ALA Accreditation Process
UB's Master of Library Science (MLS) program is currently put under a conditional accreditation status by the American Library Association's Committee on Accreditation (ALA-COA). According to COA, conditional accreditation is a status assigned to a program that must make changes to comply with the Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies to enable accreditation beyond the date specified by the COA. The next comprehensive review of the program is scheduled for spring 2015.
Please note that our MLS program is still fully accredited by ALA. Also, students enrolled in the program before or during the review period of 2012-2015, who successfully complete their program of study and the degree requirements before spring 2017, will earn an MLS degree from an ALA accredited program. The status of students after spring 2017 will depend upon the decision made at the COA meeting during ALA Annual in June 2015.
ALA Accreditation Process
The American Library Association has a Frequency Asked Questions page regarding accreditation. The following information is an adaptation of the St. John's University page on the ALA Accreditation Process.
What is ALA Accreditation?
- The American Library Association accredits MLS programs that meet appropriate standards of quality and integrity as stated in the published ALA Standards for Accreditation. Accreditation is a collegial process of self-evaluation and peer-assessment for improvement of academic quality and public accountability.
- 56 programs are accredited by the ALA in the United States and Canada.
Who conducts the reviews?
- ALA's Office for Accreditation (OA) is responsible for coordinating the work of the Committee on Accreditation (COA). The OA provides planning, leadership, and administrative functions in implementing the accreditation process.
- The COA is a standing committee of the ALA and is "responsible for the execution of the accreditation program of ALA, and … [develops] and formulate[s] standards of education for library and information studies for the approval of Council." (ALA Handbook of Organization) There are 12 members on the committee of which two are public members who are not part of the library and information science profession. Public members have 2 year appointments up to two terms; regular members serve 1 term 4 year appointments.
- The OA is staffed by full-time employees and the COA is comprised of individuals who serve terms from the ranks of library and information science educators and librarians interested in the quality of MLS programs.
- An External Review Panel (ERP) that visits the program is established by a cooperative process involving the dean, director, or department chair of the program, the COA, and the Office for Accreditation. A panel typically consists of 6 members and reflects the emphasis of the Program Presentation and any special requests for areas of expertise.
- The COA makes the decision regarding accreditation. Decisions are based on a simple majority; the COA Chair votes only in order to break a tie. Accreditation decisions require a quorum of at least 8 voting members of the COA and require an affirmative vote by at least 8 voting members.
How does the process begin?
Here is the ALA Accreditation Cycle.
Schools are accredited for a specified period of time until the next review which is usually seven years. The self-study process is started by the faculty of the MLS program, who determine:
- The focus of the upcoming self-study or Program Presentation
- The structure of the report (called the Program Presentation) to COA
- The assessment methods to be used
What happens next?
COA appoints the members of the external review panel (ERP) that visit the program to verify the self-study Program Presentation. The ERP chair and the director of the ALA Office for Accreditation (OA) discuss the plan for the Program Presentation with members of the accredited program.
That is, the COA appoints all members of the ERP from a list of qualified reviewers that OA (the asst. director and director) present.
How is data obtained?
- Different methodologies are used, including Qualitative (focus groups, interviews, etc.) and Quantitative (surveys, institutional statistics, etc.
- Various constituents are asked to participate, including Alumni, Current students and Employers of graduates
How is the Presentation written?
- Faculty analyze the data, discuss findings, and write respective sections
- Students, alumni and employers may attend some meetings and provide input
- Drafts are written and a final draft is sent to COA and the ERP (Chair and members), who may comment on the contents
- The final version is sent to COA and the ERP six weeks before the site visit.
What happens during the site visit?
The ERP members visit the school and interview alumni, students, faculty, the Dean, the Provost and the President. They also examine documents and records that are available on site and may sit in on classes. Members also inspect facilities and resources for teaching and research.
What happens after the site visit?
The ERP sends a report of the visit to the school and the faculty are invited to comment and/or correct errors of fact. The final report of the ERP is submitted to COA and the decision to reaccredit is announced at the next ALA meeting.