By Jeff Murphy, July 1, 2021
WARRENSBURG, MO – The first step toward the University of Central Missouri’s goal to attain American Library Association (ALA) accreditation for the Master of Science in Library Science and Information Services (LIS) has succeeded. After reviewing a lengthy application submitted by university faculty, ALA’s Committee on Accreditation (COA) in June granted the program pre-candidacy status.
UCM’s Master of Science in Library Science and Information Services program is housed in the School of Professional Education and Leadership in the College of Education. The program has a long history of accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation/ American Association of School Librarians (CAEP/AASL), but faculty members believe that seeking ALA accreditation is a way to help ensure the continuous improvement and quality of the MS in Library Science and Information Services.
Rene Burress, Ph.D., Ed.S., associate professor and LIS program coordinator, co-wrote the application with Jenna Kammer, Ph.D., assistant professor in LIS. They also received input from other campus faculty members and members of the program advisory council.
“We submitted our application in May 2021 and it was over 120 pages in length, providing details about all faculty, program budget, students, courses, curriculum, assessment, evaluation, and the advisory council. It included letters of support from both President (Roger) Best and Provost (Phil) Bridgmon,” Burress said.
She pointed out that long before the application was submitted LIS faculty were making strides to better position the program for accreditation. The application’s statement of purpose notes that UCM’s “current program is focused on school librarianship, but our graduates are increasingly gaining employment in public, state, and academic libraries in addition to school libraries. We are already changing our coursework to meet these needs. In addition, faculty believe ALA-accreditation will serve our future graduates better in their careers.”
The application also stated that since 2016, the LIS advisory council has advised program faculty to consider applying for ALA accreditation. At that time, the program reviewed ALA-accreditation expectations and had been making purposeful changes that led to the first submission for pre-candidacy this year, a process that was slightly delayed due to the pandemic.
“The faculty in the program have been steadily making changes to the curriculum, assessments, advising, advisory board, and hiring. One example was hiring Dr. Jenna Kammer in 2017, who had areas of expertise outside of school librarianship, including research and experience in public and academic librarianship. Her courses, as she has revised and developed them, reflect this,” the pre-candidacy application stated.
A statement by the ALA noted, “The University of Central Missouri has been granted pre-candidacy status by the Committee on Accreditation of the American Library Association. Pre-candidacy status is an indication that the LIS program has voluntarily committed to participate in the ALA accreditation process and is actively seeking accreditation. Pre-candidacy does not indicate that the program is accredited nor does it guarantee eventual accreditation of the program by ALA.”
Pre-candidacy is for a three-year period, but can be extended up to three more years, if approved by the ALA’s accreditation committee. This designation provides a mechanism for UCM to formally communicate with the COA about progress in establishing, measuring, and meeting goals and objectives in order to achieve candidacy status. In support of such efforts, the LIS faculty will submit annual reports to ALA’s accreditation committee detailing progress made in reaching program objectives, obstacles encountered, and plans to address them, in addition to providing statistical information. UCM must also submit an application for candidacy status. That’s a goal LIS program faculty and other campus colleagues are hoping to meet.
As Ann McCoy, Ph.D., acting dean of the College of Education, stated, “Being nationally accredited by an organization as prestigious as the American Library Association provides clear evidence of the quality of our Library Sciences and Information Services program and those who graduate from the program.”