Towards a more meaningful involvement of librarians in academic program reviews

Publication Date05 February 2018
AuthorLynne Bowker
SubjectEducation,Curriculum, instruction & assessment,Educational evaluation/assessment
Towards a more meaningful
involvement of librarians in
academic program reviews
Lynne Bowker
University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Purpose Using a descriptive case study approach, this paper aims to validate academic librarians
perceptions that they aremarginalized by faculty during academic program reviews, and recommendsways
for the two groupsto collaborate more effectively to make programreviews more meaningful.
Design/methodology/approach The paper describesa case study at a Canadian university where the
six types of documents produced as part of the program review process for ten graduate programs were
analyzed using corpus analysis tools and techniques,such as keyword generation and key word in context
analysis. For each program,documents were examined to determine the volume and nature of the discussion
involving libraries in the self-study, library report annex, site visit itinerary, external reviewersreport,
academicprograms response and nal assessment report.
Findings The empirical evidence from the corpusanalysis validates the ndings of previous perception-
based studies andconrms that librarians currently have a minor rolein program reviews. Best practices and
gaps emerged, prompting ve recommendations for ways in which academic librarians can play a more
meaningfulrole in the program review process.
Practical implications The results suggest that programs are not currently putting their best foot
forward during program reviews, but this could be improved by including librarians more fully in the
program reviewprocess.
Originality/value The present study contributes to the existing body of knowledge about the role of
academic librariansin the program review process by providing direct and empirical measuresto triangulate
previousperception-based investigations that rely on surveys and interviews.It summarizes limitations of the
current institutional qualityassurance process and the benets to be gained by involving librarians more in
the process. It offers recommendations for policymakers and practitioners with regard to potential best
practicesfor facilitating librarian involvementin academic program reviews.
Keywords Organizational culture, Quality assurance, Academic staff, Policy, Attitudes,
Academic librarians
Paper type Case study
Academic program review is a critical component of quality assurance (QA) in higher
education; however,academic librarians report that their contributionsto the review process
This study was funded by a 2016 Canadian Health Libraries Association Research Grant and an
Insight Grant (435-2017-0075) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
We are grateful to Mike Scott, developer of the WordSmith Tools corpus analysis software package,
for permission to use screenshots. As stated on the WordSmith Tools site, For non prot-making
academic use: No need to ask. You are hereby granted permission.(
copyright_permission_for_screenshots.htm). Thanks are also due to the three University of Ottawa
librarians who took the time to review and oer valuable feedback on an initial draft of this paper
and its recommendations.
Librarians in
Received24 October 2017
Revised24 October 2017
Accepted20 December 2017
QualityAssurance in Education
Vol.26 No. 1, 2018
pp. 131-148
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/QAE-10-2017-0068
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
are often minimal, and they suggest that facultypractices and attitudes are major barriers to
their involvement. To date, investigations pertaining to librariansparticipation in program
reviews have been largely based on librariansperceptions obtained through surveys or
interviews. This study aims to validate or refute these perceptions by using an empirical
corpus-based approachto investigate librarianscontributions to academic program reviews
by analyzing the documents that are created as part of the review process. This
investigation will take the form of a case study that focuses on the review documents that
were produced during the cyclical programreviews for ten graduate programs in the health
sciences at the University of Ottawa between 2011 and 2016. Furthermore, this research
aims to identify both best practices and missed opportunities for meaningful collaboration
between librarians and faculty members during program reviews, and to make
recommendationsfor improving such collaborations moving forward.
This study is divided into six main sections. We begin with a brief description of the
institutional qualityassurance process at the University of Ottawa, followed by an overview
of the literature that addresses the question of librarian involvement in program reviews.
Next, we introduce the corpus analysis methods that were used to investigate a corpus of
program review documentationfor ten graduate programs in health-related elds. For each
programs review, six differenttypes of document were generated: the programs self-study,
a library report, a site visititinerary, the reviewersreport, the program response and a nal
assessment report. The results of the analyses of each document type are presented,
followed by a more global discussion. The results of the analysis suggest that librariansare
currently marginalized during the academic program review process, and that this is a
missed opportunity for the university to enhance their programs and to promote the
librarys resources and services through the program review process. The paper ends with
ve recommendations for ways to integrate librarians more in the program review process
for the benet of all program stakeholders.
Background and institutional context
Countries around the world have recognized the importance of quality assurance in higher
education and have implemented processes for academic program review (Tam, 1999;
Brown, 2004;Mora, 2004;Shah et al., 2011). In Canada, public education falls under the
mandate of the provincial governments, and in the province of Ontario, university quality
assurance has gained increasing importance over the past 50 years (Goff, 2013). Initially
focused largely on accountability, quality assurance has undergone a signicant shift, with
increasing emphasis now being placed on program enhancement (Harvey and Newton,
2007). As part of this new orientation, in 2010, each publicly assisted Ontario University
developed its own Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP). To secure academic
standards and to ensure ongoing improvement, one of the components that must be partof
the IQAP is a protocol for the review of new programs, as well as for the cyclical review of
existing programs onceevery eight years.
As a member of the U-15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, the University of
Ottawa is a research-intensive university, with over 185 graduate programs and more than
6,500 graduate students. The universitys most recent strategic plan, Destination 2020,
identies research excellenceas one of its four strategic goals, noting that Advances in
knowledge and research go hand in hand with growth at the graduate studies level
(University of Ottawa, 2014a,p. 5). To support the goal of research excellence, the university
will continue to increase enrolment of top ranked graduate students,with a target of 16 per
cent of our total student body by 2015, and 18 per cent by 2020(University of Ottawa,
2014a,p.6)andbuild a world-class library and core facilities to support a world-class

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