital world.
Q. You have been involved in the accreditation review process as a reviewer for many years. What differences, if any, strike you about the process as you managed it and how it works now?
During my time as Director, there was much innovation: some changes worked well, others not so much. While the changes were necessary, stability was needed. Over time, ALA has developed a consistent approach that meets the needs of the profession and society as a whole. As we move forward, accrediting organizations must continue to monitor a changing environment to avoid becoming moribund.
Q. What qualities make an effective reviewer and an effective chair?
Effective reviewers do their assigned tasks in a timely way, take a genuine interest in the program under review, and approach conversations on-site with an open mind. They are prepared to steer the conversation to address all aspects of the Standards. Reviewers should feel free to share information with each other, and offer their insights, but not attempt to persuade other team members. Nor should they share their perceptions beyond the accreditation review process.
Effective chairs listen as well as talk; they start with an open mind, guided by a full understanding of the Standards. They hold team members accountable, which may entail a private conversation. They establish a timeline and make sure everyone follows it. They respect the program’s leadership and ask questions without leading the witness. Everyone on the team should leave the visit feeling satisfied with their work together so they can honestly say “mission accomplished.” All members of the team—especially the chair--should respect the difference between giving feedback to the program and pre-empting COA’s decisions.
Q. What advice would you give to new reviewers?
If you are a new reviewer, be a good student. Read. And read again in the areas for which you are responsible. Become very familiar with the Standards and recognize that they don’t read like a novel—every word is meaningful. Ask questions, be a team player. Remember, you will have little to no time to yourself once the visit has started, and be sure to attend all pre-visit conference calls, Zoom sessions, etc. Participate in training sessions, even if you are not currently assigned. Leave your own program or LIS education behind. This is not about you. Be a team player (yes, I know I’m repeating myself, but…it’s important!) It’s a lot of work, but you have the great privilege of meeting fine, smart people and gaining insights you can bring back to your home environment.
Q. What do you feel is the most important aspect for reviewers preparing for a comprehensive review? How about for programs preparing?
The faculty’s input to the program’s self-study is critical. The review team will interview each faculty member and take what is said seriously. Many reviewers are faculty, too, which can often result in an immediate sense of connection. Quite possibly, a faculty member has been a reviewer for another program or may be involved in accreditation or similar activities in their own area of expertise. Pressed for time? The time expended for self-study is significant, and so must be acknowledged as professional activity in service to the institution.
Q. What advice would you give faculty involved in working on a program’s comprehensive review for the first time? How about for reviewers?
When a program applies for accreditation, it commits time and resources to self-study. Ideally, it is a team effort, though it often falls to one or two individuals who keep the process moving forward. Leadership should establish a timeline, at least a year, to organize the approach, seek input, and keep constituents informed of progress. Although the Standards helps assess your program as it is, not as you would like it to be, the process itself can stimulate new energy via the mission, goals, and objectives aspect of the self-study. When done well, undertaking a self-study will enable you to achieve the ideal state you envision. This level of commitment will likely be obvious to the panel members who are encouraged to mention it, both on-site and in the ERP report.
Q. Do you have any general observations about the accreditation process that you’d like to share?
Accreditation has a long history in the U.S., and like many things that have been around a long time, it is subject to being criticized and/or challenged. While it may feel uncomfortable at the time, it can often stimulate needed examination and change. The full impact of remote learning–at all levels during the pandemic—is still being felt and assessed. This is as it should be. Self-reflection through accreditation is healthy and is needed to ensure quality. The participation of knowledgeable and insightful reviewers is essential and valued.
Q. What are two good books you would recommend on any subject?
It’s tough to limit myself to two books—but here goes: Any of Alice Munro’s books of short stories; she is one of only 13 women who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature (2013) and is a masterful storyteller whose work has been compared to Chekhov.
I also recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr—winner of the Pulitzer Prize. I can’t wait to read Doerr’s newest book Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Last, I can’t overlook two important books for those of us in academia, especially in LIS education.
The work of sociologist Andrew Abbott, (The System of Professions) reminds me once again of the importance of librarianship and its values. His recent publication, Digital Paper, is about writing—but a whole lot more. If you read nothing else, take a look at the preface and chapter one. It won’t surprise you to learn that Abbott’s mother was a librarian, and he is unstinting in his own devotion to libraries.
*The Closing of American Library Schools: Problems and Opportunities. Larry J. Ostler , Therrin C. Dahlin, J. D. Willardson (The Library Quarterly, Volume 67, Number 1Jan., 1997, https://doi.org/10.1086/629912).
External review panelists contribute substantial time and effort to the accreditation process to assure quality in LIS education. We extend our appreciation to the following panelists who served on accreditation reviews during the spring 2023 academic term.
- Peter Deekle, Dean of University Libraries (retired) and Community News Editor, National Peace Corps Association
- Edward T. O’Neill, Research Scientist (retired), OCLC
- Stephen T. Bajjaly, Professor, School of Information Sciences, Wayne State University
- Anne Barnhart, Professor & Head of Outreach & Assessment, University of West Georgia
- Jenny Bossaller, Associate Professor, School of Information Science & Learning Technologies
- Pauletta Brown Bracy, Director, Office of University Accreditation & Professor, School of Library & Information Sciences
- Clara Chu, Director and Mortenson Distinguished Professor, Mortenson Center for International Library Programs
- Dallas Long, Dean of University Libraries, Illinois State University
- Laura Saunders, Division Director, School of Library and Information Sciences, Simmons University
- Keith Ann Stiverson, Director (retired) of the Law Library, Chicago-Kent College of Law
National Recognition is awarded to master’s programs in school librarianship that have been reviewed and approved by AASL's program reviewers using the ALA/AASL Standards for Initial Preparation of School Librarians.
Spring 2023 reviewers appreciated
We extend our appreciation to the following program reviewers and auditors who served during the spring semester:
- Cassandra Barnett, Library Media Specialist, Curriculum Support, Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
- Judy Bivens, Chair, Library and Information Science (MLIS) Program, Trevecca Nazarene University
- Audrey P. Church, Coordinator, School Library Media Program, Longwood University
- Patsy Couts, Professor, Advanced Professional Services, College of Education and Professional Studies, University of Central Oklahoma
- Sherry Crow, Professor and Department Chair, Advanced Education Programs, Fort Hays State University
- Pamela Harland, Professor, Program Coordinator, Digital Learning Specialist, Library Media, Plymouth State University
- Ramona Kerby, Professor, School Librarianship Program, McDaniel College
- Brenda Pruitt-Annisette, Educator/Researcher, DeKalb County School District