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Vol. XIV, no. 1

TCU Library Newsletter, Web Edition

April 2002

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Message from the University Librarian
by Bob Seal


TCU is in the second year of its three-year self-study and various campus committees are examining how well our academic and support programs are meeting the criteria set by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The process will culminate in a visit by an outside team of faculty, administrators, and staff from other institutions next February.

The self-study has also resulted in our University's taking steps to formalize and systematize its assessment activities. Regular evaluation of academic programs, curricula, and administrative activity is critical if an institution is to maintain quality; be accountable to students and parents; and achieve its stated mission, vision, and goals. Last summer, TCU hired an experienced assessment officer to oversee the implementation of a formal program of evaluation, both to fulfill SACS criteria and to improve upon assessment activity throughout the University.

The Mary Couts Burnett Library, which had updated its mission and vision in 2000, is participating in the campus-wide assessment process. A committee of librarians and staff has been meeting since November to describe the Library’s basic functions and to determine desired outcomes for the current academic year. Five such outcomes were identified in the areas of marketing and public relations; strengthening collections; providing access to technology; supporting student and faculty research; and improving access to information resources. This semester the committee and other staff are taking steps to assess how well we are meeting the proposed outcomes. Surveys and focus groups will be utilized to gather data and the results will then be utilized in planning and goal setting for the next academic year, 2002-03.

In addition to this new assessment program, the Library continues its long-standing tradition of conducting an annual user survey, alternating between faculty and students each spring. This year we surveyed our professors, asking them to evaluate collections, services, and access. This process is not a mere exercise. The data collected and comments received have regularly been used to improve what we do.

Academic libraries must give priority to setting goals and to listening to their users. We cannot be content to merely continue to do things as we always have, but must constantly seek new ideas, methods, programs, and ways of collecting and imparting information. In planning, we must seek the input of library users but also rely upon our expertise and experience in making decisions. The formal assessment process helps us do a better job of that while staying focused on supporting TCU’s mission and vision.

Bob Seal, University Librarian

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