I was pleased to see that the latest Ithaka S+R U.S. Library Survey looked at how libraries are conducting assessment and how useful their results have been. Even better, they found that “those respondents whose libraries have taken on evidence gathering and other forms of assessment are more likely to be confident in their strategy for serving user needs.” How nice to get validation that looking into a crystal ball and just making decisions based on what librarians think is not a strategy that inspires confidence in library directors and deans. There is increasing recognition from many quarters that assessment is as central to a well-functioning library as staffing the reference desk and purchasing materials. How do we know what we should be doing (or not doing) if we don’t ask???
Last year my brilliant co-investigators, Lisa Hinchliffe (of UIUC) and Amy Harris Houk (of UNC Greensboro), and I surveyed 4-year and above academic libraries in the U.S. to learn more about what it takes to build an assessment culture and what holds libraries back from it. We emailed Library Directors with a unique survey link in an effort to get a single response from the person in the library most qualified to answer the questions (sometimes the Director, often not, and they could pass the email on to the right person). We got a crazy 42% response rate, and it was exciting to see how, after the first few days of collecting responses, the % who answered yes/no to questions barely moved. We have a really strong sample that represents BA, MA and PhD-granting libraries in the U.S., and discovered some interesting things about what it takes to build a culture of assessment and what keeps libraries from getting there.
Our article on the survey,“Bridges and Barriers: Factors Influencing a Culture of Assessment in Academic Libraries,” has just been made available in College & Research Libraries as a pre-print, so you can see our results and analysis. Two things that I found most surprising from our study: 1) how much your regional accrediting agency impacts whether or not your library will have a culture of assessment (lucky you SACS and Middle States libraries) and 2) how little tenure and/or faculty status matters with regards to the likelihood of building an assessment culture.
Want to hear more about what we did, what we learned, and why it matters? C&RL is hosting a live online forum with Lisa, Amy, and myself on Thursday, April 10th from noon-1pm Central. It’s free to attend and will be moderated by the amazing assessment guru, Megan Oakleaf.