Audience poll on Downton Abbey…..Haiku descriptions:Upstairs and downstairsChanges in societyEnglish soap opera
Season 4 preview: one new character will be the Downton Abbey Librarian!
And so we find that the story of Downton Abbey makes a great framework for our talk today! So many similarities to our library situation today: we work in a service culture; there are great changes in society and technology; there are organizational and personal challenges in the transition to new ways. This is an quick introduction to some of the most effective ways to evaluate and benchmark your library operations. The focus is on valuable, practical and uncomplicated ways to manage YOUR library estate so you can spend more time drinking tea than fussing over complicated spreadsheets.
If you take on the project of assessing your library, you are likely to feel overwhelmed by the project, this talk, the books in the bibliography. If you have never done an assessment before, start small. Just try to answer a few questions, or look at a few one or two services or attributes. Or break down a complete library assessment into parts.
Goal: Funding increase – we need more $ because we are falling behind other libraries OR wish to maintain our strong positionProblems: We think the book budget is not big enough for our status as a research institutionDefend: We need more computers because….Improve: We need to improve school reading test scores
Case study: the strategic plan … the underwhelming bookmobile
Strategic plan: We want to know: more about community perceptions of the library. how our service statistics are, compared to similar libraries. if we are worse or better funded than similar libraries. we know we are understaffed, right? We want to know why your benchmarking figures show we are underperforming when everyone on the board is happy with our library’s achievements!
Schlow staffing shortage
Out of 18 libraries, we had the 9th largest staff BUT our activity level was higher – very productive people.
Finding peer libraries is an important and worthwhile first step in benchmarking and evaluation. Just as Lord Grantham wants a match of peers for his lovely daughters, you want to compare yourself to libraries like yours! Libraries are so different that comparisons of large groups of them are not very meaningful. In addition, finding peers gives opportunities for sharing, learning, exchanges of best practices. Sometimes, it’s more important to look at similar communities. So, if you are wondering how your library compares to others in communities with high unemployment, you want to compare yourself to libraries in other impoverished cities. Schools and academics might want to look at enrollment instead of population, some kind of budget figure, and number of outlets is important if you are looking at the entire campus or school system, otherwise you should look to other institutional markers of your context. The libraries should ideally be within about 20% of your stats in these areas to be similar.
You can find peers by comparing your library to all others in the state or region…..big groups of similar population or budget, which is how LJ Index and Hennen do it for public libraries. OR you can spend a little time and find libraries that are really a lot like yours! Here’s how.
The NCES website has a compare academic libraries program and data for school libraries. MLA and SLA can help for special libraries. It’s best to have a list of between 7 and 16 peers for detailed comparisons, or it gets too unwieldy.
So, let’s start by benchmarking.
If there are all these problems, why do it? Well, it gives you a sense of where you stand compared to others.
The easy way for public libraries to benchmark. The LJ Index, identifies “America’s Star Libraries.” Authored by librarian/statistician Ray Lyons and Keith Curry Lance, groups libraries by total operating expenditures instead of population. It uses these 4 per capita outputs from IMLS data weighed equally: circulation, program attendance, visits, and public computer use. Hennen groups libraries by population served and then looks at 15 inputs, such as funding and staffing, and outputs such as circulation and visits per capita that have varying weights in the formula, producing a final numerical score. GROUPS ARE TOO BIG.The LJ authors state emphatically: “this should be one among several sources of information…decide how to incorporate it into a more comprehensive assessment process.” Or, as I said before, use them to start you on the benchmarking path. The ratings will prompt questions and concerns and drive research that may help improve library performance.
Hennen, LJ, and other benchmarks don’t, and can’t, measure customer service, leadership, management, collection quality and other factors that play a role in a library’s community success. The proof of that is that winners of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Library Journal “The Best Small Library in America” often have ratings in the bottom half. MILANOF-SCHOCK LIBRARY MOUNT JOY 10 K 454 41%So why look at them? It’s a rough “place-marker” as where a library stands among others, Lyons - “I think of them as a kind of filter…we do it as an advocacy tool and predictor of potential or additional success.” Leads to exploration of values, additional data.
Circulation numbers – why could a library have an unusually high or low number? Story about 2 week vs. 3 week circ and renewals.
Better demographics and inputs ($, collection, building) = better outputs (stats like circ, ref, etc.)
Group bias and self-selection issues with each methodology:Landline phone – age biasCell phone – survey challenges for lists, age, invalid area codeMail – low response rateOnline – bias but promote with mailed card, ads and prizesFocus groups – BLAHHHHInterviews – great prand cheap
The Downton Abbey Guideto Library Assessment
Why are you measuring? Strategic plan, grant application, or building project? Some other goal? What are the problems? What do you need to justify or defend? What needs improvement? What standards must you meet?
What are you measuring?Customer Satisfaction Inputs Resources Services Outputs Facility Processes Staff Organization Community
Finding PopulationPeers Budget Number of outlets Enrollment Budget Outlets Ethnicity Poverty level Education level Average income
Benchmarking Cautions Old data Quantitative only Out of context Misleading USE FOR: Starting point Yellow flags
Benchmarking PublicLibraries - Easy LJ Index of Public Library Service Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings (HAPLR)
Benchmarking PublicLibraries - Harder Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Public Library Association Metrics (PLDS) Urban Libraries Council Technology Benchmarks