ALCTS eforum hosted a two-day discussion on technical services statistics and assessment during Aug. 22-23, 2012. Here is the final summary posted by Buddy Pennington, Director of Collections and Access Management, University of Missouri-Kansas City:
Turning Statistics Into Assessment : How can Technical Services Measure the Value of Their Services?
Moderated by Sarah Simpson (Tulsa City-County Library) and Buddy Pennington (University of Missouri – Kansas City)
The topic of “Turning Statistics Into Assessment : How can Technical Services Measure the Value of Their Services?” generated 160 messages from 55 participants during the e-forum held August 22-23, 2012. The moderators wanted to discuss with others how technical services departments collect and utilize statistics to measure their value.
Day one began with a lively discussion about the statistics we keep. Many of us do count almost everything anyone does – there is a sense that counting production is the bottom line. We count orders placed, items received, titles cataloged, items processed, serials added, and on and on. There were discussions of additional things that can be tricky – keeping track of money spent by subject area or department, OCLC cataloging and authority work, usage statistics, and how to deal with tracking our work on electronic resources – they give us a whole slew of new processes to count! This also led to a brief discussion of numbers we wish we had, like turnaround time, cost/item, and catalog use, with some people offering up their own methods of procuring these numbers, which was very helpful.
Another discussion focused on the complexities of using our ILS systems to pull these statistics, with some people noting that they still relied on manual counting, and others offering help with using the system to get those numbers. It became very clear that this is something that varies wildly from ILS to ILS, and can involve 3rd party software as well. However, manual counting definitely has its challenges – in both validity and time spent.
Reasons for collecting statistics included making collection decisions about what to buy and what to weed, assessing staffing levels, evaluating staff, justifying funding, demonstrating productivity, and making information available to many of the stakeholders for our organizations.
The second day turned toward the assessment component. We started the morning out by discussing how we use the statistics we collect for internal assessment activities. It is critical that we ask ourselves why we are collecting the data in the first place. Statistics can be utilized to establish production benchmarks that can be used to determine staffing needs and/or training priorities. It is difficult to compare different libraries so many establish internal benchmarks.
We also discussed reporting. Many of us issue reports and include statistics in those reports. Reports and statistics can be used to highlight accomplishments as well as trends from year to year. North Carolina State University posts there statistics on the open web (http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/cataloging/stats/), pointing out that potential recruits can get an informed sense of the technical services operations from such information. Many of us are issuing reports to collection development librarians and/or to fulfill accreditation reporting needs.
Discussion on reporting inevitably turned toward discussing the impact or value of technical services. Assessment is turning into demonstrating the value of services to various stakeholders (Megan Oakleaf, The Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2010. Available at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/issues/value/val_report.pdf). How well do our statistics and reports do that? Demonstrating value can be done, but it can also be more challenging particular when trying to demonstrate technical services value to stakeholders outside the library. Technical services can demonstrate the value of services internally by educating other library departments on technical services through tours, cross-training, open houses and orientations.
The moderators thank Kristin Martin for her support as e-forum coordinator, and the participants for a thought-provoking discussion, and for some great ideas to consider moving forward!