Assessment is not enough for libraries to be valued: Performance Measurement and Metrics: Vol 16, No 3

via Assessment is not enough for libraries to be valued: Performance Measurement and Metrics: Vol 16, No 3

This essay, from some of the key leaders is library assessment (Danuta Nitecki, John Wiggins & Nancy Turner), provides some insights on ensuring that libraries are not only appreciated by their institutional administration, but are actively involved in the core values of the institution.  While the focus is on academic libraries, public librarians would be well-informed by this article.  Below are my quick notes and ideas inspired by the article.  I’m sorry that the article is behind a paywall…I’m willing to share a copy upon request.

  • Should we define measures of assessment that reflect the core values of librarianship?
  • The essay starts by equating the “culture of assessment” to continuous improvement, but haven’t we gone beyond that?
  • Their concern is on developing “librarians as leaders continuing the values of higher education as essential to maintain and improve a democratic society.”  How can we measure that?
  • They had a surprising emphasis on service quality and LibQual+.  But they do not address the issues of that measure that have caused so many libraries to abandon it.
  • They highlight how others (notably, Askew & Theodore-Shusta) have pointed out that LIS education is not teaching assessment, despite the growing requirements of librarians to assess their libraries.
  • The authors suggest that the “library’s customer – the beneficiary of its services – in the management of an organization is its college or university.”  Thus we librarians should “be more effective in establishing our contribution to the university or college mission by seeking the voice of that customer.”
  • They provide concrete examples from their home institutions in Pennsylvania (Drexel and Temple), including:
    • Hiring a Dean of Assessment to coordinate all assessment activities.
    • Review and revise workflows to improve efficiencies (that benefit both the “primary” customer (the university) and the “secondary” customer (the patrons).
    • Ensuring that the subject librarians spent half their time on assessment of his or her activities with the department.
    • Training all staff for spreadsheet skills and basic data analysis.
    • Assessment on the Ground blog profiling “assessment activities at Temple University Libraries and beyond.”
  • Finally, they note that while librarians “do well leading assessment of learning outcomes…” they don’t get much respect from those outside of librarianship.  This is what I term the Rodney Dangerfield effect.  Perhaps this is because we are essentially late-comers to this field, and we need to strengthen our skills and become more enveloped in the culture of assessment at the university level, not only at the library level.
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