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.