The USF School of Information's Library and Information Science Master of Arts program has been continuously accredited by the American Library Association since 1974. You can view the 2016 USF SI Program Plan here. For more information on ALA accreditation in general go to the ALA Office of Accreditation website Frequently Asked Questions.
As students or alumni with a master's degree in Library and Information Science and as an employer hiring them, it is important to know what accreditation is, why it is important, and how it affects professional preparation and credentialling. Below is information about ALA accreditation* and a link to other ALA Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions that will help you understand accreditation and the process.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a voluntary system of evaluation of higher education institutions and programs. It is a collegial process based on self-evaluation and peer-assessment for improvement of academic quality and public accountability. Accreditation assures that higher education institutions and their units, schools, or programs meet appropriate standards of quality and integrity.
Accreditation is both a process and a condition. The process entails the assessment of educational quality and the continued enhancement of educational operations through the development and validation of standards. The condition provides a credential to the public-at-large indicating that an institution and/or its programs have accepted and are fulfilling their commitment to educational quality based on ALA standards.
ALA currently accredits 63 programs at 58 institutions in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
For how long is accreditation valid?
The term of accreditation is 7 years. Every 7 years the Office of Accreditation assembles a panel to evaluate the mission, goals and objectives of a school and to determine if the school is meeting the ALA Standards in providing library and information science education to its students. In addition to the panel, a site team is constituted to visit each library school to access the degree to which the school is accomplishing the satisfaction of the ALA Standards. USF's School of Information is undergoing this renewal process in 2016.
What is the process?
Approximately two years prior to the expiration of a school's accreditation, ALA's Office of Accreditation sends out a memorandum notifying the school of their review. At that time, the school develops a Program Plan which explains how the school will go about assembling the documentation required by the Office. The plan is submitted and the Office then comments or makes suggestions about the Plan. Next, the school begins to compile all of the information necessary to accomplish their plan. That information, the Program Presentation, is submitted. Additional comments and/or information may be requested and a final document is submitted to the COA office. Based on the documentation presented, the Committee writes their report. Then, in February of 2016, a site evaluation team will visit the School. They will compile a report which is submitted to the Director of the Office of Accreditation. Finally, at the summer ALA conference the Director of the School of Information will discuss the report with a panel established by the Office of Accreditation. Subsequently, we will be notified sometime in July of their recommendations relevant to the continuation of our accreditation.
What are some of the things that might affect a school's accreditation?
- Unequal or inadequate funding of the school by the parent institution. SI gets funded on an equal basis with all other programs of a similar type at USF; therefore this should not be an issue in our accreditation.
- Inadequate faculty and/or staff. SI has received a number of new faculty positions since our last accreditation review. We have also gained additional office and support staff.
- Inadequate facilities. SI has some of the most modern facilities on the USF campus and utilizes emerging technologies to outreach and support online and blended learning to uphold student success and professional preparation.
- nternal standards that do not comply with ALA requirements: SI Mission(s), Goals and Objectives align with the USF 2013-2018 Strategic Plan. Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) are continuosly reviewed and updated to meet and/or exceed all ALA and state requirements.
Why should I receive my Master's degree from an ALA accredited program?
Graduating from an ALA-accredited program provides greater flexibility in the types of libraries and jobs for which you can apply and enhances your career mobility. Most employers require an ALA-accredited master's for most professional level positions and some states require an ALA-accredited degree to work as a professional librarian in public or school libraries. ALA accreditation indicates that the program has undergone a self-evaluation process, been reviewed by peers, and meets the Standards established by the American Library Association's Committee on Accreditation.
If you have any questions about the School of Information's next accreditation or the process of accreditation please contact Denise Shereff, Academic Services Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Source: American Library Association: Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions, http://www.ala.org/accreditedprograms/faq#what_programs_are_accredited