Professional Development

Assessment in Libraries – day 2

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:30 am

Stephen Town, University Librarian at the University of York, UK, Tuesday’s opening keynoter, reminded librarians that library assessment has been mostly about quality and quantity, but not about value. However, libraries are under pressure to prove their value. Value he defined as the quality or fact of being excellent, useful or desirable. But what is value to libraries? Town felt that cost efficiency and cost effectiveness equal to value in the minds of many. Both concepts correspond to the two bottom lines that libraries have, one for being financial and the other for being academic. A new higher order framework for evaluation and performance measurement based on a values scorecard was suggested. Mission is the “what” for libraries and values is the “how.” In the question and answer follow up, Steven Bell asked if the “how” isn’t indeed the “why” that libraries also have struggle identifying.

“Assessing Organizational Effectiveness: the Role of Frameworks” given by Joseph Matthews, discussed the challenges associated with demonstrating organizational effectiveness. The real value of performance measures is when an organization goes through a planning process that identifies performance measures that are linked to the organization’s vision, goals and objectives.

Good performance measures are:

1. Balanced – include both financial and non financial measures

2. Aligned to the organization’s strategies

3. Flexible – can be changed as needed

4. Timely and accurate

5. Simple to understand

6. Focused on improvement

I attended three sessions under the organizational performance track on the use of Balanced Scorecards. The Balanced Scorecard is an organizational performance model that ties strategy to performance in four different areas. Those areas are finance, learning and growth, customers and internal processes. One session of particular interest was an initiative that ARL undertook with four libraries to explore the suitability of scorecards for academic research; to see if they would benefit from consultant expertise; to encourage cross collaboration and to see if common objectives would emerge. The four schools included in the project were the University of Richmond, the University of Washington, Johns Hospital University and McMaster University. When asked why they opted in on the study; one wanted to create a culture of assessment; one wanted to drive organizational change; one wanted to drive the conversation about the value of libraries and finally one wanted to create a framework for strategic planning. Twenty months into the pilot, a few commonalities surfaced. They were:

· Financial – securing funding for operation needs.

· Customer – provide productive and user centered spaces.

· Learning and growth – develop workforces that are productive, motivated and engaged.

· Internal process – promote library resources, services and value.

Making the scorecard understandable and making the time commitment were each listed as challenges to implementation. In conclusion this ARL quote was given. “Any tool that forces you to identify priorities, measure what matters, and engages staff about the future is valuable.”

The luncheon speaker was great. David Shulenburger, Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, warned librarians that failure to use the data generated by your library may be hazardous to your health. Presidents and provost throughout the country are bombarded with mandates to cut their budgets. Academic support services are first on their list. Libraries must show how their vision, mission and goals align with the university’s strategic initiatives. Data is being collected on campuses in almost every domain, but none of this data is being used to support the value of libraries. Retention rates, graduation rates, time to degree, national ranking of academic programs and the ability of faculty members to successfully obtain grant funding are all areas with data that could and should be used.

A later program analyzed data from the MISO Survey. ( This survey gathers input from faculty, staff, and students about the importance, use and satisfaction with campus library and computing services. For the presentation data was collected and analyzed from 38 colleges and smaller universities. The MISO survey team provided a look at relationships between services and trends in service popularity. The survey was sent to all faculty and staff and then a selective sampling of students. Findings suggested that faculty consider library research instruction, library liaisons, the library website and interlibrary loan as increasingly important, while faculty use of library catalogs, circulation services and library reference services are decreasingly less important. The cost to administer the survey and analyze the data currently runs about $1500 dollars.


One Response to “Assessment in Libraries – day 2”

  1. Wow, this conference was packed! Can’t wait to hear the details when you get home.

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University Libraries Group
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