By John Schlinke, Architecture/Art Librarian
How do you effectively measure a library? Every other year since 2006 the Library Assessment Conference (LAC) has brought people together who are engaged in answering this question. Sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries and the University of Washington, this year’s conference was held in Arlington, VA at the end of October. Approximately 640 people attended to discuss and debate the many ways that librarians and others seek to assess the varied aspects of libraries.
Some traditional library data like book counts, gate counts, checkouts, and others have long been used as professional assessment measures. These important data focus on measures of quantity and use but they can only provide part of a complete picture. Responsibilities of current academic libraries typically include library instruction, exhibits and programming, research support, development of local collections, community outreach, digitization, preservation, and many others. As libraries’ responsibilities have evolved, assessment practices have also needed to evolve in order to measure library effectiveness.
To accurately measure an academic library is to assess all of its facets and see how those measures correlate with achieving the goals of the institution with which it is associated. Assessment across the spectrum of library responsibilities requires a critical eye to select appropriate measurements, a variety of data collection methods (quantitative and qualitative), and a variety of data analysis techniques. The Library Assessment Conference provided an opportunity to see concrete examples of how libraries are doing this work, as well as how they are presenting their findings to their communities in ways that are understandable and approachable.
After preparation and editing, the proceedings of the 2016 conference will be made be available via the Library Assessment Conference website. In the meantime, the proceedings of the five previous conferences are currently available on the site.