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ACRL Proficiencies for Assessment in Academic Libraries

Assessment Proficiencies • Overview

From the Preamble:  Proficiencies for Assessment in Academic Libraries was updated and approved by ACRL's Board of Directors in 2023. After initially approved in 2017, it was determined there was a "need for proficiencies related to social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility."

The Value of Academic Libraries Committee and the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee formed a working group charged to "address these gaps and ensure equity is prioritized in library assessment."

Impetus for Change

The updated Proficiencies were developed with an understanding that individuals conducting library assessment play an important role in guiding their organizations in evidence-informed decision-making and promoting a culture of assessment. Assessments are conducted for myriad reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • assessing needs in order to identify opportunities for positive change;
  • informing decision-making;
  • identifying opportunities to better align library resources and services with university goals;
  • exposing and addressing inequitable structures and systems of power and privilege; and
  • demonstrating value and impact.

Central Tenants

To make the best use of the Proficiencies for Assessment, individuals engaging in assessment should:

  • Apply ethics to guide all assessment practices.
  • Center assessment around people and their well-being.
  • Approach assessment with a continuous learning and growth mindset.
  • Identify and communicate an assessment or research project's purpose, goal, or outcome.
  • Develop and maintain an equitable, accessible, and inclusive lens by practicing cultural humility, and equity-minded and antiracist assessment.
  • Recognize that assessment and data analysis are non-neutral and subjective processes that require individuals involved in this work to acknowledge their own positionalities, recognize their biases, modify their approaches, and collaborate with others when possible to include multiple and alternative perspectives.
  • Approach data with nuance, take multiple approaches as necessary to identify equity challenges, make space to include marginalized perspectives, identify and document any gaps in collected data, and consider variability among groups along with measures of central tendency.


Association of College & Research Libraries. (2023, June 23). Proficiencies for assessment in academic libraries. American Library Association.

1. Engaging Ethically

Ethics convey overarching principles that guide decision-making in professional practice. Ethical practitioners protect the dignity, rights, and welfare of assessment and research participants and the communities to which they belong, protect them from harm, and engage in culturally responsive and relationally reflexive research practices.

Library assessment practitioners should:

1.1. Affirm every person's inherent dignity and rights by demonstrating beneficence, justice, and respect for persons. Maintain and enhance knowledge and skills with ongoing training in ethical and institutional review processes.

1.2. Protect the safety of participants by prioritizing their privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity. Act with integrity in the collection, analysis, dissemination, and implementation of assessment findings.

1.3. Advance racial and social justice in our libraries, communities, and profession through advocacy, collaboration, allocation of resources, and taking action on findings.

1.4. Critically interrogate current and past assessment and data collection practices to ensure ethical practices are being followed and equitable outcomes are being produced.

2. Building Knowledge of Assessment in Libraries and Higher Education

Library assessment is grounded in an understanding of the purposes, values, and theories underpinning assessment methodologies and practices. Those undertaking library assessment should understand the history and context of their work in educational assessment, evaluation, and measurement in order to participate meaningfully in wider institutional efforts. Many of the methods we rely upon were developed by Western researchers with privilege. Centering social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility and critically examining all assessment activities will challenge practitioners to dismantle inequitable systems and structures.

Library assessment practitioners should:

2.1. Demonstrate familiarity with assessment methods and practices, as well as knowledge of the differences between assessment, evaluation, and research practices.

2.2. Continually enhance knowledge and skills, and maintain an understanding of literature, standards, and trends in the field of higher education and library assessment.

2.3. Integrate knowledge of social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in libraries and higher education into assessment practices.

3. Designing, Collecting, and Analyzing

Working with data and evidence is foundational to assessment work. Valid, reliable, and trustworthy findings are optimal for sound decision-making. Proficiency in designing assessment projects and collecting and analyzing data enables practitioners to consider their methods critically in order to enhance students' educational experiences, ensure the effectiveness of library services, illuminate and dismantle inequitable systems and structures, and advance equity and inclusion for their campus communities.

Library assessment practitioners should:

Design •

3.1. Develop, implement, and sustain practices that ensure diverse community perspectives are represented throughout every phase of the assessment cycle.

3.2. Challenge racialized systems and avoid coded language that portrays marginalized populations from a deficit perspective.

3.3. Conceptualize, document, and implement a plan for obtaining, storing, and analyzing data that aligns with the rationale and goals of the project so that assessment work is centered on impact.

3.4. Engage diverse stakeholders such as students, faculty, and staff in all phases of assessment, including the design, implementation, analysis, interpretation, and creation of recommendations, when possible.

3.5. Evaluate critically what data are needed to make informed decisions, collecting and using only what is necessary to address the goals of the study. Utilize existing data sources when possible in order to minimize duplication of efforts and participant burden.

3.6. Utilize assessment approaches and methods that will engage communities in a manner that is responsive, culturally relevant, and reflects their context and values.

3.7. Consider multiple methodologies and data sources (i.e., triangulation) in order to foster a deep understanding of results.

3.8. Identify or design assessment instruments that are appropriate for the assessment project and will yield useful data. Ensure the instruments are equitable and accessible for all participants.

3.9. Select data analysis methods that align with the needs of the assessment project rather than relying upon methods that are most familiar. Methods may include quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods data analysis strategies to uncover meaning in the data.

Collect •

3.10. Critically evaluate and consider existing and emerging data collection and evidence gathering approaches (e.g., critical, decolonial, Indigenous, feminist) or other ways that resist reinforcing the hegemony of dominant, problematic methods.

3.11. Follow data management and handling guidelines and policies (e.g., security, access, storage, retention) as outlined by the university, the library, and/or the information technology unit, in order to protect participant privacy, confidentiality, and anonymity.

Analyze •

3.12. Apply appropriate methods to analyze quantitative and qualitative data which may include statistical analysis, qualitative inquiry, and other techniques.

3.13. Utilize appropriate tools to analyze data (e.g., Excel, SPSS, R, NVIVO).

3.14. Analyze data in collaboration with communities of interest when possible to minimize bias and assumptions that may otherwise be inherent in the analysis process.

4. Reflecting and Making Meaning from Results

Reflecting on and making meaning from results is critically important in library assessment work. When possible, individuals with assessment duties should collaborate with stakeholders and communities of interest to examine findings in context with the needs of the project, identify implications, and make inferences. This work enables decision-makers to determine future action, which may include additional investigation and plans to enact positive change.

Library assessment practitioners should:

Reflect •

4.1. Reflect upon whether the techniques used to analyze and present data are appropriate and effective within a particular context.

4.2. Evaluate and acknowledge how one's own positionality and bias may impact the interpretation of the results.

4.3. Discuss and communicate limitations of the assessment, including those inherent in the design. When possible, develop and implement a course of action to address the identified limitations.

Make Meaning •

4.4. Review results and interpret them in relation to the original goals, questions, or needs that served as the impetus for the assessment project.

4.5. Identify stories that are present in the data and consider what perspectives may be missing.

4.6. Determine whether assessment data are sufficient before making decisions or taking actions based on the results.

4.7. Involve stakeholders and communities of interest in the interpretation of findings when possible.

4.8. Ensure that conclusions are drawn explicitly from the results, not from sources external to the assessment. Conclusions should be used to respond to the questions that are the focus of study.

5. Communicating and Taking Action

Communicating and taking action on results is an essential element in creating change; providing context for decisions about change; and yielding evidence of the outcomes, impact, and value that can affect libraries, institutions, and the field at large. Successful change requires collaboration, advocacy, and partnership. Assessment practitioners bring voice to the data.

Library assessment practitioners should:

Communicate and Report •

5.1. Select the most appropriate methods of communicating assessment results based on audience and purpose for communication.

5.2. Strategically communicate what has been learned in assessing outcomes to stakeholders, including participants, through varied modes and styles to ensure impact and maximum accessibility.

5.3. Collaborate with stakeholders and user communities to frame recommendations and actionable next steps. Communicate actions taken as a result of assessment to stakeholders and users.

Advocate and Engage the Community •

5.4. Create customized evidence-based narratives, user stories, and strong business cases that contain clear calls-to-action and inspire stakeholders to prioritize and implement change.

5.5. Contextualize findings within the landscape of institutional mission and values.

5.6. Demystify metrics and statistics by providing clear and accessible explanations that invite audience engagement.

Collaborate and Partner •

5.7. Intentionally build relationships between the library and user communities, especially those who have been marginalized, to co-create recommendations and solutions.

5.8. Collaborate and partner with individuals or groups such as institutional research; teaching, learning or research centers; information technology units; and other assessment offices.



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