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Q. What do you think will be the key issues facing the academy and impacting academic and research libraries in the next two years? Does the ACRL Strategic Plan address them? In what concrete ways can ACRL help libraries become part of the solutions to these issues?

A. This is an excellent question and there are so many issues that could be discussed. The recently released 2012 Horizon Report identifies some trends in higher education. Among these are:

  • People’s desire to work, learn, and study wherever and whenever they want to;
  • An increase in the use of cloud computing services; and
  • An emphasis on active learning

These trends are occurring against a backdrop of

  • Continued economic pressures;
  • The need for appropriate tools for scholarly evaluation; and
  • Institutional barriers that often inhibit technological advances.

In a brief informal survey of some academic librarians the following additional issues were also identified:

  • The impact of increased interdisciplinary curricula on library interaction with faculty, our funding models and instruction
  • Helping students unprepared for college to succeed; and
  • Continued issues around open access and scholarly publishing

The ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education also describes some higher education trends that will have an impact on the library. Among them:

  • Increasing demands for accountability in higher education;
  • Expectation of outcomes-based assessment of learning and programs;
  • Increased pressure for higher graduation rates (greater emphasis on student success);
  • The growing recognition of the importance of research and inquiry-based learning; and
  • Changes in the accreditation process, including:
    • Full library integration in the academic endeavor;
    • Emphasis on using assessment results for improvement;
    • Focus on outcomes and benchmarking;
    • Focus on information literacy; and
    • Focus on the library’s support for student learning outcomes

The ACRL Plan for Excellence addresses these issues in that it is broad and flexible enough to allow the various groups within ACRL to develop ways to continue identifying and address any emerging issues and trends.

ACRL has already been on the forefront of helping libraries find solutions to these problems with professional development opportunities, helping librarians understand the issues and the impact they will have on our work. The Information literacy efforts, for example, will aid in better preparing the under-prepared students for college success. There are other specific examples in the ACRL Standards document that should also be reviewed by all academic librarians. The development of other learning opportunities and standards can provide the tools necessary to help our librarians and libraries succeed.