Week 9 Discussion Review

During this discussion, we tackled the idea of value assessment from different angles.  The unifying thread seemed to be the need to balance the essential yet intangible aspects of a library’s function with the increasing demand to justify the library’s services quantitatively.  Some areas specifically:

How do small organizations assess when they don’t have the money to assess in the first place?  Professional assessments done by outside parties can be very expensive, so smaller libraries need to find alternatives.  Some suggestions:

  • Actively gauging community interest, volunteering, participation
  • Having volunteers helping with assessment
  • Taking advantage of data generated by other, similar libraries

When dealing with collocated resources within a larger community, how can you guarantee that your services are helpful to patrons themselves, in their lives?  Furthermore, how can you reach non- users?  How can the library assess the effectiveness of its services in reaching outside audiences?  Some suggested measures of success were:

  • Academic measures; for example, test scores
  • Using outside data from other libraries; collaboration
  • Measuring participation in library events
  • Keeping track of the number of successful reference searches
  • Specific success among the members of a class or workshop

Is it better to serve lots of people generally or a few people in a more “meaningful” way?  How do you decide what “meaningful” entails?

How do you assess the success of your assessment? How do you keep yourself honest with evaluations, both for yourself internally and for a funder? Basically, how do you keep the assessment genuinely useful and informative?  We acknowledged that doing quantitative assessments was a part of life for most libraries, and an increasingly necessary tool to secure more funding or support.  Some points to that end:

  • It’s not necessarily the best method, but a lot of stakeholders are going to talk in these terms.  From the perspective of academic libraries, these types of measurements are necessary to justify their existences on campus and within the network of resources offered by the university.
  • At the same time, there’s an understanding that libraries function on an intangible level as well, in terms of intellectual enrichment and so on.  The goal is not just to save people money, but to help their quality of life.  Many programs offered by the library aim to do this, and toward this end, storytelling and testimonials can provide evidence of a library’s success.
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“A Theory- Guided Approach to Library Services Assessment”

Xi, Shi, and Sarah Levy. 2005. “A Theory – guided Approach to Library Services Assessment.” College & Research Libraries 66, no. 3: 266-277. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 19, 2013). http://crl.acrl.org/content/66/3/266.full.pdf

Much of the literature I’ve read on the topic of library evaluation has indicated a shift from more collections- based assessment to a service- based approach.  The issue of use- and how it can and can’t be measured- has spawned many modes of evaluation, from more qualitative methods, which emphasize the long- term and indirect benefits of the library to quantitative methods, such as Return on Investment and Cost Benefit Assessment, which focus on more concretely measurable results and often borrow their language and methodologies from the business and customer service realms.

For example, this article describes the LibQUAL assessment tool that is being implemented in many libraries, which was derived from SERVQUAL, a tool used to evaluate service quality in the field of marketing.  The article describes the transition from more sporadic statistics collection methods to highly developed evaluation systems which emphasize the user’s perspective.  Given that customer satisfaction is a service industry mantra, it is not surprising that, as they write, “commercial information service providers are now competing in the information marketplace.”

It is interesting to me to note that, even though the article is admittedly theoretical, the library’s actual collections and resources are still not really discussed in this picture of value assessment and service evaluation.  From a personal perspective, the site I’ve chosen for our class project is a small library that is falling through the cracks, in terms of applying for and receiving grant funding, because it’s incapable of framing its services in these terms for what it perceives as a result- driven environment, to the detriment of the local community it seeks to serve on a long- term basis.

What do you think?  Does the relevance of such methods vary by type of library? Are some aspects more valid than others?

For another perspective, I’ve also included a short conference paper presented by Columbia University Librarian James Neal- a self- described polemic against ROI.

James Neal, “Stop the Madness: The Insanity of ROI and the Need for New Qualitative Measures of Academic Library Success” (paper presented at the annual meeting for the Association of College & Research Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 30- April 2, 2011). http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/national/2011/papers/stop_the_madness.pdf

Here, also, are a couple of quantitative ‘value calculators’:

Maine State Library Library Use Value Calculator:


National Network of Libraries of Medicine: Cost Benefit and ROI Calculator:


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Notes from Group Discussion 10/28/2013- Dylan, Henry, and Leann

An Online Exhibit as Community Outreach

We discussed:

Using an online presence to feature unique elements of a collection- is it so effective if no one knows about it?

Expanding the idea of community to a global scale because of the internet

Promoting information on little known topics in a collection through the internet

The article fails to address: How well this strategy worked; follow up analysis. What, if any promotion was done to bring traffic to the online exhibit.

Community Reference: Making Libraries Indispensable in a New Way

We discussed:

The idea of embedded librarians and how could libraries with less man power accomplish sending their librarians out into the community

The idea of librarians getting involved in political and social organizations like the city council and thus make themselves indispensable in the community

We concluded that this was a really creative idea but would be hard to put into practice outside of small and relatively affluent towns or cities

The Science Cafe

We discussed:

What the library could do to connect with the community: flyers, Facebook etc- we were surprised that students still connected mostly with posters

How libraries could promote the library without emphasizing its collection

What the library’s role was in fostering an open discussion among the students on campus on different subjects

The article fails to discuss: how to take the community input into consideration and change the program to fit the community better

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Copyright and Digital Content Summary

Digital content usage within libraries has caused many problems to arise. Between copyright laws and disagreements with publishers, it is difficult to find a win win solution. Some concerns pertaining to licensing include whether an institution is paying for a license or a “book,” whether a publisher retains the original text when new editions are published, and what the archival responsibilities of the library and the publisher are. Copyright laws already cover fair use in numbers 107 and 108. The argument between publishers and libraries has become heated as ebooks and tablets have become popular. Publishers make little money off of library ebook sales. Currently, only a few of the big six publishers provide ebooks to libraries, but the sales are conditional. Some inflate the prices up to eight times the price, others only allow a limited amount of circulations. At the moment there is no good answer that benefits both libraries and publishers. We are going to have to work on it!

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“Getting Started with Program Evaluation: A Guide for Arts Organizations”

Georgia Council for the Arts and National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Getting Started with Program Evaluation: A Guide for Arts Organizations. Georgia Council for the Arts. 2007. Web. 15 November 2013.  <http://www.gaarts.org/images/PDFs/georgia-evaluation_final.pdf>.

Co-written by the Georgia Council for the Arts and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, this guide’s primary audience is nonprofit arts organizations which need to measure success as they apply for foundation and public grants.  It includes the practical reasons for why an organization would want to evaluate itself, where and how to obtain quantitative and qualitative data, and how to measure seemingly immeasurable outcomes such as participant joy.

The guide’s overall implication is that service organizations should create an “evaluation culture.” This culture would encourage the ongoing process of defining goals and then measuring how well they’re achieved.  By doing this, the guide expects that organizations will be more successful at fulfilling their missions.

I chose this resource because I thought it nicely outlined the purpose and process of evaluation.  While some of it doesn’t apply to the library field, I believe much of it does.  Also, arts organizations have generally had a more unstable funding structure than most libraries (although that may be changing).  Their funding is often based on competitive foundation grants, donations, and governmental money at the mercy of politicians (and art supportive politicians are definitely not a sure thing).  Because of this instability, the nonprofit arts field has worked hard in recent decades to develop evaluation methods that can prove an arts organization cares about measuring its impact, as well as ways to justify arts’ societal worth as a whole.

I confess that I also gravitated to this guide because its language is familiar to me–I was trying to find something similar for libraries but didn’t (although it could certainly be out there!).  My first question for this article is–Do you think this process can be applied to measure the success of library collections and services?  What would need to be changed?

And my second question is that this guide didn’t delve into how data should be presented to powerful outside entities (city councils, funders, community groups, etc.).  Some argue that nonprofits should balance quantitative data with “stories” of individual users helped by their programs.  Do you think this would also be a successful approach for libraries?

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Kerri Sidorow is the community learning coordinator of the Point Cool Community Learning Centre (PCCLC) that was the first collocated library and council facility model in Wyndham, Melbourne. PCCLC collocated with council facilities such as kindergartens and community rooms to form community learning center. In this article Kerri points out that the colocation of public libraries with other local services or facilities is becoming more and more common. Some quantitative measures PCCLC used such as numbers through doors and program participation have proved PCCLC’s success. However Kerri considers it necessary to measure the less tangible outcomes. She discusses a three tiered evaluation approach to measure and understand whether desired outcomes have been reached.


In the background information Kerri gives data evidence to point out that Wyndham has a relative large population in Australia and is growing very fast resulting in bigger proportion of babies in the local population. The fast urban growth brought the need of creating a sense of community and providing services satisfying citizens’ social, cultural, self-educational needs. Kerri emphasizes the importance of library as place, as an environment for users. She mentions the transformation from process and collection centered buildings to buildings focusing on communities and their needs.


Kerri mentions the traditional way of measuring success that is collecting a set of output data and she discusses that the colocated library also plays a community building role. The statistics are amazing but not helpful enough for people to understand the impact of the colocation service model. Kerri recommends the three tiered method which includes traditional output measures and community impact assessment as monthly output data from each colocated service, quarterly community learning centre outputs, and annual community survey outcomes. The PCCLC had an expert social research company to help complete the assessment survey. The results proved that the PCCLC was seen as the heart of the local community.


I think this article valuable because nowadays libraries have more and more services in order to address users’ needs. Though the collection use statistics are still important, they are not enough to complete a comprehensive evaluation of library services. It is important to make different kinds of links between services provided in libraries. For example, the author emphasizes on measuring cross centre collaboration such as how many times each month the kindergarten conducts activities in the library space. We expect to see the whole effect of the cooperation of services is better than the sum of parts.



Can this model be widely replicated over nations or just be possible in growing cities during urbanization?

I think sometimes people are unwilling or feeling bothered when being asked to participate in a survey because they think there is no convenience and they don’t like the feeling of being asked to do things very much. Is there a good way in which individuals are not asked to fill any forms but unconsciously give feedbacks on library services? For example, if when you open a database link, on the upright side there is a tab for giving thumbs to this professional database- it is very convenient and easy to do- will you happily click on it if you really enjoy the searching experience? 


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FAQ about ebooks and libraries from ALA

Want to get an overview of the Big 6 (now Big 5) in publishing and a sense of the big issues libraries, publishers and authors are dealing with currently regarding ebooks? Check out this quick FAQ from ALA’s Transforming Libraries.

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