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Standards for Libraries in Higher Education: Home

Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) have designed these standards to guide academic libraries in advancing and sustaining their role as partners in educating students.


Libraries must demostrate their value and document their contributions to overall institutional effectivess and be prepared to address changes in higher education.  ACRL developed these Standards through study and consideration of new and emerging issues and trends in libraries, higher education, and accreditiing practices.

Professional sources consulted for these Standards were distilled from relevant higher education, accreditation, and professional documents.  Professional sources consulted include:

  ACRL Strategic Plan 2020

  ALA Library Bill of Rights and Code of   Ethics

  ARL's Mission Statement and   Guiding Principles

  Council on Library and Information    Resources' Mission

  ACRL's Value of Academic Libraries    report

Standards Structure

The core of the Standards is the section titled “Principles and Performance Indicators.” The nine principles and their related performance indicators are intended to be expectations—standards—which apply to all types of academic libraries.Nonetheless, each library must respond to its unique user population and institutional environment.

The Standards assume that libraries

  1. adhere to the principles;
  2. identify and select performance indicators that are congruent with their institution’s mission and contribute to institutional effectiveness;
  3. add performance indicators that apply to the specific library type (for example, open access initiatives for research libraries, or workforce  development support for community colleges);
  4. develop user-centered, measurable outcomes that articulate specifically what the user is able to do as an outcome of the performance indicator;
  5. conduct assessments that may be quantitative and/or qualitative;
  6. collect evidence from assessments that demonstrate degree of success; and
  7. use assessment data for continuous improvement of library operations.

In some cases, evidence does not require assessment. For example, the library might provide evidence that library staff have education and experience sufficient for their positions by compiling a list of staff members with titles, education, and relevant experience held.

Standards Model

In all cases, principles lead to performance, which requires evidence to measure success, impact, or value.

The two forms of the model are portrayed graphically below.

Outcomes assessment–based model:Outcomes assessment-based model

Evidence-based model:

Evidence-based model