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External Review Report

External Review Report

for the Harvey A. Andruss Library Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Five Year Program Review 2010-2015.

Holly Heller-Ross, M.L.S. Dean of Library and Information Technology Services and Chief Information Officer, SUNY Plattsburgh.

April 25, 2016

Executive Summary

Overview: This Report on the Harvey A. Andruss Library Five Year Review 2010-15 is the result of a multi-step process whereby the external reviewer first 1) read the self-study and appendix materials 2) clarified some questions in conversations with the Director of Library Services 3) reviewed additional documents on the university and library public websites 4) developed and vetted a set of  site visit questions with the Director of Library Services  and 5) conducted a two day site visit and engaged with many different groups and individuals on campus to verify self-study statements and further evaluate library capacities and concerns.  

The Andruss Library used the Association of College & Research Libraries Standards for Libraries in Higher Education[1] as the framework for the program appraisal self-study and those standards will also be used as the framework for this report.

The library team is to be commended for the through nature of its self-study, and for the efficient and productive site visit arrangements and schedule. The library and the university are also to be commended for either completing or making significant ongoing progress on all recommendations from the previous review, 2005-2010.

Strengths: The library provides a well developed set of services and resources to meet the needs of the university in all areas of review. The library staff are all qualified for their positions, and regularly engage in continuous service improvement practices. The library faculty appropriately participates in the educational mission of the university. The library enjoys a position of respect and trust which can be leveraged to good advantage in continuing to grow the library value. A strong track record of success in completing projects and delivering resources that students and faculty need and depend on, have well situated the library to be successful in further advancing the college mission. The library’s position has improved during the review period with regard to:

  • the addition of a permanent highly regarded, and operationally effective director
  • significant improvements in technology and building spaces, especially group study
  • weeding of lesser used print and e-collections and the addition of new relevant resources, and appropriate shifting of collection and study space placements.
  • innovative strategies that have enhanced the teaching effectiveness of the library faculty
  • partnerships for enhanced student success through general education and the department of academic enrichment among others
  • additional attention to (and resulting book publication from) the university archives as a result of the 175th anniversary celebration.

Review Period Challenges:  During the review period many libraries faced challenges related to uneven transitions to digital scholarship, declining state support for public institutions, increasing technological requirements with escalating costs, shifting student levels of college readiness, growth in online courses and programs, and the competing pressures of faculty teaching, service and scholarship. The Andruss Library’s specific challenges during the review period included:

  • leadership transitions and significant declining librarian staffing
  • increasing requests for library instructional sessions (a good challenge to have!)
  • flat or declining budgets (supplemented by technology fees and endowment support)
  • staff reassignments from specific areas of expertise to new areas with service demands
  • technology challenges with discovery layer implementation and an aging library management system (Voyager)

Areas for Potential Growth: Opportunities for greater contribution to the educational mission abound, however, based on alignments between the PASSHE Strategic Plan 2020 and the Bloomsburg University Strategic Plan, Impact 2017, special consideration might be given to the following four areas. To be clear, while additional value is well within reach, new initiatives would require additional or reallocated staffing, and must be considered in that light.

Focus on highlighting the intellectual profile of the campus: Libraries and their staff are perfectly positioned to curate campus digital repositories in order to showcase premier student work, highlight student faculty collaborative research, provide access to unique research materials owned by the library University Archives and Special Collections, and to create opportunities for publishing open access online journals. As a crossroads of campus-wide departmental activity with collections serving all disciplines, and staff expertise in digital technologies, archives management, collection description and indexing, libraries around the country are lifting their unique campus intellectual resources into the light.

Making college more affordable: Leading in the use of open access resources, replacing traditional textbooks with free open access documents, lowering the direct costs of education with textbook or other reserves, expanding loaned items to include more technology such as video cameras, classroom response clickers, and tablets, working with faculty to link more library materials inside online courses, modernizing digitization and copying processes, shifting collaborative spaces from physical to virtual, and replacing some standard copiers and scanners with updated digital scan to USB or email devices are all examples of large and small activities libraries are taking to help lower the costs of attending college.

Partnerships in student success initiatives: Strengthening the library’s educational role in support of student success, particularly with a focus on partnering for increased effectiveness in AAC&U High Impact Educational Practices[2], is an obvious opportunity for the library to help advance the university goals. Where such practices are in place at Bloomsburg, the library could serve to supplement resources and spaces, provide additional faculty/student engagement opportunities, develop direct student instructional sessions and online modules to support specific student success goals, participate in first year or transfer student seminars, and leverage existing library resources and services in more strategic ways. The library self study identified collaborative work with the Department of Academic Enrichment on the Foundations of College Success course (p.30) and an interest in reaching out to more high-impact areas such as Writing in the Disciplines (p.35). If more partnerships were given time and attention, Bloomsburg will very likely see positive results.

Personalizing the educational experience: The PASSHE Strategic Plan 2020 calls the university to “adapt to an ever-changing student population.” (p.3). Success and satisfaction of a more diverse community would be enhanced with greater personalization in the range of services and resources offered by the library. Specific and strategic attention to the needs of online learners, returning adult students, first-generation students, international students, LGBTQ students, and other underrepresented groups will contribute to their academic success and comfort at the university. The library self study identifies several current strategies (p.16-18) employed to directly reach segments of the population that could be rolled into an overarching strategy that could be marketed for student recruitment and could be assessed for effectiveness in contributing to a highly positive and personalized educational experience. General instruction in library threshold concepts or lifelong information literacy skills could be of value to specific population segments. In addition to librarian and library staff educational and policy-level efforts, changes to the library management system and discovery tools that allow more customization of searching and search results as well as additional customizable study spaces, furniture, and technology settings could be explored.

Summary: Excellence in all areas is a high mark to achieve, although it ought to always be the goal. Bloomsburg has much to be proud of in its library, including a highly qualified and creative faculty and staff, pervasive student centered service orientation, excellent leadership with strategic vision and skill in practical management, adequate budget for essential resources and operations, unique archives and local history collections, strong campus collaborations, presence and respect, and a robust information literacy program. In addition the library has effective administrative positioning within the organization, with reasonable access to executive leadership. Where the library has weaknesses they are mostly known and efforts are continuously underway to address them, given the constraints of staff time, expertise, budget and building limitations. 

1] Standards for Libraries in Higher Education. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2011.

[2]  Ensuring Quality & Taking High-Impact Practices to Scale by George D. Kuh and Ken O’Donnell, with Case Studies by Sally Reed. (Washington, DC: AAC&U, 2013).


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