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 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”
  • Ten Northumbrias: contribution and celebration

    1. 1. Ten Northumbrias: contribution and celebration Joan Stein, Carnegie Mellon University Stephen Town, University of York
    2. 2. Northumbria at Longhirst Photo CCL Jim Brodie
    3. 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. 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. 5. Atlantic crossings …
    6. 6. Chasing IFLA …
    7. 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. 8. Growth or continuum?
    9. 9. Papers by subject
    10. 10. Decline of the quantitative?
    11. 11. Service quality product growth
    12. 12. Impact and value
    13. 13. 1st Northumbria Conference: Word Cloud
    14. 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. 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. 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. 17. 5th Northumbria Conference : Word Cloud
    18. 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. 19. 10th Northumbria Conference : Word Cloud
    20. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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”