A review of work
It was not that long ago that librarians did not interact at all directly with AACSB. The 2013 AACSB Standards did not mention libraries or librarians. Due to lobbying and leadership, both on the part of AACSB and business librarians, this relationship is shifting. The 2020 Business Accreditation Standards explicitly mention Libraries/Librarians twice in “Faculty and Professional Staff Resources” and “Physical, Virtual & Financial Resources” (AACSB, 2020) and encourage Business Schools to claim inside/outside support from other departments like the libraries to aid student access.
In the years following the launch of the 2020 standards, library literature has reflected the exceptional work that has been accomplished related to AACSB accreditation. In 2021, Guth and Stonebraker presented the RUSA webinar “2020 AACSB Accreditation Standards: What They Mean for Business Librarians” which includes what became the AACSB Business Standards Toolkit, later formalized within ALA RUSA BRASS (Guth & Stonebraker, 2020). That same year, the article “Portals on Campus” (Bisoux, 2020) featured business librarian Jason Sokoloff in AACSB’s magazine Insights.
2022 proved to be a prolific year for AACSB and library publication and engagement, as Guth and Stonebraker published “AACSB accreditation standards: What they mean for business librarians past, present, and future” in the Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship (Guth & Stonebraker, 2022). In April 2021, AACSB president and CEO Caryn Beck-Dudley presented the virtual keynote at the annual Academic Business Library Directors conference. This engagement led to an invited talk, “Engaging Librarians During the Accreditation Journey,” by business librarians Anna Dulin Milholland and Ilana Stonebraker (authors of this paper) at the 2022 AACSB Americas Accreditation Conference (2022c), which in turn led to a November 2022 article in AACSB Insights “Is a Business Librarian a Professor’s Best Friend?” by Milholland (2022b). Milholland also published an article, “AACSB Continuing Accreditation & Bibliometrics: A Librarian’s Journey”, for Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review in December 2022 (2022a).
During this time, Laura Leavitt Walesby, Chair of ABLD 2022–2023, was also initiating the creation of a business librarians’ section within AACSB. Walesby’s work led to the formalization of a AACSB virtual community in 2019, and then a formal AACSB affinity group in summer 2023. Having a formal networking community within AACSB is important to business librarians for several reasons. For one example, it gives those inside of AACSB the opportunity to engage on library issues such as open access, the serials crisis, and library space design; for another, it gives librarians a more visible footprint in the AACSB world.
The problem of standards and expectations
For a variety of reasons, specific standards and guidance for librarians on how to ensure they are providing proper support to their business school has fallen to the wayside. First, and probably most importantly, business schools have been a global endeavor, making standardized collections not only impractical, but in some situations unethical. Much of what could be considered the business information canon is in English and focused primarily on North America and Europe. Requiring institutions globally to have the same set of resources would do a disservice to the wide variety of languages and cultural contexts where business takes place. Second, AACSB has moved away from prescriptive “do this and risk losing accreditation” type guidance and more towards a principles-focused model. A principles-based model results in less specific guidance; for example, how many books should be in a library, or how much should be spent on student support each year, or whether an accounting course should be required. Indeed, institutions – and libraries – are encouraged to align outcomes and measures with their individual missions and strategies.
In addition, business librarians face many different demands on their time. Many business librarians also serve in other roles such as management or subject specialists for other disciplines. Therefore, it is not feasible in all situations for a librarian to devote a large amount of their time solely to business accreditation, as they might have to participate in the accreditation of several other schools as well.
However, the fact remains that standardization of engagement on issues related to accreditation is very attractive for the business librarianship profession as a whole. When librarians look at AACSB accreditation, many aren’t sure how to begin engaging, or even if it’s important that they volunteer to assist in the reaccreditation process. As more and more librarians become engaged, they have trouble situating their engagement in a larger checklist of possible work. They also have trouble explaining to peers what sort of work they anticipate doing. The authors created this checklist to help us, as business librarians, better align with our peer libraries as well as articulate what librarians can offer to the process.
How the Checklist was Formed
This checklist is based on those activities that we have either utilized or observed which have had a large impact at our institutions and others. The items on the list identify activities that librarians could do to be active participants in accreditation. It should be stressed that we do not advise that librarians share out all the information described in the list. Given the competitive nature of business schools as peers, and the proprietary contents of reports, this is not advisable. Rather, we think that the knowledge acquired can help the individual library better serve its business school stakeholders.
There is an asterisk next to “library” in the checklist to note that this work can be done by anyone related to the library, whether that is a subject specialist in a main library, a director of a business library, or an IT director who has the library part of their purview. The checklist is divided into four areas. One is considered core (the relationship-building that sits at the heart of being further helpful) and the other three are aspects of business school culture (Curriculum, Research, Administrative). Given the varied nature of business schools, it is not necessary for all libraries to do everything on the aspects lists.
Core 1: Relationship Building
The Library* knows the accreditation timeline of the institution.
The Library knows what year the Business School is in their strategic planning, or whether they are actively working on a strategic plan.
The Library has located the mission of the values and knows some of the expected outcomes, as described in the AACSB standards.
The Library has had a least one instance where they have mentioned the AACSB standards to a Business School colleague.
The Library can identify the school’s AACSB peer, aspirant, and competitor institutions.
Aspect 1: Curriculum engagement
The Library knows the Business school’s Assurance of Learning outcomes.
The Library maps its instruction requests to AoL outcomes.
The Library creates an annual report with AACSB-relevant instructional impact data and shares with appropriate Business school partners.
The Library presents on curriculum engagement related to AACSB at one Business school faculty meeting per year.
Aspect 2: Research engagement
The Library knows the Business school’s Research Active definition and understands its impact on faculty researchers.
The Library develops print and digital collections and subscriptions that support the School’s research mission and research active definitions.
The Library creates an annual report with AACSB-related library collection development impact and shares with appropriate Business school partners.
The Library presents on research engagement related to AACSB at one Business school faculty meeting per year.
The Library gathers research metrics across multiple platforms and shares report with appropriate stakeholders.
The Library is invited to attend at least one Faculty Research Committee meeting (if such exists) per calendar year.
Aspect 3: Administrative engagement
The Library has a copy of the Business school’s most recent continuous improvement review (CIR).
The Library benchmarks the Business School’s research productivity and impact against that of aspirant, peer, and competitor institutions.
The Library serves on committees related to AACSB accreditation.
The Library meets with the Peer Review Team upon their five-year site visit.
The Library drafts portions of the CIR.
This checklist was presented at the 2023 ABLD conference. As a pilot, we have asked that business librarians from top tier schools who attended reach completion of the Core Relationship Building checklist before the 2024 ABLD annual conference. In the future, this may be included in the ABLD Year-In-Review or YiR checklist, which runs on the calendar year. The intent of this pilot is to assess how feasible a checklist would be in the future. The authors hope that we will be able to report the results of the pilot of the future and possibly extend the checklist to the AACSB Affinity Group in future iterations.
Finally, it is worth noting that this work is not done alone. We are grateful for the work of ABLD and ALA RUSA BRASS for their professional investment in AACSB engagement, specifically the work the ABLD task forces. We are also especially thankful to Jason Sokoloff, LuMarie Guth, Grace Liu, Nikolaus Berger, Shana Gass, Tommy Waters, and Laura Leavitt Walesby, for their work. Finally, we are thankful to former AACSB President Caryn Beck Dudley and AACSB Chief Accreditation Officer Stephanie Bryant for their time and attention. This is an exciting time to be a business librarian, and we owe that to your thoughtful leadership.
AACSB. (2020). 2020 Guiding Principles and Standards for Business Accreditation. https://www.aacsb.edu/-/media/documents/accreditation/2020-aacsb-business-accreditation-standards-june-2023.pdfhttps://www.aacsb.edu/-/media/documents/accreditation/2020-aacsb-business-accreditation-standards-june-2023.pdf
Beck-Dudely, C. (2021). Impacts of the Pandemic on Business Education: A New Era of Learning Lies Ahead [Conference Keynote]. AACSB Annual Conference. Virtual.
Bisoux, T. (2020, September 1). Portals on campus. AACSB Insights. https://www.aacsb.edu/insights/articles/2020/09/portals-on-campushttps://www.aacsb.edu/insights/articles/2020/09/portals-on-campus
Guth, L., & Stonebraker, I. (2022). AACSB accreditation standards: what they mean for business librarians past, present, and future. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 27:1, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2021.1920173https://doi.org/10.1080/08963568.2021.1920173
Guth, L., & Stonebraker, I. (2020). Brass Business Guides: AACSB Standards Toolkit for Business Librarians: AACSB Toolkit Overview. AACSB Standards Toolkit for Business Librarians. https://brass.libguides.com/AACSBhttps://brass.libguides.com/AACSB
Milholland, A. D. (2022a). “AACSB Continuing Accreditation & Bibliometrics: A Librarian’s Journey”. Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review, 7(2): 10. https://doi.org/10.3998/ticker.3470https://doi.org/10.3998/ticker.3470
Miholland, A. D. (2022b, November 8). Is a Business Librarian a Professor’s Best Friend?. AACSB Insights. https://www.aacsb.edu/insights/articles/2022/11/is-a-business-librarian-a-professors-best-friendhttps://www.aacsb.edu/insights/articles/2022/11/is-a-business-librarian-a-professors-best-friend
Miholland, A. D. (2022c). Engaging Librarians During the Accreditation Journey. [Conference Presentation]. 2022 AACSB Americas Accreditation Conference, Atlanta, GA, United States.
Stonebraker, I. & Guth, L. (2020, December 2). 2020 AACSB Accreditation Standards: What They Mean for Business Librarians. [Webinar] Reference & User Services Association.