Assessment in Academic Libraries

Assessment in Academic Libraries

Gregory A. Smith (Liberty University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch474
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The history of library assessment can be traced back at least to the mid-19th century (Lancaster, 1994). However, systematic and cumulative efforts to assess performance within the academic library community appear to have emerged early in the 20th century. Such efforts can be seen in the collection and publication of comparative library statistics, the promulgation of standards for libraries, and the publication of progressively more sophisticated research—both theoretical and applied—in the area of library assessment.

Beginning in 1908 and continuing through 1938, James Thayer Gerould compiled various data pertaining to the operations of research libraries in the United States, thus facilitating benchmarking (Molyneux, 2010). Several organizations continue to collect and report academic library statistics; in the United States, they include the National Center for Academic Statistics, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). Entities that perform similar functions in other parts of the world include the Council of Australian University Librarians and the Society of College, National and University Libraries (Dugan, Hernon, & Nitecki, 2009).

As early as the late 1920s, college librarians in the United States aspired to refer to professional standards pertaining to their libraries’ development. Though the ACRL published the first edition of its guidelines in 1959, precursor documents appeared in 1930, 1932, and 1943 (Brown, 1972; Kaser, 1982; ACRL, 2011). Members of the higher education community—both those working in libraries and those involved in accreditation—have long wrestled with the tension between qualitative and quantitative measures of library performance, as well as the extent to which standards should be viewed as authoritative (Brown, 1972; Kaser, 1982).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Outcomes Assessment: The appraisal of an educational entity’s effectiveness in achieving its stated expectations, whether these relate directly to student learning or to broader constructs of institutional performance.

Standardization: The development of uniform specifications for materials, products, processes, practices, measurement, or performance, usually via consultation with stakeholders and sanction by a recognized body, providing for improvements in productivity, interoperability, cooperation, and accountability.

Ethnographic Research: A form of inquiry that employs participant observation, depth interviews, and other immersive, field-based methods to develop rich, qualitative analyses of cultures and communities.

Big Data: Digital data whose massive scale and complex, unstructured content defy analysis with conventional tools, but which can increasingly be put to useful purposes through emerging data processing technologies.

Return on Investment: A financial ratio that expresses the relationship between an investment and the benefits that are derived from it.

Data Mining: Analysis of large volumes of data from systems or repositories for the purpose of identifying patterns or relationships, ultimately facilitating decision-making.

Benchmarking: The process of comparing an organization’s inputs, outputs, processes, or outcomes to those of other organizations, with the intent of identifying industry leaders and adopting best practices.

Balanced Scorecard: A performance measurement tool that focuses an organization’s attention on measures of success in four areas: customer satisfaction, finance, internal processes, and innovation and learning.

Management Information Systems: Computer-based systems that are designed to collect, analyze, and report organizational performance information needed for managerial decision-making.

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