Ten Northumbrias: contribution and celebration

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Joan Stein, Carnegie Mellon University and Stephen Town, University of York. Delivered at the 10th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information …

Joan Stein, Carnegie Mellon University and Stephen Town, University of York. Delivered at the 10th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services, 22-24 July 2013, York, UK.

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  • Northumbria: the origins and history (Stephen)A brief quantitative summary (Stephen)The presenters and researcher bias! (Stephen)Thematics from selected keynotes (Joan)Nancy, Rowena ( and other powerful women)QualityNarrative?Thematics from the papers (Stephen)Contributor range and i-SchoolsBeing authoratitive or just being grumpyAdvocacy The growing, disappearing or making a comebackLibQUAL; benchmarking; staff; space; valueConclusions on contributionPeople, Performance, measurement, internationalism, information service
  • Five survivors from that First Conference with us here; and a much greater number from the Second
  • Perhaps a more important factor here is the percentage of attendees who are also presenting; never less than 25% and occasionally more than 50%Is having something to say more important than having someone to listen? (and I have chaired one session with one paper, one speaker and one in the audience!)This is a positive attribute for me, and creates a fertile atmosphere for discussionThe attendees have always been international from the first conference; whilst there is an anglophone bias, participants have always made the journey from asia, australasia and south america, as well as the more obvious haunts
  • Prophets and predictions
  • Joan Day suggested in her first panel comment that Professor Suanders was “the library user from hell”


  • 1. Ten Northumbrias: contribution and celebration Joan Stein, Carnegie Mellon University Stephen Town, University of York
  • 2. Northumbria at Longhirst Photo CCL Jim Brodie
  • 3. The origins (1995) • Northumbria University • SCONUL Advisory Committee on Performance Indicators – “The Effective Academic Library” • Inspired by the first Board: – Ian Winkworth – Geoffrey Ford – Dick Hartley – Roswitha Poll
  • 4. Going south … • Ancient Bernicia to Deira (or Ebrauc?) • 1st-3rd Conferences at Longhirst Hall • 5th & 6th Conferences at Collingwood College • 9th & 10th Conferences at the University of York
  • 5. Atlantic crossings …
  • 6. Chasing IFLA …
  • 7. Research questions? From the papers and proceedings … • Is there a progressive statistics-quality-value development? • Do some ideas in library performance measurement die? • Are new ideas taken up and new collaborations formed subsequently? • Does performance measurement generate higher level attention? • Does any of this have value for, or impact on, library practice and performance?
  • 8. Growth or continuum?
  • 9. Papers by subject
  • 10. Decline of the quantitative?
  • 11. Service quality product growth
  • 12. Impact and value
  • 13. 1st Northumbria Conference: Word Cloud
  • 14. There from the start … • “A decade of experience …” (Willemse) • Organisational effectiveness – Climate, morale & change – Staff issues • Quality, including models and frameworks • Benchmarking • Electronic measures • Stakeholder influences
  • 15. Early conferences Proceedings of the 2nd Conference: “ … concern within the profession that quantitative methods need to be complemented by interpretation and strategic vision” “the next conference *will move+ firmly into the field of strategic management”
  • 16. Authority … or just grumpy? Wilfrid Lancaster keynote (2nd Conference) Evaluating the electronic library “I have witnessed a very considerable decline in the service ideal within libraries” “we have gone to far extremes in embracing technology and have forgotten basic values” “our best chance of survival as a profession lies in the opposite direction”
  • 17. 5th Northumbria Conference : Word Cloud
  • 18. LibQUAL+ and successors 2001 (Pittsburgh) 4th 2003 (Collingwood) 5th Colleen Cook onto the Board Parasuraman keynote 2005 (Collingwood) 6th • The first papers • The first consortium outside North America and the first reports of other languages • ‘One size does not fit all’ (Creaser)
  • 19. 10th Northumbria Conference : Word Cloud
  • 20. Recent conferences, and this one … • Value and impact – Big(ger) data – Correlation – Advocacy, rather than ROI • Quality and culture – Link to mission – Organisational and ethnographic analysis – Long term sustainability
  • 22. Initial impressions • Approached venue on narrow, one-lane secluded paths – abduction by taxi? • Overwhelmed by stately home and grounds – nothing else for miles; yikes! Should I just return to the airport? • Warm welcome by gracious hosts of conference – maybe I hadn’t been marooned after all? • Lively interactions between attendees carried on into the night and into the bar – data junkies could party! • I loved performance measurement! (whatever it was)
  • 23. Personal Reflections • First Northumbria: the Americans – two keynote speakers and me (what have I done?) • Serendipity – from ILL to performance measurement • No concept of performance measurement; my presentation was loosely related • Focused my interest, changed my trajectory • Returned to work ready to apply new ideas • Unique experience, particularly in comparison
  • 24. In comparison: My first ALA Conference • Over 10,000 people • Giant convention center • Never meet your hosts • People wander in and out of presentations • People are scattered around the city and have to plan to meet each other • Topics all over the map 1st Northumbria Conference • @120 people • Beautiful stately home on 75 acres of parkland • Small group of gracious hosts (who bought you a drink!) • Presentation rooms doors closed at the start; everyone stayed and asked probing, challenging questions after • Attendees spent non-conference time together in the Sticky Wicket bar or out walking • Focused
  • 25. Broadening the reach: • Slow to spread to the United States; not marketed there in early days; relied on word of mouth • Fourth Northumbria Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services held in Pittsburgh, PA in 2001 – Joint venture between the Northumbria Conference board, me (as local organizer), and ARL – Helped raise awareness and change the balance of attendees from mostly European to a mix of nationalities
  • 26. 4th Northumbria in Pittsburgh • Brought new perspectives of researchers & practitioners in the United States (i.e. Steve Hiller, Jim Self; Libqual papers by Colleen Cook, et.al.) • Tried to maintain the close atmosphere of Longhirst conferences • Notable in particular for dinner speech by Stephen Town – “Charmed, I’m sure.” – Sex, politics, and death – Novel perspective on performance measures in use when library- directorships were male-dominated
  • 27. Influential early key-notes • Focusing on early presentations: reflected growth and change in the field • Those that showed us a way forward or were predictive (and right!) • Worth briefly reviewing key points to see where we came from • Think about these in terms of what we know and do now in the field
  • 28. Nancy Van House • Well-known for book on measuring inputs, outputs, goal attainment in public libraries in America • First Northumbria: “Organizational Politics & Performance Measurement” or “On Not the Mistaking the Finger for the Moon” • Main points: – Change – Competition – Evaluation as how we construct sense in an organization (narrative; making meaning) – Context: library, larger organization, the user
  • 29. Nancy Van House • Discusses the value of the library, user-centered measures, the politics of performance measurement and the power of stories • Empirical evidence & narrative = quantitative & qualitative • From inputs/outputs to user-centered measures or risk irrelevancy • Competition for turf – our competitive advantage is understanding users • Evaluation highly political because it involves allocation of resources • Context is crucial – library, parent organization, users • Evaluation: an iterative process of sense-making; how we show what is important & explain our importance; telling the story • Avoid mistaking the measurement for the performance, the library for the information
  • 30. Rowena Cullen • Researcher and professor from New Zealand • Second Northumbria: “Does Performance Measurement Improve Organizational Effectiveness? A Post-Modern Analysis”; deconstructs discourse of evaluation • If we really knew what an effective library was and could measure it, we wouldn’t keep coming to these conferences talking about different measures. • If performance measures had value, shouldn’t they be easier to define and adopt; wouldn’t they validate our assumptions? • Performance measurement rests on the concept of “library” which is changing/evolving; this uncertainty leads us to try to create meaning with our measures
  • 31. The Matrix • Tore down existing paradigm and proposed a new one • Placed measures into a conceptual framework: values/focus/purpose matrix • To position your library on matrix, must understand multi- dimensional nature of performance & measurement; this would ensure that performance measurement led to library effectiveness • Factors that produce positive outcome for measures: – Recognize political nature and measure what stakeholders value – Conduct multi-dimensional measures to understand needs – Rewards and incentives drive measurement
  • 32. Peter Brophy • 4th Northumbria: “Performance Measures for 21st Century Libraries” • Networked environment fundamentally changed our business • Proposed five models of future libraries: – A: traditional library - B: memory institution - C: learning center – D: library as community resource -* invisible intermediary • Proposed measures for each • May require new interpretation of “library goodness”; what does it mean to be a “good” library in the networked world? More is not better any longer.
  • 33. Peter Brophy • 7th Northumbria keynote: “Telling the story: qualitative approaches to measuring the performance of emerging library services” • Proposed that libraries must meet and support users where their life and research occurs, surfacing support embedded in their: – Workflows - Learnflows - Leisureflows -Lifeflows • To gain users’ trust: requires deep understanding of their language and habits; know their terminology, concepts, how they share meaning • Academic disciplines are social systems; need to studied as such • Requires ethnographic approaches and expert assessment • Use results to “paint rich pictures”; to tell the story. Narrative again (constructing meaning from complexity)!
  • 35. Some conceptual conclusions … • Is there a paradigm …? – “The Library” … for good or ill – Scientific method … rather than humanistic • Libraries are still organisms … • Keynotes and plenaries are all very well, but … • Research is all very well, but … • “The future is correlation”
  • 36. Northumbria strengths • A real community of practice, and the first in library performance measurement • Research input from Library and Information Schools, balanced by practitioner developments and involvement • International and cross sectoral perspectives • All levels of organisational involvement • High percentage of contributors amongst attendees • Trust in sharing data creates social capital and enhances collaboration
  • 37. Conference value • An important and relevant idea (and still ahead of other professions?) • Libraries survive, because of evidence based change • A strong brand, with a growing set of followers • A diverse, curious, and visible “invisible college” • “Just people who make you feel less alone”