Accreditation tour at the library: Now what?

I have been working at West Texas A&M University since July 9th, and I was given my liaison responsibilities early August. Not too long after being handed Art, Theatre, Dance, English, Philosophy, and Modern Languages, I was told that the Theatre department would be going up for accreditation in October. My initial thought: Yikes, what do I do?

So, naturally, I posted on Facebook. Do not underestimate the power of librarian connections! I got some good advice that eased my anxiety and I got to work. I wanted to share some steps & experience to help those of you who are going through this now, or who will be in the near future.

Find the previous librarian liaison (if they still work there)

  • We tell our students to use their resources, but sometimes we forget to take our own advice. I was lucky enough to be able to be in contact with the former Theatre Dept. liaison, so I met with her multiple times to get an idea of the department faculty and dynamic. Then, I asked her to show me how to run Voyager reports so I could get all of the range information that the department was asking for.

     

  • 700pgs of spreadsheet and a completely unreadable (to non-librarians) report later, we got to work on cleaning it up and putting it in “English.”
  •  This will take a ton of time – I suggest MANY breaks 🙂

Build strong relationships with the department faculty

  • Since I was new, I didn’t have much clout at the institution yet – so I reached out, sent resource recommendations, and stayed in close email contact to the department chair. As our relationship grew, I could feel the trust building, too. This is a leadership skill that I’m glad to have the opportunity to sharpen.

Research the accreditation board standards

  • Then I found the standards for the Library and Learning Resources. I am guessing each accreditation board will be very different.
  • Discover other schools in your region that are also accredited – I found this on the NAST website. Then contact them! I found out that Texas Tech is also accredited by NAST, so I contacted their Theatre Dept. Librarian liaison. He called me back, gave me some pointers, and also offered future support. This is also a good way to make connections to colleagues outside of your institution. I think because I’m new to Texas, it was good for me to reach out and get to know a little bit about different university programs in my region.

Be on the lookout for questions from the Accreditation Board

  • Many of the questions I had to ask my director and my supervisor because they are questions I hadn’t encountered before. I will say that I was glad to get these questions because it helped me learn more about the structure and budget at my institution.
  • Here’s some sample questions: What is the governance & administration of the library? How are personnel organized? What general services are provided to all students? General financial support of the theatre department, etc.

Prep for the on-site visit

  • From what I understand, this can vary greatly. Some accreditation teams do not actually want to tour the library, but only want a list of resources (electronic & print), however, in my case, they wanted to have a tour (which happened today, no less). It lasted about 45 minutes.

     

  • Research the team – are they librarians? Faculty or a department head somewhere? Know your audience.

     

  • I made a 1-sheet handout (front & back) for the team to take away. In most cases, they will not be taking the enormous binder of your library’s resources. The first section on the sheet was “By the numbers.” Here, I listed the number of plays, drama, Shakespeare, & performance plays, costumes & musicals, media, and reference sources. I thought it would be easier for them to scan and get an idea before the tour. Since my team weren’t librarians, I listed the LC subject headings starting with our holdings’ range #. Then, I made a list of notable reference items that are recognized by the Bowker’s College Library. On the back of the sheet, I listed our most recent book acquisitions so they could browse while we were in the New Books section 🙂

     

  • I pulled some examples of materials from different locations (i.e. reference, media, etc.) in case the team wouldn’t have time to tour the entire library. I was told that sometimes they only have a few minutes to tour. Remember, the team will be on campus for days and will have packed schedules as they will be sitting in classes, meeting with faculty, and talking to students.
  • I wrote some notes in case I got nervous so I could refer to them during the tour. I also did a practice run with a co-worker yesterday.

During & After the tour

  • I offered the team members coffee & water. This isn’t required, but they toured today at 3pm, and I know that’s my sleepy-time during the day, so I thought it would be a nice gesture 😉
  • I let the team decide where they wanted to go first. I thought that if they didn’t have the time to tour the entire library, they could look at that handy sheet and choose where they would want to go. That way, I felt as though I appeared more knowledgeable of our library and collection, and they felt more comfortable to choose their own path.
  • Remember to breathe! I was glad that my team wanted to see the entire library and I didn’t have to rush through and make sure I hit all of the important points. I did my best at focusing on our student population and how our collection is helping the students. For example, we have created a ‘fake’ call number so that all of our individual plays are in one central location. I explained to the team that we did this for the students so the plays were easier to find and able to be browsed.
  • I ended the day by emailing the Theatre department head to let him know how the tour went. He was pleased for the update, and I think he is excited to get started on freshening up the collection with me.

Wow, this was a long post, but I hope that it helps ease the anxiety on accreditation tours. For me, it helped to get started early and to talk to many different people about the process, so I hope I’ve helped some of you.

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