Academic Program Review External Review Report
As many of you are aware, we received the external review report in mid-July. You can read the full report here.
This report is a critical step in the Academic Program Review, a process coordinated by the Provost’s office. This process is intended to help academic units examine their strengths, deficiencies, and strategic goals. The two main components of this review include a self-study and external peer review, and these are complemented by regular reporting and discussion with the Provost.
This is the first year the Library participated. Prior to the Library’s participation, the process only included “activity-based units”—essentially units that enroll students. The year before the pandemic, the Provost asked us to consider participating in the process. We discussed the request in the Executive Committee, weighed advantages (e.g., full participation as an academic unit) and disadvantages (e.g., the amount of work involved), and concluded the pros significantly outweigh cons. The Library, a centrally-funded academic unit, will now be part of this ongoing formal process moving forward, with regular reporting and periodic reviews.
As you are all aware, this was a substantial process: it took all of us working together to move through the review successfully. At the end of April, the Library shared a self-study with the external review team. In the months preceding that submission, the AULs and Directors assembled the report using a template format from the Provost’s office, seeking input from Executive Committee (EC), Administrative Council (AC), the Library Committee of Academic and Civil Service Professionals (LCP), and Library Staff Support Committee (LSSC). The goal of the self-study is honest self-examination, and the report did an excellent job in highlighting our accomplishments and our challenges.
The external review team, armed with the self-study, visited us over two days at the end of May. The team met and engaged with many of you. Discussions, as well as feedback gathered at an all-Library meeting, helped them do their work. This extraordinary team was led by Dean Emerita Betsy Wilson from the University of Washington (and former head of our very own Undergraduate Library). Other reviewers included Trevor Dawes (Delaware), Greg Raschke (NCSU), and Jennifer Vinopal (Ohio State). Although Jennifer was not able to make the onsite visit due to a family emergency, she did help edit (and supported) the final external review report.
The reviewers appreciated the “forthright assessments” and “well-balanced perspective.” I was grateful for the appreciation they expressed for our employees and their conclusion that the “overall strength of the library faculty, academic professionals, and staff drive the success of the library with the University community.” There was much praise for our work, as well as important suggestions for areas of work. While one colleague commented that the report is “sparse,” I should emphasize the fact that the reviewers were working with space and format constraints provided by the Provost, and that the sparseness of deep criticisms is in many ways a reflection of our outstanding work. The review also identified shortcomings: you will not be surprised by the external review team’s conclusion that we are “behind [our] peers in the national context” with regard to our “development of spaces that support evolving models of library service and partnership.” Still, as they note, “the library building project is an essential component of [our] strategic priorities moving forward.” I was also pleased to see recommendations related to staffing, shared governance, collections and services, and resource allocation.
The academic review process, including these reports, will now be part of our ongoing reporting and planning. In December, the Library will provide the Provost its first formal response to the external review report’s recommendations. In subsequent years, we will provide the Provost updates on progress. Each year, these progress reports will be reviewed along with our normal annual review and budget request. All of these things will be valuable tools for the Library and its next dean.
Again, let me thank all of you for your contributions to this very important process. Your voices and your work figured prominently in the self-report and the review. I am very grateful for your engagement and your excellent work, which was reflected in the report.
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian