ACRL History

Portions of this history are reprinted with permission from the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, 3rd edition, New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 2010, volume 1, pp. 358-373 .

Origins of ACRL
ACRL Becomes a Division
Strategic Planning
Impact on Higher Education, Scholarly Communication, and Civic Development
Commitment to Professional Development and Growth
ACRL Leadership


The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is the higher education association for librarians. Representing more than 10,200 academic and research librarians and interested individuals, ACRL (the largest division of the American Library Association) is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to help academic and research librarians learn, innovate, and lead within the academic community. Founded in 1940, ACRL is committed to advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL represents librarians working with all types of academic libraries—community and junior college, college, and university —as well as comprehensive and specialized research libraries and their professional staffs. In August 2018, ACRL had a total of 10,260 members (accounting for 17.7% of ALA’s membership): 9,608 personal members, 634 organizational members, and 18 corporate members. Approximately 48% of the personal members work in research/doctoral granting institutions, 20% in comprehensive institutions, 12% in 4-year colleges, 9% in 2-year/technical institutions, 1% in independent research libraries, 1% in information-related organizations.

ACRL activities are guided by the core values, vision, and goals in ACRL’s strategic plan, the Plan for Excellence. The core purpose of ACRL is to lead academic and research librarians and libraries in advancing learning and transforming scholarship. ACRL advances its work by serving as a channel of communication among academic librarians, faculty, students, administrators, other information professionals, higher education organizations, federal, state, and local governments, and the larger society. It is the leading professional organization of choice for promoting, supporting, and advancing the values of academic libraries to the higher education community. ACRL and, indeed, the American Library Association itself, were founded to establish regular channels for communication among librarians. Today ACRL is a dynamic, inclusive organization that has grown from its early origins of college and reference librarians to a large association encompassing all types of positions in all types of academic and research libraries. ACRL members hold a variety of positions and responsibilities in the areas of management, public and information services, technical services, online services, assessment, information literacy, data curation and management, collection development, rare books and special collections, non-print media, and distributed education.


Since the late nineteenth century, conferences and meetings of professional groups have been an American institution. They reflect our penchant for association and our passion for professional self-improvement. In 1853, American librarians held their first convention in New York City. About one-fifth of the 81 librarians who attended the meeting were college librarians. Not until a generation had passed, however, and the crisis surrounding the Civil War was over, did American librarians hold a second national meeting. In the spring of 1876, Melvil Dewey and Frederick Leypoldt sent out their famous call for a conference of librarians to promote "efficiency and economy in library work." Of the 103 librarians present when the conference convened in Philadelphia in September,10 were college librarians. The focal point of the 1876 meeting was the reading of papers on practical library subjects such as cooperative cataloging, indexing, and public relations. The response to the program was apparently positive because the conference participants voted on the final day of the meeting to establish the American Library Association and to hold Annual Conferences.

From the beginning, the American Library Association was a predominantly public library organization. But, the areas of common interest between public and academic libraries are extensive, and for the first dozen years of the association's existence the college librarians attending ALA conferences did not hold separate meetings. Finally, in 1889, a group of thirteen college librarians caucused at the Annual Conference in St. Louis and recommended that a college library section be formed. The following year, at the 1890 Annual Conference in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, fifteen librarians representing most of the major colleges of the Eastern Seaboard, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Brown, held the first meeting of the College Library Section. The new section was a small, relatively informal discussion group attended for the most part by administrators who could afford long distance travel. The annual meetings of the section provided a forum for the presentation and discussion of papers on such topics as reference work, cataloging, departmental collections, union lists, and the like.

In 1897, the section acquired a new name, the College and Reference Library Section (to recognize the participation of reference librarians) and, after the turn of the century, began to select officers to plan annual meetings. Not until 1923, however, did the section adopt its own bylaws and thereby cross the line that separates a discussion group from a section within ACRL today. The 1923 bylaws regularized the existence of the section by establishing a Board of Management with three officers to conduct the business of the section between conferences and provided for the levying of annual membership dues of fifty cents. During the 1920s, attendance at section meetings grew from ninety in 1923 to 240 in 1926 and peaked at eight hundred in 1928 before dropping off to six hundred in 1929. The meeting program of the section during the twenties and thirties included general sessions for the whole section, as well as separate roundtables for college and reference librarians. The topics discussed at the early section meetings are issues that still confront academic librarians today: faculty status and personnel classification, teaching students, interlibrary loan, library standards, etc.

From 1890 to 1938, the College and Reference Library Section served primarily as a forum for discussion. But, beginning in the 1920s, pressure began to build in the academic library profession for the creation of a stronger professional organization capable of undertaking a broad range of activities, programs, research, and publications. The occasion for a radical restructuring of the section came in the mid-1930s when ALA roundtables representing teachers, college librarians, and junior college librarians expressed the desire to affiliate with the College and Reference Library Section. In 1936, the chair of the section appointed a Committee on Reorganization to develop plans for restructuring the section. The final report of the committee in 1938 recommended the adoption of new bylaws that would transform the section into an Association of College and Reference Libraries with full autonomy over its own affairs. The new bylaws provided for the creation of subsections within the association for college libraries, junior college libraries, teachers college libraries, university libraries, and other groups that might wish to affiliate.


The section approved the proposed bylaws in June 1938 and officially became the Association of College and Reference Libraries (ACRL) by the end of the year. The ALA Council responded by ratifying a new ALA constitution that made provision for the creation of self-governing divisions within ALA, entitled to receive a share of ALA dues.

ACRL swiftly prepared a new constitution to meet the conditions for division status, and the ALA Council recognized ACRL as ALA's first division on May 31, 1940. The Association of College and Reference Libraries started its new life with six nearly formed subsections of its own: Agricultural Libraries Section, College Libraries Section, Junior College Libraries Section, Librarians of Teacher Training Institutions Section, Reference Libraries Section, and University Libraries Section. When the Reference Libraries Section departed to join the newly formed Library Reference Services Division in 1956, ACRL substituted "Research" for "Reference" in its name and became the Association of College and Research Libraries. With its sections, chapters and discussion groups, ACRL grew rapidly after its beginnings in 1938: membership jumped from 737 in 1939 to 2,215 in 1941, rose to 4,623 in 1950, increased to 9,324 in 1975, reached 11,524 in 2000, and dropped back to 10,260 in August 2018.

ACRL Office

First Executive Secretary

ACRL and its network of sections and committees grew so rapidly after 1938 that, by the end of World War II, the association could no longer, as A. H. Kuhlman put it, "be expected to run of its own accord." The elected leaders of ACRL were convinced that it was now essential to have a professional executive secretary, working under the direction of the president and Board of Directors, to integrate the activities and services of the association. As early as 1931, the ALA Council, recognizing that the interests of academic libraries had not always received adequate attention at ALA headquarters, authorized the appointment of a College Library Advisory Board (CLAB) to advise the ALA Board of Directors on academic library questions. One of the first recommendations of CLAB was that a full-time academic library specialist be employed at ALA headquarters to provide information and advisory services for college librarians. The ALA Council approved this recommendation for a college library specialist in principle, but throughout the rest of the 1930s and the war period, ALA never found the money to fill the position. The issue came to a head in 1946 when ACRL, with its growing membership and pressing need for professional staff, made clear that it would seriously consider withdrawal from ALA if the question of funds for a paid executive was not resolved satisfactorily. ALA responded within the year by appropriating funds to finance an ACRL headquarters staff.

Orwin Rush, the librarian of Clark University, came to ALA headquarters in the spring of 1947 as ACRL's first executive secretary. After launching the new ACRL office and clearing the way for its future, Rush departed for the University of Wyoming in 1949. In his place, came "young Arthur Hamlin, fresh from the University of Pennsylvania." Hamlin described the ACRL office in the early fifties this way: "Physically, the ACRL headquarters office is a second-floor front room, complete with fireplace, in the large, old-fashioned, reconverted mansion which is ALA headquarters at 50 East Huron Street in Chicago. Here an active staff of four, the executive secretary, the publications officer, a secretary and a clerk-typist, with their typewriters, telephones, file cabinets, and visitors hold forth. Like many a library staff area, ACRL headquarters is a noisy, crowded, active place." In 1961 a modern headquarters building replaced the old mansion.

As of February 27, 2018, ALA has entered into a consulting contract with Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), a major commercial real estate firm with headquarters in Chicago. C&W, along with ALA staff, worked to understand the use of headquarter space by exploring what works, what doesn’t work, and what features might be required to create an improved work environment. This work, conducted between March and May 2018, resulted in a Workplace Assessment and Scenario Analysis that the ALA Executive Board reviewed during the Annual Conference meetings in New Orleans 2018. After thoughtful debate, the ALA Executive Board approved to strategically explore the market for the possible sale of ALA headquarters. During fall 2018, ALA work with C&W to determine the current market value of ALA’s headquarters space; solicit bids for ALA’s property; engage an architect to further define ALA’s workplace requirements at a more detailed level; and explore opportunities to purchase or lease space elsewhere in the downtown Chicago area.

Communities of Practice

One of ACRL’s primary strengths is the effectiveness of its communities of practice, including committees, discussion groups, editorial boards, interest groups, sections, and chapter affiliates in meeting the interests of ACRL’s diverse membership. Membership in ACRL provides opportunities to become involved with communities of practice that focus on specializations within the profession. The 44 chapter affiliates provide members with networking opportunities at the local level throughout the North America.


In 1952 ACRL took the first step toward encouraging participation at the local level by recognizing its first local chapter—the Philadelphia Area Chapter. ACRL currently has 44 chapters, two of which include Canadian provinces. In 2015, two new chapters formed: a second Michigan chapter affiliated with the Michigan Academic Library Association, and the ACRL Idaho chapter. The purpose of the chapters is to bring the national organization closer to individual members and to provide programs beneficial to members at the local level.

Discussion Groups

In the 1970s ACRL added a new community of practice to its national organization—the discussion group. As of June 2018, ACRL had 21 discussion groups. In a sense, the discussion groups are a reincarnation of the original College Library Section. They provide a relatively informal framework for librarians with similar interests to gather to exchange ideas and information.

Interest Groups

In 2008, ACRL members approved a bylaws change allowing for the creation of Interest Groups. As of September 2014, ACRL members can affiliate with an unlimited number of sections and interest groups with no additional charge. By October 2018, ACRL had 21 interest groups including: Academic Library Services for Grad Students Interest Group; Academic Library Services to International Students Interest Group; Access Services Interest Group; African-American Studies Librarians Interest Group; Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Studies Interest Group; Contemplative Pedagogy Interest Group; Digital Badges Interest Group; Health Sciences Interest Group; History Librarians Interest Group; Image Resources Interest Group; Institutional Research Interest Group; Librarianship in For-Profit Educational Institutions Interest Group; Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group; Library and Information Science (LIS) Education Interest Group; Research Assessment and Metrics Interest Group; Residency Interest Group; Systematic Reviews and Related Methods Interest Group; Technical Services Interest Group; Universal Accessibility Interest Group; Virtual Worlds Interest Group.


By 1979 the association had 13 sections: the three "types-of-libraries" sections (College, Community College, and University) plus the Arts Section, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Section (which became an interest group in 2017), Anthropology Section, Instruction Section (name changed from the Bibliographic Instruction Section in 1995), Education and Behavioral Sciences Section (into which the old Teachers Training Section was incorporated), Law and Political Science Section (name changed to Politics, Policy and International Relations Section in 2016), Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Science and Technology Section (with which the Agricultural Section was merged), and the European Studies Section (created by a merger of the Slavic and East European Section and the Western European Studies Section in 2017). Between 1987 and 1990 three more sections were formed: Women's Studies Section in 1987 (name changed to Women and Gender Studies in 2011); African-American Studies Librarians Section in 1989 (name changed from Afro-American in 1997); and the Distance Learning Section in 1990 (name changed from Extended Campus Libraries Services Section in 1998). In 1994 the Literatures in English Section (name changed from English and American Literature Section in 2000) was formed. By 1997, ACRL had 17 sections, and that number remained static until 2017 when the number dropped to 15 sections following the merger of SEES and WESS as well as the transition of AAMES and AFAS to interest groups. The Digital Scholarship Section was created in 2017.

Coordination and Oversight

It is the responsibility of the ACRL executive director and staff to coordinate the work of ACRL's twenty-two committees, eight editorial boards, fifteen sections, twenty-one division-level discussion groups, twenty-one interest groups, and forty-four chapters. To ensure the smooth operation of this complex structure, the headquarters staff monitors the many procedural details associated with appointments, archiving, awards, budgets, elections, meetings, programs, reports, and so on. ACRL currently has 18.75 FTE positions for its Chicago office (housed in the ALA headquarters) and 22.4 positions for its CHOICE office in Middletown, Connecticut. The ACRL office works closely with committees and sections to plan stimulating meetings at ALA conferences, and also manages the arrangements for ACRL pre-conferences and conferences. Planning for these conferences begins years in advance, as detailed arrangements are worked out for hotel space, meeting times, exhibits, programs, publicity, and finances.

The ACRL office supports ACRL's publication program by providing assistance to the editors of C&RL, RBM, and Publications in Librarianship, by working closely with the editor of CHOICE who reports to the executive director, by publishing and distributing the many publications of ACRL committees and sections, and by writing, editing, and publishing C&RL News, the association's monthly news publication. With the exception of Choice, the ACRL staff based in Chicago manages the production of all ACRL books and journals.


Together with the ALA Headquarters Information Center, the ACRL office serves as a clearinghouse for information on academic library concerns and issues. The office handles inquiries regarding policies and practice. It also offers information about ALA activities and services and is in daily contact with the staff of other ALA divisions and offices, including the Washington Office.


ACRL serves as the ambassador for academic libraries and librarians at ALA headquarters. The ACRL Executive Director plays a key role in representing the association to other library and information associations, as well as to higher education and government communities. In this role, the executive director attends meetings and gives presentations in many parts of the country each year. In doing so, the director strives to maintain and establish lines of communication between the academic library profession and other communities. In 1984, a new standing committee, the Professional Liaison Committee, was established to further cooperative efforts and to put stronger emphasis on ACRL's liaison efforts with other associations. To build upon this work, in 1995, the ACRL Board developed the Professional Liaison Committee as the Council of Liaisons, identifying an initial nine important higher education associations to which it will send a liaison. In 2009, the Board expanded its liaison work and reconstituted the Council of Liaisons as the Liaison Coordinating Committee with three component groups, the Liaisons Grants Committee, Liaisons Training and Development Committee, and Liaisons Assembly Committee. In 2018, at the request of the Liaisons Coordinating Committee, the Board flattened the structure to the ACRL External Liaisons Committee.

Strategic Planning

Guiding all association activity is the strategic planning process adopted by ACRL. This process relies on member input to articulate the direction of the professional organization, and to identify areas of highest priority for association activity. Since 1981, ACRL has updated its strategic plan, mission, and vision on a regular basis. Each year, the ACRL Board of Directors sets the priorities and performance indicators for the association. At the 2003 Midwinter Meeting, the Board authorized contracting with Tecker Consultants to lead a strategic planning process. Extensive data gathering took place, including telephone interviews, focus groups, leadership sessions, and an all-member web-based survey. The Board reviewed the data, drafted a plan, tested its thinking with the members, and made revisions. The new strategic plan, “Charting Our Future: ACRL Strategic Plan 2020,” was approved by the Board at the 2004 Annual Conference and is reviewed annually with minor changes being made each fall at the Fall Executive Committee Meeting. The Board encourages ACRL’s units to align their work with the strategic plan. The Board began a new strategic planning cycle at the 2010 Midwinter Meeting which culminated in a new “Plan for Excellence,” which was approved on April 20, 2011. The Board reviews progress on the plan at its annual Strategic Planning and Orientation Session (SPOS) and makes adjustments as needed. In March 2016, the Board approved a revised Plan for Excellence that included a new goal, New Roles and Changing Landscapes, and updated the objectives in October 2016. The Board again reviewed the Plan for Excellence during its fall 2017 SPOS meeting, and approved revised objectives in October 2017. The Board added equity, diversity, and inclusion as a signature initiative in 2018 and the Board developed language for the Plan for Excellence and signature initiative at SPOS 2018. On November 18, 2018, the Board approved the addition of the Core Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to the Plan for Excellence. On January 28, 2022, the ACRL Board of Directors approved a fifth strategic goal area dedicated to Equity Diversity and Inclusion and that the existing ACRL Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee as a goal-area committee. Seeking input from member stakeholders, a Board working group has been charged with drafting the Equity Diversity and Inclusion goals and objectives, which will be reviewed in June 2022.  


ACRL is ALA’s key link to the higher education community and one of ACRL’s strategic directions is to ensure that the contributions of academic and research libraries and librarians to higher education, scholarly communication, and civic development are recognized by society. To this end ACRL has undertaken several initiatives.

Working with Higher Education Associations

While always looking to work with others in higher education, since 1995, ACRL identified a number of higher education organizations with which to share ideas and implement programs in areas of mutual interest. ACRL assigned member liaisons to these organizations and these individuals comprised the ACRL Council of Liaisons, currently known as the Liaisons Assembly Committee. The governance structure of ACRL’s work has change over time and is currently represented by the External Liaisons Committee. This committee works with ACRL units to open channels of communication to develop relationships with and collaborate with non-library higher education associations. ACRL units to explore liaisons and work with other associations. These organizations currently include: Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS), American Anthropological Association (AAA), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), American Chemical Society (ACS), American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), American Physical Society (APS), American Political Science Association (APSA), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), American Sociological Association (ASA), Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE), Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries (CBHL), Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), Geoscience Information Society (GSIS), Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC), International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers (IAMSLIC), International Association of Technological University Libraries (IATUL), International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), March for Science Medical Library Association (MLA), Modern Language Association (MLA), National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience (NRC-FYEST), National Women's Studies Association (NWSA), Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), Special Libraries Association (SLA), United States Agricultural Information Network (USAIN).

One of ACRL’s early successful liaisons was with the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), which ceased operations in mid-2005. Sample collaborative activities included joint sponsorship of a provosts’ luncheon at the AAHE annual conference and AAHE participation in developing the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. ACRL has also developed subject-specific information literacy standards in collaboration with subject discipline organizations. ACRL belongs to the Council for Higher Education Management Association (CHEMA), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), Project COUNTER, EDUCAUSE, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), which has led to increased collaboration. In 2011, ACRL partnered with the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to convene two national summits as part of the IMLS-funded project “Building Capacity for Demonstrating the Value of Academic Libraries.” In September 2012, ACRL continued its partnership with AIR and APLU on the three year “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success” program, made possible by IMLS. ACRL has also collaborated with CIC through participating and supporting CIC’s Information Literacy and Fluency workshops for campus teams of librarians, subject-discipline faculty, and administrators. Beginning in 2010, ACRL increased its presence with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the executive director has been invited to make several presentations on scholarly communication and open access.

Standards, Guidelines, and Frameworks

Developing standards, guidelines, and frameworks is an area where ACRL committees have made some of their most important contributions to academic librarianship. In 1957 the ACRL Committee on Standards, after two years of work, produced the "first real set of ‘Standards for College Libraries' to enjoy the consensual support of the profession." Since then, ACRL committees have developed standards for university libraries and two-year learning resources programs. In 2004 the ACRL Board approved the outcomes-based “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education,” inclusive of all academic libraries and this standard was revised in 2011. ACRL recruited and hired a team of trainers and have a licensed one-day workshop, “Planning, Assessing, and Communicating Library Impact: Putting the Standards for Libraries in Higher Education into Action,” to a variety of campuses and chapters. Guidelines have also been developed in many specific areas including cultural competencies, personnel, instruction, branch libraries, library services for distance education, rare books and special collections, and undergraduate libraries. “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education (2011) took the 2004 outcomes model a step further and are designed to guide academic libraries in advancing and sustaining their role as partners in educating students, achieving their institutions’ missions, and positioning libraries as leaders in assessment and continuous improvement on their campuses.

In January 2000, the ACRL Board approved the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.” The American Association of Higher Education and the Council of Independent Colleges have endorsed these standards and they are widely used on campuses across the country. There is global interest in the information literacy competency standards and they have been translated into 8 languages. Discipline-based information literacy guidelines have been developed for anthropology and sociology, journalism, literatures in English, political science, psychology, science and technology as well as teacher education.

In June 2012, the Board approved recommendations of a review task force that ACRL’s “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education” be extensively revised. In spring 2013, a second task force began the revision process, leading to the development of a draft “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.” Following a process that included several drafts and public comment periods, the Board took the official action of approving the Framework at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference and rescinding the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.”

Among its guidelines in the personnel arena, the ACRL Committee on Academic Status in 1971 drew up "Standards for Faculty Status for College and University Libraries." The ACRL Board approved the Standards in June 1971, and as a corollary ACRL drafted a "Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians" with the American Association of Colleges (AAC) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). ACRL, AAC, AAUP, and a host of other associations endorsed the statement, which laid down a clear definition of the obligations and benefits of academic status. This Joint Statement was reaffirmed by the ACRL Board of Directors at the 2007 Annual Conference. In 1992 "Standards for Faculty Status for College and University Librarians" was revised—"the first revision of this seminal document in the twenty-one years that had elapsed since its approval by a voice vote of the membership at Dallas in 1971." At the 1993 Midwinter Meeting, the ALA Council, by consent, approved the incorporation of the revised Standards into the ALA Handbook of Organization. Council's exceptional action reaffirms faculty status as the desired and appropriate condition of academic librarians nationally and lends the document the support of the prestigious parent body." A new revision of the Standards was approved the ACRL Board of Directors at the 2011 Annual Conference. In 2016, a new task force was appointed to review and update the Standards as appropriate.

In 1997 the Board approved changing the name of the Academic Status Committee to the Academic Librarians Status Committee and by 2013 the Board decided it was best to take up the revision of these guidelines with task forces as needed and dissolved the standing committee. At the 2005 Annual Conference, the ACRL Board of Directors approved an updated version of the “Guidelines for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians.” At the 2006 Midwinter Meeting, the ACRL Board of Directors approved the “Guidelines for Media Resources in Academic Libraries” and a revision of the “Guidelines for Academic Status for College and University Librarians.” The 2007 Annual Conference saw the ACRL Board of Directors reaffirm the 1989 “Statement on the Certification & Licensing of Academic Librarians” and the “Statement on the Terminal Professional Degree for Academic Librarians,” and approve the “Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators.”

2009 through mid-2011 saw a number of standards revised and developed including “ALA-SAA Joint Statement on Access to Research Materials in Archives and Special Collections Libraries,” "Guidelines for Curriculum Materials Centers,” “A Guideline for Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians,” “A Guideline for the Screening and Appointment of Academic Librarians,” “Information Literacy Standards for Teacher Education,” “Psychology Information Literacy Standards,” “Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators: A Practical Guide,” “Statement on the Certification & Licensing of Academic Librarians,” and “Statement on the Terminal Professional Degree for Academic Librarians.”

New and revised standards approved from 2012 through mid2018 include “ACRL Statement on Academic Freedom,” “ACRL/RBMS Guidelines For Interlibrary And Exhibition Loan of Special Collections Materials,” “Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practice: A Guideline,” “Competencies for Special Collections Professionals,” “Diversity Standards: Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries,” “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education,” “Guidelines for Media Resources in Academic Libraries, “Guidelines for Primary Source Literacy,” “Guidelines for Recruiting Academic Librarians,” “Guidelines for University Library Services to Undergraduate Students,” “Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians,” “Proficiencies for Assessment Librarians and Coordinators,” “Roles and Strengths of Teaching Librarians,” and Standards for Distance Learning Library Services,” “Standards for Libraries in Higher Education,” “Statement on the Certification & Licensing of Academic Librarians,” and “Statement on the Terminal Professional Degree for Academic Librarians.”


The ACRL awards program honors the best and brightest stars of academic librarianship. Twenty awards recognize and honor the professional contributions and achievements of ACRL members. This special recognition by ACRL enhances the sense of personal growth and accomplishment of its members, provides its membership with role models, and strengthens the image of its membership in the eyes of employers, leadership, and the academic community as a whole. Among its most prestigious achievement awards are the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award and the Excellence in Academic Libraries Awards, both sponsored by GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO.

There are three basic types of ACRL awards: achievement and distinguished service, research/travel grants, and publications. Achievement and distinguished service awards are intended to honor academic and research librarians for significant past achievements, such as publications, program development, or general leadership in the profession. Such awards include a plaque and may also involve a cash award. Research and travel awards, normally in the form of grants, can also recognize past achievements, but their main purpose is to assist academic and research librarians in completing a research project, usually relating to some aspect of academic or research librarianship. Publication awards are given for outstanding articles, bibliographies, catalogs, etc. ACRL awards are given to either individuals or groups. Depending upon the terms of the award, recipients do not necessarily need to be members of ACRL. All ACRL awards conform to the guidelines contained in the Awards Manual of the American Library Association. (Go to and click on “Awards & Scholarships.”)

Value of Academic Libraries

As librarians are increasingly called upon to demonstrate the value of academic libraries and their contribution to institutional goals, ACRL is responding with research and resources to support the profession in meeting this challenge. ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries Initiative, part of the 2011 Plan for Excellence, is a multiyear effort designed to provide academic librarians with competencies and methods for demonstrating library value relative to the mission and goals of postsecondary institutions.

ACRL has long been concerned with accountability, assessment, and student learning. In the early 1980s, ACRL was on the cutting edge of these issues with a publication on assessment to “stimulate librarians’ interest in performance measures and to provide practical assistance so that librarians could conduct meaningful measurements of effectiveness with minimum expense and difficulty.” The association is a national authority that the higher education community looks to for standards and guidelines to enhance library effectiveness.

Building on this work and given the emphasis on assessment issues, ACRL leadership and staff held an invitational meeting in 2009 with members of the library research community to discuss actions related to assessing and documenting library value. ACRL then commissioned a report on existing research and literature on the topic: “The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report.” This report recommends that ACRL create a professional development program to build the profession’s capacity to document, demonstrate, and communicate library value in alignment with institutional goals.

In response ACRL, together with three partners – the Association for Institutional Research, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council of Independent Colleges – was awarded an IMLS grant in 2011 from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services for a National Leadership Collaborative Planning Grant Level II. The grant proposal, “Building Capacity for Demonstrating the Value of Academic Libraries,” submitted in February 2011, covered costs to convene two national summits in late fall 2011 to determine the professional competencies that librarians need. College and university chief academic officers, senior institutional researchers, representatives from accreditation commissions and higher education organizations, and academic librarians attended the summits to share their best thinking. A white paper, “Connect, Collaborate, and Communicate: A Report from the Value of Academic Libraries Summits” summarizing the findings and setting a framework for future action was published in June 2012.

As a direct result of the IMLS collaborative planning grant, ACRL submitted a follow-up proposal in early 2012 and was awarded a National Leadership Demonstration Grant of $249,330 by the IMLS for the program “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success” (AiA) in September 2012. A professional development program to strengthen the competencies of librarians in campus leadership and data-informed advocacy has been designed, implemented, and evaluated. The project goals and anticipated outcomes consider the experiences of students in academic libraries and the impact of the library on student learning and success. Over two hundred institutions have participated in the three-year project. Each participating institution identified a team, consisting of a librarian and at least two additional team members as determined by the campus (e.g., faculty member, student affairs representative, institutional researchers, academic administrator). The librarians participated as cohorts in a 14-month long professional development program that included team-based activities carried out on their campuses. Supported by a blended learning environment and a peer-to-peer network, the librarians led their campus team in the development and implementation of an action-learning project examining the impact of the library on student success and contributing to assessment activities on their campus.

In January 2015, ACRL released a report synthesizing the project reports of the first 75 teams to participate in the AiA program. A report synthesizing the second-year projects was issued in fall 2015, “Academic Library Contributions to Student Success: Documented Practices from the Field.” Additional reports were published in 2016 (Documented Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success: Building Evidence with Team-Based Assessment in Action Campus Projects) and 2017 (“Academic Library Impact on Student Learning and Success: Findings from Assessment in Action Team Projects”). In June 2018 ACRL released the culminating print publication Shaping the Campus Conversation on Student Learning and Experience: Activating the Results of Assessment in Action.

In 2011, the ACRL Plan for Excellence identified “Value of Academic Libraries” as one of three areas for strategic focus. The goal is to have academic libraries demonstrate alignment with and impact on institutional outcomes.

Additionally, in 2011, ACRL established a standing committee on the Value of Academic Libraries to continue the association’s commitment to and focus on this work. The Committee’s first years have produced an active blog and a value bibliography.

In late April 2016, ACRL issued a request for proposals for the design, development and delivery of a new ACRL action-oriented research agenda on library contributions to student learning and success” and OCLC Research was selected to carry out the work. In September 2017, ACRL released the agenda Academic Library Impact: Improving Practice and Essential Areas to Research. This valuable resource investigates how libraries can increase student learning and success and effectively communicate their value to higher education stakeholders. The full report is freely available for download or for purchase. It provides an update on progress since the publication of Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report and is informed by scholarly literature as well as advances in practice, such as those documented by participants in the Assessment in Action program (described in the section below on grant funded –funded projects).

The agenda clearly identifies six priority areas for academic librarians and administrators to use as a guide and facilitator for developing academic services, collections, and spaces focused on student learning and success, along with research questions in each of those six areas requiring further study. In addition, the project includes an interactive literature analysis dashboard to help librarians understand and make use of existing literature for studies most relevant to their research interests. To ensure the report is used as a springboard for action, ACRL funded travel scholarships so that librarians can present about the contributions of libraries to their parent institutions at higher education conference and for small research grants so that scholars and practitioners can undertake research in the areas where it is most needed, as indicated in this report. A member leader and primary researcher have presented at several conferences to raise awareness of this new resource.

Also in 2016–17, facilitators from the Assessment in Action program designed a one-day workshop, now offered as a “road show” with other ACRL licensed workshops.

In Fall 2017, the ACRL Board of Directors approved the development of a national survey management tool for academic libraries based on PLA’s Project Outcome, and the establishment of a division-level Project Outcome for Academic Libraries Task Force. The Task Force is established to adapt the Project Outcome measures, developed by the Public Library Association, to an academic library context. Collecting consistent outcomes data will allow academic libraries to benchmark at the national and state level and will help ACRL better support its members and mission. Over summer and fall 2018 the task force sought volunteers to field-test new surveys it has developed. With an expected launch of the new academic library toolkit in spring 2019, the goal is to provide users with free, easy-to-use, standard surveys that all types of academic libraries can adopt to assess and improve their services, and to benchmark themselves against their peers.

Research and Scholarly Environment

In 2002 ACRL embarked on a three-year scholarly communications initiative as one of its highest strategic priorities; this initiative continues today through the work of ACRL’s Research and Scholarly Environment Committee (which had been named the Scholarly Communications Committee until July 2012), established as a standing division level-committee. The committee coordinates the association's scholarly communications activities and hosts a discussion group for further exploration of these issues beyond the initial three-year launch of the program.

Addressing issues critical to the future of all academic libraries, the association works to reshape the current system of scholarly communications, focusing on education, advocacy, coalition building and research. Broad goals of the initiative include creating increased access to scholarly information; fostering cost-effective alternative means of publishing, especially those that take advantage of electronic information technologies; and encouraging scholars to assert greater control over scholarly communications.

ACRL has partnered with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) signing on to letters in support of a number of calls for broader access to scholarly works, including several regarding the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) policies on open access for federally funded research. ACRL and SPARC partnered to offer an invitational only webcast to prepare committed grassroots advocates to take action in 2007. ACRL has participated in the Information Access Alliance (IAA) and the Open Access Working Group (OAWG), cosponsoring a symposium on anti-trust issues.

ACRL partnered with ARL to create the ARL/ACRL Institute on Scholarly Communication, which offered its signature event in July 2006, December 2006, and July 2007. This immersive learning experience prepared participants as local experts within their libraries and equips them with tools for developing campus outreach strategies. ACRL and ARL formalized their agreement and offered the first licensed regional institute for December 2007 and a second in December 2008. A regional event allowed the ACRL to support institutions that would not, for whatever reason, attend a national event. This move to a regional event as a natural evolution in the life of the institute enabled the ACRL to refocus its national efforts to meet the changing needs of the library community. Under the ARL/ACRL Institute on Scholarly Communication name, ARL and ACRL also jointly offered an in-person work shop in conjunction with the ACRL 2009 Conference, an 8-part webinar series in 2010, and in-person workshops in conjunction with ACRL 2013, the Library Assessment Conference 2014, ACRL 2015, and ACRL 2017.

In May 2009, the Board identified six as strategic priorities for 2009-2013, one of which was to, “enhance ACRL members’ understanding of how scholars work and the systems, tools, and technology to support the evolving work of the creation, personal organization, aggregation, discovery, preservation, access and exchange of information in all formats.” Given this focus and the perceived need to help members of the profession develop a basic awareness and understanding, ACRL invested in this workshop to extend the reach from a one-off workshop to a subsidized travelling program, now called “the road show,” which has remained competitive and successful for the past eight years. Additionally, in summer 2014 the presenters began offering webinars through ACRL eLearning that allow for deeper exploration of specific topics.

ACRL and ARL partnered with SPARC to offer 4 webcasts on Author Rights during Fall 2006 – Spring 2007. ACRL again partnered with SPARC to offer a full-day institution on conjunction with ALA MW 2015 on “Tackling Textbook Costs Through Open Educational Resources: A Primer.” ACRL convened an invitational meeting in July 2007 to collectively brainstorm the evidence needed to inform strategic planning for scholarly communication programs. In November 2007, ACRL issued a resulting white paper, “Establishing a Research Agenda for Scholarly Communication: A Call for Community Engagement.”

In 2009 ACRL joined the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) and submitted briefs and comments for the courts and the Department of Justice about regarding the proposed Google Book Settlement. LCA has submitted other amicus briefs of the court, as appropriate, to support the doctrine of fair use. Other action through the LCA include communicating concerns to the U.S. Trade Representative on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, releasing issue briefs on international copyright and the legal status of streaming films, supporting the U.S. statement on copyright exceptions for the blind and visually impaired before the World Intellectual Property Organization. In November 2012, LCA convened an invitational meeting in Washington, DC, with approximately 20 library leaders to explore, articulate and prioritize anticipated copyright-related issues facing the library community. The purpose of the meeting was to develop an appropriate strategy with articulated priorities to help inform the library associations’ work.

In 2011, ACRL appointed a visiting program officer to develop a robust and sustainable model for the Scholarly Communications 101 road show workshop, support the work of the Scholarly Communications Committee and develop other initiatives to advance ACRL’s work in this area.

In 2011, the ACRL Plan for Excellence identified “Research and Scholarly Environment” as one of three areas for strategic focus. The goal is to have academic librarians accelerate the transition to a more open system of scholarship.

In March 2013, ACRL published the white paper, “Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment,” written by a working group of leaders from many areas of the association. A formal task force was charged in October to promote its use. In 2015-6 curriculum designers worked to develop a one-day workshop on the intersections to be offered as a “road show.” Also in 2015-16, a second set of curriculum designers worked to develop another one-day “road show” workshop on Research Data Management.

Also in 2013, members of the Research and Scholarly Environment Committee (formerly Scholarly Communications Committee) began to update content in the popular scholarly communication toolkit and migrated from Drupal to WordPress. In 2016 the committee again evaluated the toolkit and hired a contract editor to make significant updates and migrate content to LibGuides. It is routinely promoted in September in advance of October’s Open Access Week.

In June 2015 the ACRL Board approved funding for curriculum design of two new ACRL licensed workshops, to follow the popular “road show” model and ACRL now offers workshops on data management and the intersections of scholarly communication and information literacy.

In summer 2017, members of the Research and Scholarly Environment Committee began planning on how to update the 2007 research agenda, with a focus on how best to including underrepresented voices.

In December 2017, ACRL issued a request for proposals for the design, development, and delivery of a new ACRL research agenda on the research environment and scholarly communication system. In early April 2018, ACRL announced the selection of Rebecca R. Kennison (Principal, K|N Consultants Ltd.) and Nancy L. Maron (Founder, BlueSky to BluePrint, LLC) for this research agenda. The final research agenda, expected to be published in Spring 2019, will provide an overview of trends, identify effective and promising practices, and delineate important questions where deeper inquiry is needed to accelerate the transition to more open, inclusive, and equitable systems of scholarship. This research agenda will be informed by scholarly literature, as well as by advances in practice and the voices of historically underrepresented communities.

In fall 2018 members of the Research and Scholarly Environment Committee began planning on how to promote the use of agenda by the community once it is released.

Student Learning

ACRL has undertaken a number of initiatives related to information literacy. For those working in information literacy, ACRL supports programs in the areas of professional development, assessment, and instructional development. Spearheading many of these programs was the Institute for Information Literacy (IIL). IIL was charged with preparing librarians to become effective teachers in information literacy programs; supporting librarians, other educators and administrators in taking leadership roles in the development of information literacy programs; and forging new partnerships within the educational community to work towards information literacy curriculum development. Conceptualized by Cerise Oberman, dean of libraries at SUNY Plattsburgh, the Institute for Information Literacy (IIL), was established by the ACRL Board at the 1997 ALA Annual Conference under the name National Information Literacy Institute. IIL is now known as the Student Learning and Information Literacy Committee (SLILC) and the Immersion program is now coordinated by the Immersion Program Committee.

ACRL approved the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education” at Midwinter 2000. In response to inquiries from members about their use on campuses, a training program was developed and was made available to members during Annual Conferences and Midwinter Meetings. In 2017, the Board approved the “Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education” and rescinded the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.”

A visiting program officer for information literacy was hired in 2015 to develop educational content to help the profession use the Information Literacy Framework and those outside the profession to understand its application to the curriculum. In 2016, curriculum designers were hired to develop a one-day licensed workshop, “Engaging with the Framework”, which became was first offered in October 2017.
Many ACRL sections have developed discipline-specific standards for information literacy including “Information Literacy Standards for Science and Technology,” (approved in 2006), “Research Competency Guidelines for Literatures in English” (approved in 2007), “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Anthropology and Sociology,” “Political Science Research Competency Guidelines” (approved in 2008), “Psychology Information Literacy Standards” (approved 2010), “Information Literacy Standards for Teacher Education” (approved in 2011), “Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education” (approved in 2011), “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Journalism Students and Professionals” (approved in 2011), “Information Literacy Standards for Teacher Education” (approved 2011), “Information Literacy Standards for Nursing (approved 2013). ACRL has also reviewed information literacy standards for music developed by the Music Library Association.

ACRL has also developed a number of standards to assist practitioners in developing and maintaining strong educational programs including: "Guidelines for Instruction Programs in Academic Libraries" (approved 2011), and “Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline” (first approved in June 2003 and revised in 2012).

In 2011, the ACRL Plan for Excellence identified “Student learning” as one of three areas for strategic focus.

New Roles and Changing Landscapes

After receiving input from member leaders at the ACRL Leadership Council during Midwinter 2016 and discussions held during the fall 2015 Strategic Planning and Orientation Session (SPOS), the Board voted to approve a revised Plan for Excellence in March 2016. The approved revisions to the Plan for Excellence included the addition of a fourth goal area, New Roles and Changing Landscapes.

The goal of New Roles and Changing Landscapes is for academic and research library workforce effectively navigates change in higher education environments, and the objectives are:

  1. Deepen ACRL’s advocacy and support for a full range of information professionals.
  2. Equip library workforce at all levels to effectively lead, manage, and embrace change.
  3. Expand ACRL’s role as a catalyst for transformational change in higher education.

In May 2016, the Board established the goal-area committee, New Roles and Changing Landscapes Committee, with the following charge:

To oversee and implement ACRL’s New Roles and Changing Landscapes goal, as described in the strategic plan; work with the ACRL Board and other ACRL units in creating a comprehensive effort including coalition building, professional development, publications, research, advocacy, diversity, and consultation services and in developing the ACRL New Roles and Changing Landscapes Initiative; and monitor and assess the effectiveness of this initiative.

The leadership of the New Roles and Changing Landscapes Committee (NRCL) convened at the fall 2016 Strategic Planning and Orientation Session (SPOS) in Baltimore, Maryland, to discuss the Plan for Excellence with the Board and other goal-area committee leaders.

In 2016-17 the New Roles Changing Landscapes Committee completed an environmental scan and connected with chair and vice-chair of the Research Planning and Review Committee, whose work has obvious relevance; established a plan for continued information-sharing, as well as identified the first two projects the committee will work on: Constellation and Implementing Change, setting the stage for work for 2017-2018, when these projects will begin in earnest.

Constellation: NRCL will develop a constellation of support mechanisms for librarians covering new areas of work. NRCL will (1) identify communities of practice, (2) identify librarians who can provide training in the form of a webinar, (3) develop a list of basic proficiencies, and (4) identify elements of a toolkit and work with the community of practice to begin compiling the toolkit and to identify gaps in the toolkit. NRCL will work with ACRL staff to market and publicize the constellations. In addition, NRCL will prioritize the next two roles for which to create constellations and identify communities of practice so that new committee members with appropriate experience may be named. Work will be completed by June 30, 2019. NRCL is exploring OER as a topic for its constellations.

Implementing Change: NRCL will design and develop the curriculum for a self-directed, self-paced, online course on facilitating and leading library innovation that would be taken by teams of library employees. NRCL will gather case studies from academic libraries who have successfully managed change on their campuses to be included in the curriculum. NRCL will work with ACRL staff to identify an instructional designer to implement the course. NRCL will work with ACRL staff to ensure that a facilitated version of the course is offered alongside the online version, using either ACRL Consulting Services or a library leader from another institution. Work will be completed in Spring 2019.

Grant-funded Projects

In 2000 ACRL received a $150,000 National Leadership grant from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services to develop tools and training to help librarians better assess student learning outcomes in information literacy courses. The work of thirty librarians and their campus teams in implementing and assessing information literacy courses was widely disseminated through presentations and publications.

In 2006, ACRL’s Rare Book and Manuscript Section (RBMS) received funding from IMLS to offer scholarships to newer and aspiring professionals in these fields to its annual conference which in 2006 has a special focus on issues of mutual interest to special collections librarians, archivist, and museum professionals. A total of thirty-three attendance scholarships were offered with preference given to applicants from professionally underrepresented backgrounds. The purpose was to increase the knowledge of conference participants’ knowledge of allied fields and increase their interest in communicating and collaborating with allied professionals. In addition, the aim was to stimulate scholarship recipients to show greater interest in pursuing or continuing

careers as special collections librarians, archivists, or museum professionals.

In 2011 ACRL’s RBMS members were also instrumental in getting a small ($3,000) grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation to support the mounting of backfiles of Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarianship on the RBM/HighWire website. The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation generously awarded ACRL/RBMS $5,000 in 2013 and in 2017 $8,000 to support scholarships to attend the annual RBMS conference.

In 2011 ACRL, together with three partners – the Association for Institutional Research, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council of Independent Colleges – was awarded an IMLS grant in 2011 from the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services for a National Leadership Collaborative Planning Grant Level II. The project entitled “Building Capacity for Demonstrating the Value of Academic Libraries” had a budget total (direct and indirect) is: $162,076, with the Grant sub-total: $99,985 and Cost Share sub-total: $62,091. The grant covered costs to convene two national summits in late fall 2011 to determine the professional competencies that librarians need. College and university chief academic officers, senior institutional researchers, representatives from accreditation commissions and higher education organizations, and academic librarians attended the summits to share their best thinking.

In 2012, ACRL was awarded a follow-up National Leadership Demonstration Grant of $249,330 by the IMLS for the three-year program “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success” (AiA). The grant funded a professional development program to strengthen the competencies of librarians in campus leadership and data-informed advocacy is currently in its second year of implementation. In January 2015, ACRL released a report synthesizing the project reports of the first 75 teams to participate in the AiA program. A report synthesizing the second-year projects was issued in April 2016. A report synthesizing the third-year projects was issued in May 2017. A special issue of College & Research Libraries 77, no. 2 (2016) was dedicated to action research from the Assessment in Action program. And ACRL published the edited collection Putting Assessment into Action: Selected Projects from the First Cohort of the Assessment in Action Grant in 2016 with twenty-seven cases addressing methodological issues for a variety of inquiry questions and intuition types. In 2016 ACRL also issued an online bibliography that aims to be comprehensive, capturing all scholarly and practice-based literature and presentations about ACRLs’ AiA program and campus projects conducted as part of the AiA program by staff, facilitators, and participants.

In January 2015, ACRL announced how to participate in the third year of the program, which implemented a registration fee as it is only partially subsided and endeavored to move to a sustainable model. In 2016, AiA facilitators designed a one-day workshop, offered as a “road show” as with other ACRL licensed workshops. In June 2018 ACRL released the culminating print publication Shaping the Campus Conversation on Student Learning and Experience: Activating the Results of Assessment in Action. This publication provides, in a single and comprehensive work, the story of ACRL’s Assessment in Action program—the context surrounding its development, findings of the team-based assessment projects, insights about the program results, reflections about its impact, and recommendations for future directions. While designed to capture the stories and successes of AiA, the book also provides effective strategies for applying the AiA findings and helping academic librarians develop assessments that result in meaningful impacts on their own campuses, using these assessments to better tell the story of the contributions libraries make.. It includes reflections from team leaders and a chapter about leading campus teams for collaborative assessment, which was simultaneously issued as an occasional paper by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Public Policy Advocacy

In September of 1997, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) in concert with the ALA Washington Office embarked upon its public policy initiative. The goal was to educate academic librarians about legislative/public policy issues pertinent to academic libraries and higher education. ACRL staff, the ACRL Government Relations Committee, the ACRL Research and Scholarly Environment Committee, the ACRL Legislative Network, the ACRL Board, the ALA Washington Office and other appropriate ACRL entities carry out the advocacy work. These groups work together to develop a legislative agenda that identifies ACRL policy priorities.

ACRL communicates information on its policy priorities via many means. A Legislative Network consisting of a representative from each of the 42 ACRL chapters and an electronic distribution list (LEGNET) was established to share the legislative agenda with other ACRL members, their institution’s administration and their congressional representative. Information on issues is also disseminated using the ACRLeads electronic distribution list, C&RL News, flyers, letters, and the ACRL Legislative Web Site ( When the ALA conference takes place in Washington, DC, ACRL has offered advocacy preconferences designed to acquaint academic librarians with federal legislative issues and to equip them with the skills needed to deliver effective messages to congressional representatives. ACRL also encourages participation in ALA Legislative Day, and has, in the past, provided travel grants for first time attendees and hosted a special luncheon to highlight issues of importance to academic librarians.

The Board approved the recommendations of ACRL’s Task Force on National Advocacy at the 2005 Midwinter Meeting. To supplement the existing ACRL Legislative Network, ACRL created a new position of Legislative Advocate. Legislative Advocates work as much as possible with other library legislative efforts in the state or region. 45 Legislative Advocates served in the inaugural group, appointed in Spring 2007. ACRL hired a short term Visiting Program Officer Michael McLane in late 2007 to expand the program, organize training opportunities and undertake assessment at the height, the program had 60 legislative advocates representing 28 states. In fall 2013, this program was phased out as sophisticated web-enabled “action alerts” have made it easier to communicate directly with librarians in specific congressional districts.

In 2009 ACRL joined the Library Copyright Alliance and has been active in submitting briefs and comments to courts and agencies as appropriate. ACRL is also active in the Open Access Working Group, a coalition to promote legislative and policy that would expand access to results of publicly funded research. ACRL regular releases a legislative agenda in conjunction with National Library Legislative Day. The 2018 agenda included Federal Funding Issues Affecting Libraries; Network Neutrality; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA); Access to Federally Funded Research (FASTR); PROSPER Act; Affordable College Textbook Act; Open, Permanent, Electronic, and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act; Federal Depository Library Program; Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act; and Government Surveillance.

@ Your Library Campaign, Grassroots Advocacy, and Libraries Transform Campaign

Although generally viewed positively, libraries are often taken for granted. The American Library Association (ALA) has undertaken several major advocacy campaigns on behalf of libraries. In 2001 ALA launched The Campaign for America's Libraries, a five-year commitment, to speak loudly and clearly about the value of libraries and librarians to our communities, schools, academic institutions, and businesses, as well as to our society, democracy, and the new digital age. Based on research and crafted to target key audiences, The Campaign worked to raise public understanding that libraries are dynamic, modern community centers for learning, information and entertainment. The campaign was designed to heighten awareness regarding the vibrancy, vitality and real value of today's libraries, to galvanize public support, and influence public policy. Working under the umbrella of the American Library Association @your library campaign, ACRL led the effort to develop a public relations campaign for academic libraries. Consumer research was undertaken to develop promotional materials. A toolkit was developed, mailed to all ACRL members, distributed at the 2003 ACRL Conference.

ACRL also launched a multi-year effort to emphasize the importance of academic libraries and librarians to the higher education community. A series of ads, focusing on the exciting things happening @your library, was placed in The Chronicle of Higher Education beginning in 2001. Testimonials from faculty, students, and administrators were an important component of this campaign. ACRL’s Excellence in Academic Libraries award winners have also been recognized in the ads. In 2003 the Board established the Marketing Academic and Research Libraries (MARL) Committee to continue developing @your library campaign tools for academic and research libraries and to eventually update the toolkit. In 2005 and 2007, MARL presented a Best Practices in Marketing @your library Award. In early 2010, MARL launched the ACRL Marketing Minute, a bi-weekly series of quick tips and insights on marketing research, trends, and data delivered through Facebook and Twitter.

ACRL President Camila Alire continued efforts to emphasize the value of academic and research libraries and librarians during her presidential year in 2006. A grassroots advocacy toolkit, focusing on “The Power of Personal Persuasion” was developed and mailed to every ACRL member. ACRL President Pamela Snelson continued the advocacy role by commissioning research on what senior academic administrators expect from librarians and subsequent ACRL Presidents have also focused on advocacy.

ALA ended the Campaign for America’s Libraries in 2015, and Sari Feldman, ALA president 2015-16, officially launched the Libraries Transform campaign in October 2015. Libraries Transform is a new, multi-year public awareness campaign highlighting the transformative nature of our nation’s libraries and elevating the critical role libraries and library professionals play in the digital age. The campaign provides branded print and digital materials for use in local library campaigns, including “Because…” statements that surprise and catch attention of target audiences. Its ultimate goal is to increase funding support for libraries and advance information policy issues in alignment with ALA advocacy goals. ACRL created a task force to support the Libraries Transform campaign and this group is advising ALA on messaging relevant to academic libraries and working with a consultant to update the marketing manual and ancillary materials developed as part of the @your Library Campaign. These updated materials are being placed in an ACRL LibGuide for the Libraries Transform campaign. ACRL is grateful to Gale for dedicating resources to support this work. ACRL continues its advocacy for academic libraries through a variety of initiatives.

Recruitment to the Profession

Professional associations such as the American Library Association, the Association of College & Research Libraries, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and state-based associations are key stakeholders in recruitment and retention efforts. The work of the profession is changing and association can help in recruiting talented individuals and in providing training to those already in the profession. Over the years, ACRL has undertaken a number of initiatives. The Personnel Administrators & Staff Development Officers Discussion Group of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) established the Ad Hoc Task Force on Recruitment & Retention Issues in early 2001 to examine how academic libraries can successfully recruit and retain professionals in an increasingly competitive environment. In 2002 ACRL and ARL formed a joint task to work on recruitment issues. A short video, “Faces of a Profession @ Your Library” highlighting the benefits of careers in academic and research libraries, was developed under the Task Force’s leadership. This video is freely available for downloading from the web.

In 2007, ACRL released “Achieving Racial and Ethnic Diversity among Academic and Research Librarians: The Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement of Librarians of Color,” a white paper commissioned by the ACRL Board of Directors working group on diversity. Building on the 2002 ACRL white paper, “Recruitment, Retention & Restructuring: Human Resource in Academic Libraries,” the authors discuss efforts to promote, develop and foster workplaces that are representative of a diverse population, along with addressing the development of a workplace climate that supports and encourages the advancement of librarians from underrepresented groups.

In 2003, ACRL founded the ACRL Dr. E.J. Josey Spectrum Scholar Mentor Program and committee to encourage LIS students who received ALA Spectrum scholarships to pursue academic librarianship. To date, ACRL has contributed $119,765 to the ALA Spectrum Scholarship program, sponsoring 15 Spectrum Scholars, and has also matched nearly 180 Spectrum Scholars with an ACRL member mentor. More than 25 Spectrum Travel Grants consisting of registration and a travel stipend have also been awarded to help scholars attend every ACRL Conference since 2005, with a total value of more than $25,000.

In 2016 the ACRL Board approved the creation of the ACRL Diversity Alliance (DA), to unite academic libraries who share a commitment to increase the hiring pipeline of qualified, talented individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. By thinking bigger and broader, across all academic libraries, ACRL aims to introduce and welcome to the job market underrepresented racial and ethnic groups with work experiences that advance academic/research libraries. Membership in the DA was up to 35 institutions in the 2016-2017 year. The first meet-up of Diversity Alliance members occurred at the 2017 ALA Annual conference, with plans to offer meet-ups at future ALA Annual and Midwinter conferences. A Residency Coordinator (RC) listserv was created, and the first RC needs assessment was conducted. The final institute of the four founding members was held in May 2017 with interest and discussion to expand the institutes to more member residents in the future. To oversee the establishment of the Diversity Alliance, an ACRL Task Force was established.


Summit on Technology and Change in Academic Libraries - In November 2006, ACRL convened a roundtable of librarians, higher education administrators, publishing and information industry leaders to address how technologies, on the one hand, and the changing climate for teaching, learning, and scholarship, on the other, will likely recast the roles, responsibilities, and resources of academic libraries over the next decade. One of the outcomes of the roundtable was a roadmap for ACRL to help its members deal with the ongoing changes in the profession and the academy. A white paper entitled “Changing Roles of Academic and Research Libraries,” was posted to the ACRLog. Then Vice-President Julie Todaro provided a detailed response to the essay and invited others to comment.

Stepping Through the Open Door: A Forum on New Modes of Information Delivery in Higher Education – In March 2007, ACRL joined EDUCAUSE and the National Association of College Stores to jointly sponsor an invitation-only forum focused on changing roles within higher education. An article from a participant appeared in C&RL News and the report was issued by the conveners in September 2007.

Building Capacity for Demonstrating the Value of Academic Libraries

The summits convened in 2011 as part of ACRL’s Value of Academic Libraries Initiative, are described in the “Value of Academic Libraries” section of this chapter.

Forum on Data Management

In January 2014 ACRL hosted a forum on data management with Drexel University Libraries. The goal of this forum was to have a dialogue between disciplinary faculty and academic librarians on the management, curation, and sharing of research data. The faculty agreed that they would want to share most of their data, although they allowed for the possibility that some data might need to remain private for a period of time, depending on the nature of the data and whether or not the scholar was still working with it. They saw strong roles for librarians including providing consultation on data management plans, curation, and long-term preservation of data. ACRL offered two workshops on data management in 2015 and now a offers licensed workshop, “Research Data Management.”


ACRL supports and enhances the professional development and growth of academic and research librarians through its numerous professional development activities.

ACRL Conferences

On its 40th birthday in 1978 ACRL took a giant step forward by convening its first National Conference, distinct from ALA, in Boston. The conference featured a three-day program of major addresses and research papers that attracted 2,625 participants. Participants praised the conference for focusing on academic librarianship, for stimulating research on the issues facing academic librarianship, and for bringing together librarians with a common professional interest in academic libraries.

The conference, now held every odd year, begun primarily as an outlet for presenting formal research papers, has responded to member interests and changes in the profession by diversifying its content over the years and attracting a more global audience. ACRL dropped the “National” from the Conference name in 2011, as the conference welcomes attendees from over 26 countries. New programming has been developed by adding panel sessions, by inviting noted leaders to present on current topics, by adding more opportunities for networking and informal dialogue (e.g., roundtable discussions, dinner with colleagues, yoga, art lounge), and by engaging attendees more actively in the learning process with a wider range of session formats. The 1999 National Conference offered first ever “conference-within-a-conference” on the topic of student learning and the first live Web broadcast. The 2005 conference saw the first full- fledged Virtual Conference offered in conjunction with a National Conference. The 2007 conference held the first Cyber Zed Shed, now known as TechConnect Presentations that demonstrate technology-related innovations.

Interest in presenting at the conference has steadily increased since 1978. Typically, the conference will feature about 90 contributed papers, 70 panel sessions, 6-7 preconferences, 16-20 workshops, 20 TechConnect presentations, 200 poster sessions, and 100 roundtable discussions. Acceptance rate, on average, has been around 20-30%, depending on the proposal type. Attendance at the conference has climbed over the past few years with nearly 3,500 attendees, 1,000 exhibitors and 300 - 500 virtual participants for each biennial conference. Slidecast recordings have been available on demand to broaden the reach to those unable to attend or those who want to review F2F content again after the conference. ACRL also launched its first Virtual Conference online community in 2005 and has continued the practice since to allow attendees the opportunity connect and access the conference content for up to one year after the event. ACRL will pilot electronic posters at ACRL 2019; electronic posters will be available for the first time post-conference as part of the Virtual Conference.

Since its first National Conference in 1978, ACRL has gone on to hold successful conferences in Minneapolis (1981, 1,881 participants), Seattle (1984, 1,754 participants), Baltimore (1986, 2,309 participants), Cincinnati (1989, 2,735 participants), Salt Lake City (1992, 2,241 participants), Pittsburgh (1995, 2,721 participants), Nashville (1997, 2,973 participants), Detroit (1999, 3,080 participants), Denver (2001, 3,388 participants), Charlotte (2003, 3,427 participants), Minneapolis (2005, 3,946 participants), Baltimore (2007, 4,784 participants), Seattle (2009, 4,321participants), Philadelphia (2011, 5,312 participants) Indianapolis (2013, 4,824 participants), Portland (2015, 5,072 participants), and Baltimore (2017, 5,253).

ACRL 2019, “Recasting the Narrative,” will be held in Cleveland, April 10-13, 2019.


ACRL offers online courses that provide low-cost continuing education opportunities for librarians in a format that allows them to work around their busy schedules. Courses are typically three weeks long and include real-time and asynchronous activities.

In 2004-05, ACRL also began offering live Webcasts, providing participants with interactive learning experiences on topics such as information literacy, standards, scholarly communication, and distance learning. Webcasts typically last 60-90 minutes and feature a live audio presentation accompanied by PowerPoint slides, Web sites, and other resources. Participants can interact with instructors through text chat, asking questions using a microphone, and responding to polls. ACRL established a group registration rate for Webcasts in April 2006. The group rate allows an institution to register multiple people and project the session to participants in the same location. ACRL introduced e-learning scholarships in 2010 that are supported on an annual basis. In partnership with TLT Group in the 2000s, ACRL offered a three-part online information literacy seminar series, featuring Webcasts on assessment, collaboration, best practices, and information literacy resources.

For the fourth time, ACRL offered a multi-day online-only professional development institute in the spring of a non-national conference year. The 2012 Spring Virtual Institute, “Extending Reach, Proving Value: Collaborations Strengthen Communities,” featured feature a keynote presentation, concurrent live webcasts, and asynchronous lightning talks. The SVI program explored how libraries, of all types, are capitalizing on community collaborations. As the webcasts increased, interest in a multi-day, themed virtual conference decreased, so additional virtual institutes have not been planned.

In spring 2008, ACRL offered its first Springboard Event. The 90-minute Springboard webcast, now an annual program, is available for free to the full ACRL membership, with the archived content available afterwards to the world via the web. Approximately 230 ACRL members participated in ACRL’s 3rd annual Springboard webcast featuring John Palfrey, Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law, Vice Dean, Library and Information Resources, Harvard Law School, and Faculty Co-Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and co-author of "Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.” The topic of privacy was chosen in conjunction with ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom’s inaugural “Choose Privacy Week.”

In addition, ACRL offers free occasional webcasts on issues of broad interest and importance to the academic and research library community under the “ACRL Presents” brand.

ACRL and Choice have teamed up to offer sponsored webinars which have proven to be an attractive vehicle for communication between librarians and vendors. The ACRL/CHOICE webinar series have proven popular with librarians, too, with hundreds of librarians registering for each event.


With the quantity of information growing exponentially and the expansion of technology into all aspects of the educational process, higher education is looking for those who can lead the way in using these new tools wisely and navigate the numerous challenges facing us all. It is more important than ever for academic librarians to step up and guide administrators, faculty and students through this new information environment.

ACRL takes its responsibilities for developing leaders seriously. Since 1999, it has partnered with the Harvard University Graduate School of Education to offer a five-day institute designed to increase the ability of library directors to lead and manage. The Institute helps participants to assess their own leadership capabilities and to analyze how well their own organizations are positioned to meet current and future challenges. Sessions focus on such topics as managing change, human resources, applying technology, team building and staff motivation. Learning is through the case study method. ACRL held reunions for the alumni of this program at the Midwinter Meeting during the early/mid-2000s and reoffered the reunion at the 2017 and 2018 Midwinter Meetings. In addition, ACRL partnered with Harvard to offer the Advanced Leadership Institute for Senior Academic Librarians. This new institute was designed exclusively for senior library leaders and alumni of the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians and addressed critical leadership issues including collaboration and alliances, influence and leadership, managing expectations of presidents and provosts, and the future role of the academic library. The program was offered in March 2008. While programmatically successful, the recessionary economy dampened registration for the March 2010 session and it was cancelled, but was held in March 2012.

In addition, ACRL collaborated with six other higher education associations to offer the Women’s Leadership Institute in December 2008. This unique program brought together mid-level administrators from across campus functions to share experiences, develop a better understanding of the campus as a workplace and culture, and create new networks and networking skills. The success of this endeavor led the associations to offer it the program again and ACRL has participated annually since the initial offering. The next Women’s Leadership Institute will be offered July 28, 2019–August 2, 2019.

Mentoring and Training Programs

Recognizing the importance of training and mentoring, ACRL developed the Academic Library Internship for Administrators of Black College Libraries, an internship program for librarians of predominantly black institutions. In December 1973, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation agreed to underwrite the program with grants totaling $350,000. During the four-year period of the program (1974-1978), 25 librarians from predominantly black institutions of higher education served as management interns for periods of three to nine months at nationally known academic libraries. The evaluation conducted at the end of the program suggests that the interns carried back to their home institutions a broad understanding of the management techniques and styles employed in large academic libraries. In 1987, ACRL received another grant from the Mellon Foundation to conduct a planning project to assist staff in libraries of historically black colleges and universities.

Under the leadership of Larry Hardesty, the College Libraries Section developed a mentoring program for new college library directors, which now has been offering programs for more than 20 years. Currently the program is a separate 501(c) 3 organization but the College Libraries Section continues to serve in an advisory role. The program focuses upon leadership and management skills in new college library directors. Since its inception, more than 333 first-year college library directors and 155 experienced library directors have participated in the program. The program consists of three webinars and then a 3-day on-site seminar at a host institution. Each new college library director is matched with an experienced library director in a mentoring relationship for the year.

The ACRL Board established the (ACRL Dr. E.J.) Josey Spectrum Scholar Mentor Committee in 2003 to provide conference programs on mentoring, recruit and maintain a pool of academic and research librarians to serve as mentors to Spectrum Scholars. In 2011 the Dr. E.J. Josey Spectrum Scholar Mentor Committee revised its mentor recruitment strategies, requirements, and training to more effectively manage the mentor/Scholar matching process. Nearly 180 Spectrum Scholars interested in careers in academic and research librarianship have been matched with an ACRL member mentor. The committee has forged a strong relationship with the ALA Spectrum Scholar Program staff.

Your Research Coach” was established in 2004-05 by the CLS Research for College Librarianship Committee to help academic librarians with research and scholarly projects. The program provides mentoring to librarians whose institutions cannot offer such support, and who need to publish or present to attain tenure. The committee will open up the program to other sections, starting with the Instruction (IS) and Distance Learning (DLS), once they are able to find more coaches.

Information Literacy Immersion Programs

The ACRL Information Literacy Immersion Program provides information literacy training and education for librarians in the areas of pedagogy and leadership. The popular 4.5 day “Classic” Immersion program provides two tracks for intensive training and education of librarians: 1) the teacher track, focusing on individual development for those who are interested in enhancing, refreshing, or extending their individual instruction skills; and 2) the program track, focusing on developing, integrating, and managing institutional and programmatic information literacy programs. A national faculty of 15 outstanding instruction librarians has been assembled to design, write, and teach the immersion program. The first immersion program was held in July 1999, at Plattsburgh State University of New York and was geared toward academic librarians. Since then, the program has been offered annually with a total of 46 immersion programs training nearly 3,000 people have been held or licensed in California, Canada, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.. While most immersion programs have been held for librarians only, some have been developed to include both librarians and teaching faculty. In addition, ACRL licensed its first institutional-based Immersion program to Cornell University in FY12. The model was very successful and ACRL licensed a similar program to a Hong Kong academic library consortium in FY13, Yale University in FY14, the Singapore academic library community in FY15, and the CTW Consortia, University of Chicago and Penn State in FY16.

In fall 2006, the Immersion faculty offered an addition to the Immersion program - “Intentional Teaching: Teaching: Reflective Practice to Improve Student Learning.” The Intentional Teaching program provides 3.5 days of learning and reflection for academic librarians and offers a mixture of structured and co-constructed learning segments such as peer discussions, individual reading and reflection times, and participant-led communities of practice.

The ACRL Institute for Information Literacy announced another new addition to the Immersion program in 2008. The Assessment: Demonstrating the Educational Value of the Academic Library is intended for librarians active in teaching and learning and those with leadership roles for information literacy program development who want to improve their knowledge and practice of both classroom and program assessment. The inaugural Assessment Immersion Track was offered in December 2008.

A new structure to the Immersion Program was introduced in 2009. Intentional Teacher and Assessment tracks have been offered simultaneously since fall 2009, while Teacher Track and Program tracks continue to be offered together in summer. This schedule blended immersion programs with similar formats and lengths to offer a more cohesive immersion experience.

Two new Immersion Programs were offered in FY13, “Practical Management for the Instruction Coordinator” and “Teaching with Technology & Instructional Design Program.” The Practical Management was reoffered in FY15 and Teaching with Technology was reoffered in 2017.

The Immersion faculty spent FY17 working on an extensive curriculum redesign for the program, and the new curriculum description and learning outcomes made available in fall 2017. The newly designed program was offered to 120 participants in St. Paul, Minnesota, July 28-August 3, 2018. The redesigned curriculum included a range of activities, including plenary sessions that lay a foundation to group work with opportunities for discussion, hands-on activities, peer-to-peer feedback, and a capstone experience.

Workshops and Preconferences

ACRL sponsors workshops, seminars, and preconferences at ALA conferences. Most notable in this area are the preconferences developed by the ACRL Rare Books & Manuscripts (RBMS). For over 60 years RBMS has provided three days of programming for rare books, special collection, archives and manuscripts librarians at its annual preconference. In 2015 the RBMS preconference started officially being recognized as a “conference” (although the timing is still prior to ALA Annual), because of its growth in size and complexity.

ACRL also offers a variety of programs through its extensive chapter network. Local and regional chapters typically offer annual conference programming. To support these efforts, the ACRL Board of Directors has allocated funding for the ACRL president, vice-president/ president-elect and the executive director to visit ACRL chapters. Currently funds to support 10 visits per year are budgeted. The ACRL Chapters Speakers Bureau fosters closer relations between the Association and its members by creating opportunities for leaders to share perspectives and concerns at the regional and national level.

In 2017, ACRL expanded its offerings of one-day workshops that are available upon request to campuses, chapters, or consortia on a licensed basis by hiring curriculum designers. These popular “road shows” now include these offerings: 1.) Planning, Assessing, and Communicating Library Impact: Putting the Standards for Libraries in Higher Education into Action; 2.) Scholarly Communication: From Understanding to Engagement; 3.) Building Your Research Data Management Toolkit: Integrating RDM into Your Liaison Work; 4.) Two Paths Converge: Designing Educational Opportunities on the Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy; 5.) Engaging with the ACRL Framework: A Catalyst for Exploring and Expanding our Teaching Preferences; and 6.) Assessment in Action: Demonstrating and Communicating Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success.

Annual Conference Programs

As a means of addressing issues of concern and to increase the knowledge of academic librarians, ACRL units and members develop programs to present at the ALA Annual Conferences. ACRL sections, interest groups, committees, and personal members submit program proposals to the ACRL office 9 months prior to the Annual Conference at which the program is to be presented. This includes programs that are not requesting funding, as well as those that are asking for funds. ACRL encourages its units to cosponsor programs with other ACRL or ALA units and outside organizations. The ACRL Professional Development Committee (PDC) reviews and selects programs for presentation. In 2017, ALA centralized program proposals and delegated review of proposals involving academic libraries to ACRL. Anyone wishing to submit a proposal to ACRL may. This has resulted in ACRL’s Professional Development Committee reviewing on average 100 proposals for 19 slots.

The ACRL Board of Directors provides funding from ACRL’s budget to support Annual Conference programs (including the ACRL President’s Program and excluding cost of audiovisual equipment, which is largely paid for by ALA). The PDC determines how these funds are allocated among the program proposals. How well proposals meet the program criteria is one of the determining factors in whether it is funded or not.

Career and Job Services

ACRL offers three ways for academic librarians to find out about career opportunities and for employers to build a pool of highly qualified individuals from which to recruit for vacant positions: 1) as the only magazine targeted specifically to academic/research librarians, College & Research Libraries News (C&RL News) is a vehicle to advertise academic library job listings in print; 2) the ALA JobLIST online career center (, launched in 2006, is a joint project of American Libraries (AL) magazine, C&RL News, and ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) which incorporates the formerly separate AL and ACRL job sites and complements some services of HRDR, including placement service job ads for the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference; and 3) at each ACRL Conference the association works with HRDR to offer a job placement and career development center. Since 2009, JobLIST has also maintained an active presence on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Content shared on these sites includes notifications of new job listings, news items specifically about the job market for librarianship, and general job searching tips and strategies. From 2011 through 2014, a free biweekly e-newsletter, ALA JobLIST Direct, was also published to reach yet another target audience with a selection of job search and career advice content, as well as promoting the online service during years following a severe recession when there were fewer job ads. JobList postings are featured on American Libraries and ACRL blog posts and newletters.

ACRL Consulting Services

ACRL has offered library consulting services to member and non-member libraries since 2007. ACRL consultants have worked to provide services including external reviews, staff retreats, and strategic planning facilitation at a variety of academic institutions and consortia, including some international groups. ACRL staff consultants, Kathryn Deiss and Kara Malenfant, authored a chapter, "Successful external reviews: Process and practicalities," for Reviewing the Academic Library: A Guide to Self-Study and External Review, which guides library leaders and external reviewers in planning and conducting an external review and effectively using the results for future planning.

Building the Knowledge Base


ACRL strives to be a national and international interactive leader in creating, expanding, and transferring the body of knowledge of academic librarianship. One of the principle motives for creating a separate unit for academic librarians in 1938 was to stimulate research and publication in academic librarianship. The ALA First Activities Committee, a body appointed in the 1920s to review the activities and structures of ALA, reported in 1928 that the ALA publishing program had neglected scholarly and bibliographic publication, the areas of greatest interest to academic librarians. This neglect, said the committee's report, had been so extensive "as to threaten at times actual withdrawal of the College and Reference Section from A.L.A."

C&RL and C&RL News

A year after its creation in 1938, ACRL established an official journal called College & Research Libraries (C&RL). The first issue of the new quarterly publication appeared in December 1939. It was at one and the same time a professional journal, an official organ of ACRL, and a vehicle for the exchange of news about libraries and librarians. A. F. Kuhlman, the first editor of College & Research Libraries, believed that "the absence of a professional journal devoted specifically to the interests of college, university, and reference libraries . . . no doubt accounts to a large extent for the lack of a definitive literature dealing with these institutions."(15) Under a series of able editors, from Kuhlman in the 1940s to Wendi Arant Kaspar, who assumed the editorship in 2016, C&RL established itself as a premier scholarly journal for the publication of empirical research in academic librarianship and helped to build a body of knowledge and intellectual technique for the academic library profession. In 1950, Arthur Hamlin, then ACRL's executive secretary, called C&RL "the principal jewel in the Association crown."(16)

The ACRL Board of Directors decided in 1951 to make College & Research Libraries a membership benefit so that all members would receive the journal without charge. This far-reaching decision made it possible for C&RL to play a key role in unifying the association and the profession. In light of the growing quantity and quality of research about academic librarianship, the Association decided in 1956 to publish C&RL on a bimonthly rather than a quarterly basis. The Board approved making C&RL an open access publication starting in April 2011. At the 2012 ALA Annual Conference, the Board approved transitioning C&RL to an online-only publication beginning with the January 2014 issue.

In November 2011, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign began a volunteer project to digitize the remaining backfiles of C&RL. The back content was added to the main C&RL website during the 2012-13 fiscal year. All current content and complete back issues beginning in 1939 are freely available to the public on publication website at The ACRL Board of Directors expressed its thanks to Illinois for this generous contribution through a formal resolution.

In 1967 the people and news portions of C&RL were separately published, allowing the journal to focus on its role as a scholarly journal. Since 1967 College & Research Libraries News has served as the official magazine of record of the association and as a clearinghouse for news about academic libraries, librarians, and higher education. A history of the first 30 years of C&RL News appeared in the September 1996 issue as part of an anniversary celebration. In 1993 C&RL News became the first ALA print publication available through the Internet. In 2002 C&RL News began offering an electronic contents service and in 2002 ACRL Update, an electronic biweekly news publication, was launched to provide more current information and news. RSS feeds of C&RL News contents were launched in 2008. The full text of all C&RL News articles from 2004 to the present is freely available to all on the web at A project to digitize the full backfile of C&RL News and add to the website is underway.

In January 2010, the online versions of ACRL’s three serial publications (C&RL, C&RL News, and RBM) moved to a new home through a partnership with HighWire Press. The move of ACRL’s publications from the association website to the HighWire platform provided a number of benefits including improved search capabilities both within and across publications, increased functionality, and online access for individual and institutional non-member subscribers.

In the spring of 2017, the online versions of C&RL, C&RL News, and RBM moved again to a new home with Open Journal Systems (OJS). Administered by ALA Production Services, OJS is an open source journal management and publishing system developed by the Public Knowledge Project as part of its efforts to expand and improve access to research. The move of ACRL’s serials publications to OJS aligns the association’s commitment to open access publishing with the open source software movement.

ACRL Publications in Librarianship In 1952, ACRL began the ACRL Monographs series. Now called ACRL Publications in Librarianship, the series has grown to 74 peer-reviewed titles that examine emerging theories and research. The first volume in the series was Joe W. Kraus's William Beer and the New Orleans Public Libraries, 1891-1927. PIL #58, Centers for Learning (Elmborg & Hook), won the 2007 Ilene F. Rockman Publication of the Year Award; in 2016, PIL #68, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information (Swanson and Jagman, Editors), won the same award.

Recent titles include The Fun of Motivation: Crossing the Threshold Concepts (PIL #71, Francis, 2017); Applying Library Values to Emerging Technology: Decision-Making in the Age of Open Access, Maker Spaces, and the Ever-Changing Library (PIL #72, Fernandez and Tilton, Editors, 2018); Framing Information Literacy: Teaching Grounded in Theory, Pedagogy, and Practice 6-Volume Set (PIL #73, Oberlies and Mattson, Editors, 2018); and The Changing Academic Library: Operations, Culture, Environments, Third Edition (PIL #74, Budd, 2018).

RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage

RBM, a semiannual publication, began in the spring of 1986 as Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarianship (RBML) on a trial basis under the leadership of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section. The journal was incorporated into the ACRL publishing program in 1988. In 2000, the journal underwent a major revision, including a new name, a new graphic treatment, and a new editorial focus. The editorial focus was broadened to include all types of special collections in a variety of media in order to address the broad range of issues and concerns of professionals who work with such collections. Thanks to a generous grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the complete backfiles of RBML were digitized and added to the publication website in spring 2011. RBM became an open access publication beginning with its Spring 2016 30th anniversary issue. This change in access policy lifts the online version of the publication’s current year embargo on new content and makes the complete contents of the journal from 2000 to the present, along with complete contents of its predecessor Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarianship, freely available through the publication website at

ACRL Nonserial Publications

ACRL publishes monographic works providing timely, practical, and prescriptive content to academic and research librarians worldwide. ACRL has worked to challenge standard publishing models and has experimented with open access and digital publications as well as traditional print publications. Typically, ACRL publishes around 15 titles annually, each with an intended audience of 500 to 1,500. The publications program is intended to be self-supporting.

Titles published in 2017-2018 include: The Library Assessment Cookbook (Dobbs, Editor, 2017); Now You’re a Manager: Quick and Practical Strategies for New Mid-Level Managers in Academic Libraries (Madden, Carscaddon, Hampton, and Helmstutler, 2017); Academic Library Impact: Improving Practice and Essential Areas to Research (Connaway, Harvey, Kitzie, and Mikitish, 2017); Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: Case Studies and Best Practices (Hensley and Davis-Kahl, Editors, 2017); Disciplinary Applications of Information Literacy Threshold Concepts (Godbey, Wainscott, and Goodman, Editors, 2017); Financial Management in Academic Libraries: Data-Driven Planning and Budgeting (Dugan and Hernon, 2018); Shaping the Campus Conversation on Student Learning and Experience: Activating the Results of Assessment in Action (Brown, Gilchrist, Goek, Hinchliffe, Malenfant, Ollis, and Payne, Editors, 2018), and Academic Libraries and the Academy: Strategies and Approaches to Demonstrate Your Value, Impact, and Return on Investment 2-Volume Set (Britto and Kinsley, Editors, 2018).

CLIPP (formerly ClipNotes)

The popular ClipNotes series, developed by the ClipNotes Committee of the College Library Section (CLS), is now known as simply CLIPP (College Library Information on Policies and Procedures). Essays in CLIPP volumes will retain the survey method used in the ClipNotes series and continue to collect sample documents and information, while providing more analysis of best practices. The CLS CLIPP Committee is currently seeking proposals for this new series and has two projects in production, on institutional repositories and library and student services collaborations.

Library Statistics

ACRL's involvement in library statistics goes back to 1906 when James T. Gerould read a paper to the College and Reference Library Section on comparative statistics. Gerould himself started an annual compilation of Statistics for Academic Libraries. Known in the 1920s as "Princeton Statistics," the compilation later became ARL Statistics. (17) In 1941 ACRL began to collect statistics for college and university libraries and continued to do so until the late 1950s when the service was discontinued in order to avoid duplicating the efforts of the National Center for Educational Statistics. In 1979, however, the ACRL University Library Section, citing the need for up-to-date comparative library statistics in a usable format, proposed that ACRL collect comparative statistics for the university libraries not covered by ARL Statistics. This led to the publication of ACRL University Library Statistics 1978-1979 in 1980. Additional statistical studies of university libraries were published in 1983 and 1985. In 1984 and 1985 a special Task Force on Library Statistics worked to define the statistical needs of academic libraries. Its work served as the basis for the new standing committee on Academic Library Statistics (now known as the ACRL Academic Library Trends and Statistics Survey Editorial Board). This committee recommended expanding the survey universe to include the "ACRL 100 libraries" and also revised the survey form to match that used by the federal government. These survey results were published in 1987. In 1989 the survey returned to the non-ARL university libraries. Also in 1989, ACRL issued a compilation of the data from 1979 to 1989 in machine-readable form. Since 1989, the ARL-like survey was administered and published covering the years 1990-91, 1992-93, 1994-95, and 1996-97.

In 1998, ACRL published the final edition of University Library Statistics, covering 1996-97, and initiated a new statistics project, Academic Library Trends and Statistics. This annual comprehensive data gathering effort includes libraries at all institutions of higher learning in the United States and Canada. Until 2015 The ARL survey instrument was used with permission. A core set of data, intended for comparative analysis over time, consists of four major categories: Collections, Expenditures, Personnel and Public Services, and Networked Resources and Services. Additional questions are used to gather data on a variety of topics of interest to the profession and to identify trends and other changes that are having an impact on library operations. Results, arranged by Carnegie classifications, are published as well as made available on an annual subscription basis through ACRL Metrics.

In June 2006, based on information provided by the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science Library Research Center (LRC) and committee discussion, the ACRL concluded that some libraries are burdened by a subset of the ARL survey questions and the effort necessary to gather data in support of these questions, have resulted in diminishing response rates. Beginning with the 2006 survey, ACRL produced two shortened versions of the existing ARL survey and tailored it to better meet the unique needs of member libraries. The following versions of the existing ARL instrument were offered to ACRL member libraries: ARL survey (existing instrument); 4-year college survey (shortened version of existing ARL instrument); community college survey (shortened version of existing ARL instrument). Four-year colleges and community colleges had the option of submitting the complete ARL survey (including supplementary e-metrics questions). Beginning in 2007, four-year colleges, community colleges, and non-ARL doctoral libraries had the option of completing the new ARL supplementary statistics in addition to the annual survey. In 2010 ACRL partnered with Counting Opinions to develop a longitudinal database providing access to annual trends and statistics data collected since 1999. ACRL Metrics was launched in June 2010 and provides access to ACRL data from 1999-2016 as well as the NCES Academic Library Survey data from 2000-2012. In 2015 ACRL began using the current IPEDS Academic Libraries (AL) component augmented with key questions from the 2012 NCES Academic Library instrument. The ACRL/ARL IPEDS Advisory Task Force has worked closely with IPEDS survey coordinator since 2015 to improve and refine the survey questions.

CHOICE History

Section Newsletters

Most of the fifteen ACRL sections publish a semi-annual newsletter. These newsletters provide information about the section’s activities. A few sections, such as the Western European Studies Specialists and the Slavic and East European Section (SEES) (these two sections merged in 2017 to become the European Studies Section) produce in-depth newsletters. The ESS newsletter (formerly SEES), published since 1985, averages 75-80 pages and serves as the official record of the section, reporting on section activities and on relevant activities in the field of Slavic and East European librarianship. The newsletter is distributed internationally and serves as an archival record of Slavic and East European librarianship in North America. In FY2010, sections transitioned from print to electronic only newsletter publishing.

ACRL Website

The web provides a powerful opportunity for ACRL units to share information with their membership and with the academic community at large. The URL of the ACRL website is The site maintains comprehensive information about ACRL and its programs, including mission and goals, strategic plan, advocacy, information literacy, conferences, institutes, preconferences, publications, standards, membership and links to sections and chapters. In 2011, ALA began using Drupal for its content management system and ACRL’s web pages were converted to the new systems. In 2017, ALA (and ACRL) transitioned its site to a Responsive Redesign to ensure the site remain user-friendly across all platforms. A new ALA Connect platform provided by Higher Logic was implemented in May 2018.

ACRL Insider

In January 2008, ACRL launched a new weblog titled ACRL Insider. Primarily written by staff and ACRL officers, ACRL Insider provides updates on ACRL activities, services, and programs, including publications, events, conferences, and eLearning opportunities. The blog also keeps readers up-to-date on ACRL operations, including updates from members of the Board of Directors. Through ACRL Insider, ACRL fosters openness and transparency by providing an outlet for connection between members and the Board and staff. ACRL Insider complements ACRLog to provide a big picture view of the association. A weekly Member of the Week post spotlights the diversity and accomplishments of the ACRL membership, and is one of the blog’s most popular features. ACRL Insider is available online at


To provide a forum for major issues, the ACRLog, ACRL’s issues blog, was launched in October 2005. On an average day, the ACRLog is visited 4,000-4,500 times and more than 4,600 individual posts are read. ACRLog is the work of a team of regular contributors in addition to guest posts featuring a variety of voices, including first-year librarians. ACRLog is available at

Keeping Up With…

In April 2013, ACRL launched Keeping Up With…, an online current awareness publication featuring concise briefs on trends in academic librarianship and higher education. Each edition focuses on a single issue including an introduction to the topic and summaries of key points, including implications for academic libraries. Keeping Up With… has featured information on digital humanities; flipped classrooms; altmetrics; MOOCs; critical librarianship; competency-based education; net neutrality, cybersecurity, usability, and privacy; mindfulness; digital pedagogy; digital storytelling; research data management; General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); and more on the ACRL website at

ACRL LibGuides

In 2016, ACRL began offering the use of LibGuides to its members. ACRL units use LibGuides to share professional resources, such toolkits, guides, and bibliographies. As of October 2018, ACRL has 46 LibGuides, which are posted on its LibGuide website:

ACRL Social Media

Over the past several years, the association has been on the cutting edge of new technologies to communicate and connect with members. As of September 2018 , ACRL’s Facebook page ( boasts 7,314 fans while 18,845 interested parties receive daily updates on association activities on Twitter (, ACRL’s Instagram presence has 429 followers, and 438 follow the association on Pinterest. These social media tools allow ACRL to create community with members in new and exciting ways.


Academic libraries need to strengthen our collaborations and community relationships if they are to succeed. Through its publications, research, professional development programs, public policy advocacy, and work with higher education associations, ACRL will continue to enhance the effectiveness of academic and research librarians to advance learning, teaching, and research in higher education. Scholarly communication, student learning, articulating the value of academic libraries, and embracing new roles will be of particular concern to the profession and the association in coming years. ACRL initiatives in these areas will help academic librarians learn from one another, become more effective in their work, advance the quality of academic library service, and to promote a better understanding of the role of libraries in academic and research institutions.


1. Hale, Charles E. The Origin and Development of the Association of College and Research Libraries, 1889-1960. Xerox University Microfilms: Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1976, 24.

2. Thomison, Dennis. A History of the American Library Association, 1876-1972. American Library Association: Chicago, 1978, 6.

3. Hale, 25.

4. Thomison, 8, 9.

5. Hale, 33-36.

6. Ibid., 36-37, 49, 52, 69.

7. Ibid., 40-42, 46-48, 66-68.

8. Ibid., 75-76, 82.

9. Ibid., 106-107, 109-112, 119, 121-124, 136-138; Association of college and reference libraries: report of the committee on reorganization. ALA Bulletin. 1938, 32, 810-15; Reorganization of the college and reference section. ALA Bulletin. 1937, 31, 591, 593-598.

10. Hale, 190, 198-199, 235.

11. Ibid., 83, 179.

12. Kaser, David. A century of American librarianship as reflected in its literature. College & Research Libraries. 1976, 37, 116.

13. Academic Status: Statements and Resources, 2nd Ed.; Kroll, S. ed., Association of College and Research Libraries: Chicago, 1994, iii.

14. Thomison, 116.

15. Kuhlman, A. F., Introducing `college and research libraries'. College & Research Libraries. 1939, 1, 8.

16. Hamlin, Arthur T. Annual report of the ACRL executive secretary, 1949-1950. College & Research Libraries. 1950, 11, 272.

17. Kroll, 54-55.

18. Kuhlman, A. F. Can the association of college and reference libraries achieve professional status? College & Research Libraries. 1946, 7, 151.

19. Hale, 156-161.

20. Thomison, 168-169.

21. ACRL Organizational Manual. Association of College and Reference Libraries: Chicago, 1956, 10-11.

22. Strategic plan 2005. C&RL News. 2000, 61, 400-402.



Presidents (beginning with 1938)*

*formerly College and Reference Section. Name changed by vote of section, June 1938. Approved by ALA Council, December 1938.

1938-39 Frank K. Walter
1939-40 Phineas L. Windsor
1940-41 Robert B. Downs
1941-42 Donald Coney
1942-43 Mabel L. Conat
1943-44 Charles B. Shaw
1944-45 Winifred Ver Nooy
1945-46 Blanche Prichard McCrum
1946-47 Errett Weir McDiarmid
1947-48 William H. Carlson
1948-49 Benjamin E. Powell
1949-50 Wyllis E. Wright
1950-51 Charles M. Adams
1951-52 Ralph E. Ellsworth
1952-53 Robert W. Severance
1953-54 Harriet D. MacPherson
1954-55 Guy R. Lyle
1955-56 Robert Vosper
1956-57 Robert W. Orr
1957-58 Eileen Thornton
1958-59 Lewis C. Branscomb
1959-60 Wyman W. Parker
1960-61 Edmon Low
1961-62 Ralph E. Ellsworth
1962-63 Katherine M. Stokes
1963-64 Neal R. Harlow
1964-65 Archie L. McNeal
1965-66 Helen Margaret Brown
1966-67 Ralph E. McCoy
1967-68 James Humphry III
1968-69 David Kaser
1969-70 Philip J. McNiff
1970-71 Anne C. Edmonds
1971-72 Joseph H. Reason
1972-73 Russell Shank
1973-74 Norman E. Tanis
1974-75 H. William Axford
1975-76 Louise Giles
1976-77 Connie R. Dunlap
1977-78 Eldred R. Smith
1978-79 Evan I. Farber
1979-80 Le Moyne W. Anderson
1980-81 Millicent D. Abell
1981-82 David C. Weber
1982-83 Carla J. Stoffle
1983-84 Joyce Ball
1984-85 Sharon J. Rogers
1985-86 Sharon Anne Hogan
1986-87 Hannelore B. Rader
1987-88 Joanne R. Euster
1988-89 Joseph A. Boissé
1989-90 William A. Moffett
1990-91 Barbara J. Ford
1991-92 Anne K. Beaubien
1992-93 Jacquelyn McCoy
1993-94 Thomas Kirk
1994-95 Susan K. Martin
1995-96 Patricia Senn Breivik
1996-97 William Miller
1997-98 W. Lee Hisle
1998-99 Maureen Sullivan
1999-2000 Larry Hardesty
2000-2001 Lizabeth (Betsy) Wilson
2001-2002 Mary Reichel
2002-2003 Helen H. Spalding
2003-2004 Tyrone H. Cannon
2004-2005 Frances J. Maloy
2005-2006 Camila Alire
2006-2007 Pamela Snelson
2007-2008 Julie B. Todaro
2008-2009 Erika Linke
2009-2010 Lori Goetsch
2010-2011 Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe
2011-2012 Joyce L. Ogburn
2012-2013 Steven J. Bell
2013-2014 Trevor A. Dawes
2014-2015 Karen A. Williams
2015-2016 Ann Campion Riley
2016-2017 Irene M. H. Herold
2017–2018 Cheryl Middleton
2018–2019 Lauren Pressley
2019–2020 Karen Munro
2020-2021 Jon E. Cawthorne
2021-2022 Julie Ann Garrison
2022-2023 Erin L. Ellis
2023-2024 Beth McNeil

Publications in Librarianship Editors

1952-1953 Lawrence S. Thompson
1953-1956 David K. Maxfield
1956-1960 Rolland E. Stevens
1960-1966 William V. Jackson
1966-1970 David W. Heron
1970-1972 Edward G. Holley
1972-1977 Kenneth G. Peterson
1977-1982 Joe W. Kraus
1982-1988 Arthur P. Young
1988-1993 Jonathan A. Lindsey
1993-1998 Stephen E. Wiberley Jr.
1998-2003 John M. Budd
2003-2008 Charles Schwartz
2009–2014 Craig Gibson
2016–2021 Daniel C. Mack
2021-present Mark E. Shelton

C&RL Editors

1939–1941 A. F. Kuhlman
1941–1948 Carl M. White
1948–1962 Maurice F. Tauber
1962–1963 Richard Harwell
1963–1969 David Kaser
1969–1974 Richard M. Dougherty
1974–1980 Richard D. Johnson
1980–1984 C. James Schmidt
1984–1990 Charles Martell
1990–1996 Gloriana St. Clair
1996–2002 Donald E. Riggs
2002–2008 William Gray Potter
2008–2012 Joseph Branin
2013–2016 Scott Walter
2016–2022 Wendi Arant Kaspar
2022-present Kristen Totleben

C&RL News Editors

1967-1979 member editors include David Kaser, David Doerrer, Michael Herbison, Alan Dyson, Susana Hinojosa, Mary Frances Collins, Anne Dowling, John V. Crowley
1979 Jeffrey T. Schwedes (First staff editor)
1980-1990 George M. Eberhart (staff)
1991-2001 Mary Ellen K. Davis (staff)
2001-2002 Maureen Gleason, acting editor
2002-2007 Stephanie Orphan
2007-present David Free

RBM (formerly RBML) Editors

1986-1989 Ann S. Gwyn  
1989-1993 Alice D. Schreyer
1993-1999 Sidney E. Berger
1999-2003 Lisa Browar/Marvin Taylor
2003-2009 Richard Clement
2008–2013 Beth Whittaker
2014–2017 Jennifer Karr Sheehan
2017–2023 Richard Saunders
2023-present Diane Dias De Fazio

ACRL Executive Directors

1947-1949 N. Orwin Rush
1949-1956 Arthur T. Hamlin
1956-1957 Vacant
1957-1961 Richard Harwell
1961-1962 Mark M. Gormley
1962-1963 Joseph H. Reason
1962-1968 George M. Bailey
1968-1972 J. Donald Thomas
1972-1977 Beverly P. Lynch
1977-1984 Julie Carroll Virgo
1984-1990 JoAn S. Segal
1990 Cathleen Bourdon (Acting)
1990-2001 Althea Jenkins
2001-2020 Mary Ellen K. Davis
2020-2021 Kara J. Malenfant (Interim)
2021-2023 Robert Jay Malone
2023-present Allison Payne (Interim)

Written by Mary Ellen Davis, Executive Director, and Mary Jane Petrowski, Associate Director, based upon earlier histories of ACRL developed by former ACRL staff members.