On measuring library value

I have been reflecting on some of the methods I have used in library and information services in the past to measure and report on success.

At a former workplace, we used software to measure online useage statistics and hit rates.  From memory, it wasn’t sophisticated software but gave basic information. The library was consistently in the top 20 most popular sites on the intranet. This was indeed pleasing. There were some popular sites contained within the library site, often reflecting the level of business activity in an area at a particular point in time. And, I could anticipate much of the interest in the content of the site by knowing the seasonal nature of the business and marking useage statistics across the cycle. For instance, there was greater interest in research and information for grains information after sowing and before harvest because there was more time to actually read and discuss the information.

I also kept a log each month of information requests. Using the library management system, I was able to generate reports on the useage of the physical library, loans and returns. And I used to complete a monthly activity report for each of the communities of practice I administered. Lastly, I monitored hits and downloads for newsletters and news items (the “My FAR” page that let people know what the research team was doing each week, and an online space from where I had hoped to launch podcasts and videocasts from).

I had plenty of statistics and plenty of information from a variety of sources for my monthly statistical report! But even so, the most telling information I received about the library and information service was when I either met with or spoke to staff personally. They would tell me how they found a report “just in time”, or that they could download a presentation that they could show a potential client, or that the insurmountable question had been answered through one of the communities of practice. What they also told me was the confidence they had in knowing that information, research material, and help was available and that they could tap into that at any time.

Sometimes we can get caught up with a set of formal metrics of measurement that yield outputs but do not reflect impact. And one way to ascertain impact is through talking to your clients and the people you service.

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2 responses to “On measuring library value

  1. Matthew Mezey

    Hi Brad,

    I notice from earlier posts of yours that you know about social network analysis (aka organisational network analysis) – any idea if any library has ever used SNA to look at its inner workings?

    Matthew Mezey
    (News Editor, Library and Information Update magazine)

  2. Matthew,

    I am not sure if public libraries have used SNA much but I know that some organisations and special libraries have used SNA. For example, at the Information Online Conference in 2006 I heard Bonnie Cheuk talk about how she used SNA at the British Council quite successfully. I hear at different forums in Sydney how SNA is also being used in a range of organisations, but libraries have not usually been the instigators, which is a pity in my opinion.

    Regards,
    Brad

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